Throughout history there have been defining periods of human ingenuity and creative thought that have transformed society. Inventions in the 1700’s were precursors to the industrial revolution in the 1800’s. The 1900’s saw the advent of the mass-produced automobile, the telephone, television, radio, computers, internet and more. In the past 20 years we’ve seen just how the internet and communications technology can change the world. It still amazes this blog writer that just just a few years ago Facebook burst onto the scene, a site that assisted in an Egyptian revolution and most of us generally can’t live without. We’re all living in a time when the world that’s changing at the speed of technology.
This ever-changing world has put our nation in crisis. Today’s HS graduate will have on average 8-15 careers in his/her lifetime, even if they stay with the same company. This is paradime-shifting in it’s implications for educating our children. Our competitive advantages of the past (natural resources, capital, technology and human captial) have been eroded by globalization. Brain power is now the competitive advantage in the 21st century, making ed the center of global competition.
If brain power is the new global capital, how is the US measuring up? Let’s take a look. ABC’s 20/20 host, John Stossel, made a persuasive feature he titled “Stupid in America” arguing that a lack of choice cheats our kids out of a good education. This is clearly a pro-charter feature, which is a topic we’ve explored in previous blog posts and not why we’re referencing it. (See previous posts Join the Conversation: Charter Schools & The Myth of Charter Schools) What was interesting about this report was a comparison between students at an above average Jersey high school and to students at an equivalent level at a school in Belgium. ABC gave parts of an international test to each class. After taking the test each class felt they had done well on the test. How did they fare?
“Belgian kids cleaned the American kids’ clocks, and called them ‘stupid.’ We didn’t pick smart kids to test in Europe and dumb kids in the United States. The American students attend an above-average school in New Jersey, and New Jersey’s kids have test scores that are above average for America. Lov Patel, the boy who got the highest score among the American students, told me, ‘I’m shocked, because it just shows how advanced they are compared to us.’ …When students from 40 countries are tested, the Americans place 25th.”
Today, more than 220 of the world’s biggest companies have their IT operations in India. Many of these jobs are skilled, high-paying technology jobs. Why are major corporations moving overseas? America is facing the challenge of an increasingly global and constantly changing world with an education system that’s entrenched in educating for a world that doesn’t exist anymore, and the market is holding this hard fact up to our face. Intel’s Sr. Vice president fears four our competitive future as a nation. Lester Thorough of MIT expressed, “if we do not get a handle on this problem of non-functionals entering the labor market, the US will become a third world labor market by the year 2030.”
I was planning on throwing some more statistics at you demonstrating rising dropout rates and talk about how they’ll affect our economy and our ability as a nation to govern, but instead I think I’ll just show you these clips from Jay Leno’s late night comedy show:
- Jay Walking: Geographically Challenged. Jay quizzes high school students on geography because he couldn’t believe that 11% of American students between the ages of 18 and 24 couldn’t locate the United States on a map (that’s 1 in 10 students)
Note: one of the comments below this video reads, “Man americans are stupid! I thought war was the only way for them to learn geography, but they don’t even know where they’re fighting.”
- Jay Walking: Citizenship Test. Jay asks passersby to answer questions from the American citizenship test and deports those who fail.
So, the question remains, how do we prepare our children to live in an ever-changing world? We need to find a better way to instill in our students the agility to learn and relearn, to think and re-think creatively and connect ideas, solve problems and think for themselves. It’s clear we’re not doing that now, so what are we going to do about it?