Adrienne BoettingerWednesday,1 January 2014

The Snap:

Upon entering college, you will be presented with four choices for your major: A) English, B) Business, C) Biology or D) Folklore and Mythology. Choose the one that best describes your desired future. After graduating college, you’ll have four choices for your occupation: A) Teacher, B) Accountant, C) Research Assistant or D) Unemployed and living in parents’ basement. Five years from graduation you’ll have four choices for life status: A) Single, B) Married, C) Cohabitation or D) Future cat-lady. Sound ridiculous? Well, if life doesn’t start coming as a series of multiple choice questions, most people who have been a student in American grade or high schools from around 2002-present will be pretty well screwed.

The Download:

It has taken a while for those of us who don’t work in education or have school-age children to realize what is happening to America’s students. Way too many of them can’t write, utter a well-reasoned argument or think creatively.

The thing you’ll hear about the most is that we spend so much on our students (approximately $115,000 per kid) and yet American students perform way worse than their counterparts in other developing countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment — an international test of 15-year-olds that takes place every 3 years. Germany is wiping the floor with us. Parts of China, Singapore, Japan, Korea and even Liechtenstein are cleaning our clock.  The average American student couldn’t find these countries on a map. Crap, the average American adult probably couldn’t find them all either.

When asked why American students are so crappy at critical thinking, most point to No Child Left Behind leading the vast majority of American schools to teach to the test. Simply put: to get funding from federal and state governments, schools have to prove that students are improving each year in standardized tests. To make sure that happens, most school systems push teachers to spend the bulk or all of their time prepping their students to do well on these tests that focus on math and reading tests given in multiple choice form. Why is everything multiple choice? Because it’s easier and cheaper to grade. Schools don’t have much reason or any time to do anything else. It’s not just music and art that are falling by the wayside; it’s social studies, grammar and even science.

The result is students reaching college hopelessly unprepared and young adults who can’t make it through the grueling obstacle course that is the quest for employment in America. It’s worse than not using proper grammar or being able to add without a calculator. We’re not teaching or even encouraging our children to think critically ().

So what’s the answer? Is it A) Spend our energies trying to dodge responsibility for what is going on, B) Work on the underlying socio-economic issues plaguing American school system, C) Figure out what we can steal from other countries’ solutions to this tough problem or D) Stick our heads in the sand and pretend nothing is wrong?

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Hat Tips:

Washington PostThe AtlanticThe Chronicle of Higher EducationPBSGreat SchoolsUK German Connection, Image Credit: Scott Brenner on Flickr

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