Edward Fiske: A Nation at a Loss

Posted by Kendall Harmon

But while the theory behind “A Nation at Risk” may no longer hold (mediocre education inevitably leads to a weak economy), the report’s desperate language may be more justified than ever, for American education is in turmoil.

Most troubling now are the numbers on educational attainment. One reason that the American economy was so dominant throughout the 20th century is that we provided more education to more citizens than other industrialized countries. “A Nation at Risk” noted with pride that American schools “now graduate 75 percent of our young people from high school.”

That figure has now dropped to less than 70 percent, and the United States, which used to lead the world in sending high school graduates on to higher education, has declined to fifth in the proportion of young adults who participate in higher education and is 16th out of 27 industrialized countries in the proportion who complete college, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

The striking thing about the performance of American students on international comparisons is not that, on average, they are in the middle of the pack — which was also true in 1983 — but that we have a disproportionate share of low-performing students. We are failing to provide nearly one-third of our young people with even the minimal education required to be functioning citizens and workers in a global economy.

This is particularly distressing news at a time when the baby boomers are aging and a growing proportion of the future work force comes from groups — members of ethnic and racial minorities, students from low-income families, recent immigrants — that have been ill served by our education system. The challenge today is to build access as well as excellence. That’s the new definition of “a nation a risk” — and ample reason for a new commission to awaken the nation to the need to educate all our young people.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducation

Posted April 26, 2008 at 10:10 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Br. Michael wrote:

I wonder if the professionalized, government run and beauracratized modern school system has any thing to do with this?

April 26, 10:49 am | [comment link]
2. Philip Snyder wrote:

there are several factors in the decline of our education, but I think that the greatest has been the breakdown of the American Family.  We are seeing the first generation of kids raised by kids who were the result of “no fault” divorce.  Many of the parents today don’t really know what it takes to raise children because they were not really raised either.  They don’t understand relationships or marriage.

The breakdown of the family as the basic unit of society has led to the breakdown of society as a whole.  I fear that things will get worse before they get better.

Phil Snyder

April 26, 12:16 pm | [comment link]
3. Aquila wrote:

Well, thank you, John Dewey!  Your dream is coming true.

April 26, 12:45 pm | [comment link]
4. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Br Michael,  I think you may have something there, as do Philip and Aquilla.  What concerns me is that no matter the root of the problem and I know they are multiple.  The answer is always the same throw more money at the schools.  Second behind throwing money is the solution of throwing more technology at the schools.

This town just finished building the latest highschool.  At a cost of 80 million dollars.  The new design is faux fortress, but they do hav computers in all but the lavs.  The State of Florida is making a mockery of tax reform by exempting government schools from most
( it may be all) reforms or restrictions on spending. 

Will we now see an improvement in test scores, student behavior and community satisfaction with the school system.  No, because no amount of money will change the culture so many students live in.  Yes if spent well it can start the ball rolling, but that does not happen overnight.  But it should be spent outside of the school system first and it should be as far removed from the do-gooder beauracrats as possible.  An example would be religious based programs that help recovering drug addicts and alcoholics with the goal of making the men and women in these programs more responsible parents as well as sober ones.  That has a direct effect on the lives of children.

A little reality check would not hurt the good folks at NEA either.  Try to understand we want schools that support our values we do not want them to be incubators for your version of The Village.

April 26, 1:29 pm | [comment link]
5. Harvey wrote:

A statement I remember from years ago from a professor of mine.  Computers were not allowed in his classes during a test - calculators perhaps but then only if you had printed program that you would have stapled to your test answer sheet.  He was quite willing to gave partial credit particularly when he could figure out where your program went wrong.  The professor had a collection of calculators that included every known one in use.  If you had no readable program that he could see and your answer was wrong then that whole question was worth 0%.  One of his famous observations I will always remember - “I am here to teach you how to use that wonderful 2 pound calculator you have between your ears and your calculator is only a tool and you must teach yourself how to use it and correct any errors in your program!
DO NOT BLANE YOUR CALCULATOR for any faults in your programming!!

April 26, 9:07 pm | [comment link]
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