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Friends to Follow

Where has education system gone wrong?

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    I am responding to Morton Kondracke’s column “Radical change in schools needed” which was printed on Saturday, Dec. 23. After reading Kondracke, I read the “New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce” report released on Dec. 14, 2006 (  
    Both the executive summary and the report “America’s Choice: High skills or low wages!” paint a grim picture for America unless drastic changes are made.
    Kondracke stated that spending on U.S. schools has increased by 240 percent during the past 30 years, yet according to the report the U.S. has dropped from having 30 percent of the worldwide college students to 14 percent and is still dropping. Other advanced industrial nations (i.e., Germany, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, etc.) have high academic standards for all students enrolled in their schools, not just their college bound students.  
    At this point in time, drop out rates for our country ranges from 20 percent up to 50 percent in the inner city schools. What are we not doing that other industrialized and high performing countries are doing?
    The Internet and technology allow workers globally to do the work previously done by locals. This is encouraging vast competition between U.S. citizens and citizens from low paying countries. Why pay an American $15 an hour when an Indian or Taiwanese worker can do the same job, and perhaps a better job, at $6 an hour?
    Unfortunately, this is a choice many American industries and companies are choosing. According to the report, jobs will go to the employees who not only are book smart, but also are creative and capable of reasoning and problem solving.  Strong skills in language, math, technology and science, as well as literature, history, and the arts are essential for capturing the coveted jobs.
    The leading school systems in the world have exit exams that focus on creativity and innovation, facility with use of ideas and abstractions, self-disciplined organization, and how to manage one’s work and drive it through to a successful conclusion. This does not remotely resemble any exit exams I know of here in our country. Where have we failed?
    We have failed to motivate our students to take tough courses requiring them to think and stretch their imaginations. We have failed to motivate them to have high work ethics and to work hard. We have failed by building systems in which the people who have the responsibility do not have the power, yet the people who have the power do not have the responsibility.
    Do we need a change in our educational system? Absolutely! Will it be easy?  Absolutely not!  
    Kondracke hit the nail on the head when he stated, “probably the most difficult group to convince about the need for change is the American citizenry.”  
    I encourage anyone with any affiliation with the educational system (teacher, administrator, student, parent, etc.) to visit the website listed above to read both the executive summary and the report. Yes, it will take some time, but hopefully you will come away with a clearer understanding of what is needed in order to bring our country back to the educational forefront of our world.
Julie H. Lumpkin
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