Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Economic Crisis Controversy

     Hello interweb. I am going to bring up a controversial topic today because it is one that is waning on everyone's  mind, the United States continued economic crisis. Now, because of the complexity of the subject and the general ignorance that most people (my self definitely included) have on the topic as a whole, I want to discuss one facet of the "crisis" that affects each and every one of us, and with which we all have direct and tangible experience. This is education. First I just want to state a few facts that show the depth of the problem. In the United States, only 7 out of 10 students obtain a high school diploma. This is the fifth lowest completion rate out of 30 O.E.C.D. countries. United States children scored lower than about 20 out of 30 of the wealthiest nations given a standardized test in both math and science. Education in these two disciplines are unarguably responsible for the majority of economic growth.

     Now to start with, there are really four simplified and general things that make the education system "work." These are teachers, students, law/standards, and funding. Teachers blame the government, students blame the teachers, the government blames the teachers AND the students...etc. One or all of these parts obviously has a problem and is in need of reform. But who is right?  Now for those few that want to blame funding of public education you need only to look around at how many (public) high schools and now grade schools are putting up $100,000 electric signs, sports stadiums that rival a small college, and their access to technology and compare this to the countries that are scoring far better than our students. I don't think it is a lack of money causing US education to deteriorate. Now for the teachers who blame policy makers, most of them have very valid points. Giving only one example for the sake of keeping this post kind of short is the no child left behind act which was initiated by President Bush's administration. In VERY basic and oversimplified terms, what this law enacted was fiscal incentives and punishments for public schools based on student performance. Sounds great right? No. Put yourself in the situation of a school in a low income area that already doesn't have much funding and has many students that come from broken homes with parents who also lack education beyond high school in many cases. These are the students, teachers, and families who need the MOST help. They do not need what comparatively little they have to be cut even further, because they will inevitably be  among the lower scorers on average. For the officials who want to blame the teachers, I have some news. How can you blame teachers who have to teach kids who refuse to be taught. I know several elementary teachers very well, and one in particular had seventeen students at the age of 6 and there were over 40 suspensions in the school year. These were for actions that ranged from assaulting the teacher, assaulting other students, bringing knives to school, throwing chairs at administration, sexually inappropriate actions, constant cursing....the list goes on. These kids were 6! How can you blame a teacher for having difficulties teaching kids like this? (although this teacher's class left with scores that were above average) Discipline is taught at home. I know if I had acted like that at that age I would have been spanked and grounded and had the idea continually made very clear that the behavior is not acceptable. And if I had done it a second time....Lord help me. This lack of discipline, to me, shows where the problem starts and at a very young age. The majority of the problem lies with the students, the homes and societal environment that they are raised in.

     We live in a society of over entertainment, over stimulation, over indulgence, and immediate gratification. This, in my opinion, is causing the greatest amount of deterioration in the education system. Children all the way through high school are continually bombarded by new distractions from constant travel sports, to xbox, to playstation, to movies, to tv, to the internet, etc. And once you try to fit a large amount of each of these into each day there is no time or desire left for anything else. Too many of these activities (and often our parents) allow us to lose the sense of working hard for something. Almost all of them offer immediate gratification for small tasks or for doing nothing. How are we supposed to explain to kids that have this kind of gratification in so many parts of their lives, that they should work for 16+ years to get a good education and a good job? We simply need a society and especially parents who push their children for moderation and discipline. Even things that are seemingly good like intensive sports which provide exercise need to occur in moderation. A 12 year old in a soccer league that plays 6 days a week until 6 PM for 9 months of the year should not be acceptable. All of these things (yes even video games) have their benefits, but we need the benefits of all of them, not just one. Many economists and education policy makers agree that if the US could advance by around one grade level in math and science by age 15, that this could potentially lead to around a "$40 trillion" addition to the economy according to Andreas Schleicher, a senior education official at the O.E.C.D.

     I am definitely not saying that everyone needs or should have a college education to be successful, and definitely not necessarily in these disciplines. I am also not saying that people who are able and decide to attend college are exempt from this criticism, they get a large part of it because too many college students go away looking for the "Animal House" experience. But everyone, regardless of profession and education level, uses these disciplines on a daily basis whether they realize it or not. Math and science are the disciplines that teach us the greatest amount of problem solving, how to use parts to reach a whole, and how to apply previous knowledge to new situations. These skills are invaluable in life, let alone their importance in the workforce. This is my two (or three) cents and I am excited to hear what other people have to say.  


  1. This is a fantastic post.

    I stumbled on your blog and I must say that I really dig the whole intellectual and educational aspect.

    I do agree with most of your points. And personally, a college education is important as heck if you want to get a high paying job with less effort.

  2. I couldn't agree with you more. Kids need moderation. Most kids I've seen don't have it, and it's going to hurt them in the long run.

    And, on a lighter note, does that stick figure girl have boobs? Or is that a poorly placed t-shirt design?

  3. Thanks for the reads and the comments guys. And yes, the girl is supposed to have circle boobs. My art is not as good as ABftS. Sorry haha.

  4. I'm glad you commented on my blog and left this link. I agree with you - moderation! And it's not just America.

    I live in a low socio-economic area in New Zealand and, as a first year teacher, I find that many of my students have no concept of anything outside of their own wants and needs. Grammar, spelling and basic general knowledge is almost non-existent.

    Great blog. I'm off to read more posts now.