Friday, September 17, 2010

Student apathy and national leadership. . .

Here's an interesting op-ed essay from Thomas Friedman that appeared last weekend in The New York Times.  As usual, Friedman presents a unique take on the failure of American public education and the place of the nation in world affairs as a result.  Tell me what you think.

We’re No. 1(1)!

Published: September 11, 2010

I want to share a couple of articles I recently came across that, I believe, speak to the core of what ails America today but is too little discussed. The first was in Newsweek under the ironic headline “We’re No. 11!” The piece, by Michael Hirsh, went on to say: “Has the United States lost its oomph as a superpower? Even President Obama isn’t immune from the gloom. ‘Americans won’t settle for No. 2!’ Obama shouted at one political rally in early August. How about No. 11? That’s where the U.S.A. ranks in Newsweek’s list of the 100 best countries in the world, not even in the top 10.”

The second piece, which could have been called “Why We’re No. 11,” was by the Washington Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson. Why, he asked, have we spent so much money on school reform in America and have so little to show for it in terms of scalable solutions that produce better student test scores? Maybe, he answered, it is not just because of bad teachers, weak principals or selfish unions.

“The larger cause of failure is almost unmentionable: shrunken student motivation,” wrote Samuelson. “Students, after all, have to do the work. If they aren’t motivated, even capable teachers may fail. Motivation comes from many sources: curiosity and ambition; parental expectations; the desire to get into a ‘good’ college; inspiring or intimidating teachers; peer pressure. The unstated assumption of much school ‘reform’ is that if students aren’t motivated, it’s mainly the fault of schools and teachers.” Wrong, he said. “Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don’t like school, don’t work hard and don’t do well. In a 2008 survey of public high school teachers, 21 percent judged student absenteeism a serious problem; 29 percent cited ‘student apathy.’ ”

There is a lot to Samuelson’s point — and it is a microcosm of a larger problem we have not faced honestly as we have dug out of this recession: We had a values breakdown. . . .

To read on click here


Anonymous said...

Number one, we have not "dug out of this recession."

Number two, it was mentioned that China and India have free markets "like we do." We no longer have free markets, thanks to Barack Obama. He is killing the economy and he is doing it on purpose.

Anonymous said...

oh, is he now? who told you? Newt Gingrich who also says the prez is "Kenyan with an anti-colonial worldview." he is American and i hope he's anit-colonial!

Anonymous said...

It's hard in many policital climates to lay blame on parents and, worse, their kids, for failures in education. But we do need to face the fact that parents who don't read to their kids, don't ask them about their grades, and generally treat school as babysitting will not likely produce successful, educated kids. Until we can educate parents about their role, many kids stand little chance.

Anonymous said...

The real issue is why Friedman wrote an piece based upon two prior articles. He produced an article comprised mainly of others' work! Not enough energy to produce an original product? Who is apathetic now, Mr. Friedman? ;>)

ecosavvy said...

Hey Larry, Sheri McLemore here~
Received the following e-newsletter from Stephen Krashen last week:

"Thomas Friedman ("We’re No. 1(1)! asserts that American education has declined, our test scores are low, and that we must therefore demand more of our students.
This is all wrong. American students from well-funded schools who come from high-income families outscore nearly all other countries on international tests. Only our children in high-poverty schools score below the international average. Our scores look low because the US has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (25%, compared to Denmark's 3%). American education has been successful; the problem is poverty.

The solution is not to blame students for being lazy (our elders said this about us). The solution is to protect children from the damaging effects of poverty: better nutrition (Susan Ohanian suggests the motto "No Child Left Unfed"), excellent health care for all children, and universal access to reading material."

"LIKE" BUTTON! As a former teacher in a low-socioeconomic district, I have witnessed the reality of Krashen’s statement. While the lack of discipline is raging, it fades in comparison to the damage poverty wreaks in the classroom. Johnny’s brain is like a car, it must have fuel- his sputtering/bewilderment is visible. Suzie can’t concentrate on the lesson while desperately trying to hide, her wardrobe of today, is that of yesterday. These examples, (from hundreds, maybe thousands) aren’t invented scenarios, they are my memories.