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What has Happened to American Education?

  Dorothy Philbin | CNBNews Contributor 


Back "in the day" (1960s) the United States had the best educational system in the world.  Even if we allow for personal/country pride we were definitely in the top five.  Where are we today?  It depends on the survey one reads.  We are somewhere between 13th., behind Slovenia, and 36th waaay behind Bulgaria.  How many American students can find either country on a map?


What happened?  Is it just Gloucester City or the country as a whole?  The answer to the second question is easy.  No, it is not just Gloucester City.  It is the country as a whole.  We are spending an unbelievable amount of money for our kids to rank between 13th and 36th.

The biggest excuse I heard when getting my Masters in Education at St. Joseph's University was that the Russians sent a satellite (Sputnik - 1958) into space before the United States.  That was more than 50 years in the past and Sputnik self-destructed after three months.  America followed with Telstar (including a song) in 1962 and we were successful.  Instead of using this as a classroom lesson of taking your time and doing a project correctly, the educational geniuses decided to reinvent the wheel.  How many of us with gray hair remember "new math?"  My class was the last of the "old math" students.  After that parents could no longer help their kids with homework.  Parents knew that 7x5=35 but they couldn't explain the philosophy behind the new way of doing things.

As young as I was (7th grade) I didn't understand.  After World War II both America and Russia made offers to the German scientists that they couldn't refuse.   It was really the German scientists who built Sputnik  and Telstar - not the Americans or Russians.  No one thought to ask the Germans how they learned.  Despite the evil done by some Germans, the average student learned well.

I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) in Philadelphia and I always asked my students about schools in their native countries.  In China the names of the students who didn't do "well enough" were published on a board and they were embarrassed in front of their classmates.  No one would have thought that was funny, especially when the student got home.  In most West African countries education was a privilege, not a right.  If a student got two questions wrong on a test he was beat two times at school.  Then you went home!  In Cambodia (legally Kampuchia) failure is not acceptable, neither is "getting by."  Only success is acceptable. 

When I looked at the list of countries which educated its students better than the United States, I found several which were legally bilingual:  Singapore (3 languages,) Canada (2,) Belgium (3,) Ireland (2,) Switzerland (3,) and Israel (2.)  No other country coddles its students the way America does.  Every other country prepares its students for a world which is tough and not fair.   







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THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: (VII) What has Happened to American Education? 

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