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Our Dysfunctional Education Systems Affect Economic Justice

December 1st, 2012 | Posted by David Whitfield in Economic Justice

Your Education is worth what you are worth.
Anon
Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.
Bertrand Russell

Whatever happened to our school systems since the first school was built April 23, 1635, in Boston, Massachusetts, has adversely affected our communities, our economy, and our nation. Yet we rave about American exceptionalism. We have a relatively uneducated citizenry: evinced by only 27.2% of Americans have a bachelor’s degree, per the U. S. Census Bureau; only 8.9% have Master’s degree; and only 3% have earned a doctorate. Now what do these statistics portend for this “great democracy”? What does it mean?

It means 14%, or 43 million Americans cannot read these words—that’s 43,000,000. Not only do they not know what they don’t know, they do not know THAT they don’t know; meaning, they think being illiterate is normal. Add that to the 93,000,000 (that million) functionally illiterate adults: they cannot read and understand material between the 5th and 8th grades. It also means that we have three million jobs that we cannot fill—3,000,000 unfilled jobs: no qualified applicants. So, the ones who have a college degree don’t have the necessary skills employers are seeking. It also means that most of the college graduates are unable to write a grammatically correct sentence; they don’t know the difference between a colon and a semicolon. Not only that but half the nation is innumerate; meaning half of our citizens cannot do simple fractions, are unable to add two- or three-column numbers, cannot “add and carry,” and cannot balance a checkbook.

And when it comes to high school, we have 12th graders who cannot do 5th grade work. How do we explain that? How are students allowed to advance to the 12th grade and not be able to do 5th grade work? Consequently, the Department of Education’s National Mathematics Advisory Panel, found that:
• 78% of adults could not explain how to compute the interest paid on a loan.
• 71% couldn’t calculate miles per gallon on a trip.
• 58% were unable to calculate a 10% tip for a lunch bill.
 
What are we doing to our students, ourselves, our nation? And how do we compare internationally? Well now, a report from Harvard University’s Program of Education (2012) found that American students ranked 25th in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading. Should we take our country back to 1635, when the first school was built? Since our mantra is, “Let’s take our country back.” To where?

Finally, our dysfunctional education systems need educational leadership; we need national leadership; we need community leadership; and we need family leadership. Our biggest deficit is leadership. Ergo, until we “fix” our leadership situation, our economy will suffer. When our economy suffers, our citizens suffer. That means economic justice is relatively dead.
What are your thoughts?

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5 Responses

  • Tom Whalen says:

    Although American education was already failing when it was enacted, I think No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has accelerated our decline. Rather than teaching our children to read, write, and calculate, the NCLB system has taught our children how to take standardized tests. Every day I see some of my undergraduates who cannot express themselves and argue with me when I point out the problems with their writing. Several time I have heard: “I’m a business major because I hate math.” Really?

    Of greater concern is their inability to think critically. “Well my parents told me that so it must be right.” “I heard on Fox News that government is evil so that must be true.” When I ask them how the airport and the highway was built, they think that they have always been there.

    What are we doing to correct his trend? Demonizing teachers and cutting education budgets. Here in Kansas the state board of education struggles with teaching science.

    Finally, I think there is a large portion of the political class that believes an ignorant electorate will keep them in power; that critical thought will lead to voters sending them home.

    • Tom,
      Holy-Guacalmole!!! First, thank you for responding. What you describe is so very disturbing, especially regarding the highway and airport systems. Second, I wonder how to start. What questions must we ask? Finally, I think we need to do what Finland did in the early 90s: all or a representatives of the country’s leadership met; that meant all the ministers (education, labor, culture,commerce, etc.) Their main question: How can we improve academic achievement in Finland? Long story short–it is easier to become a lawyer in Finland than it is to become a teacher. And they pay their teachers well. Academically, Finland is doing great!
      Thanks again, Tom

    • The big problem in our education system is the absence of ANY information on personal finances being available in any grade level, grammar school through post graduate, even for those with a major in Economics. How could the riches country in the world over look including this information so its citizens could compete and thrive in the world market place? The well to do teach their children. The poor can’t, so the beat goes on generation after generations. Fix that one thing and the whole world changes.

  • Madelyn Harvey says:

    I believe leaders are born with a gift to lead, just like people are born with other gifts. Yes, we do need leaders in education, in the community, and most importantly within the family, but the key is good leadership. We need leaders who are concerned for the well-being of all people, not just those within their circles. When we have good leadership in all areas of society, only then will we begin to see economic justice.

    • Madelyn,
      Thank you for your point re: leadership. Leadership is the main source of movement toward economic justice; and without it, there will be little or no movement; at least that’s my view. Yes, we do need leaders in all areas of society; as I see it however, our national leaders are not doing the nation’s work; they are not doing the people’s work; they are not doing their job in general. There is not accountability structures in place to hold them accountable. Ergo, our national leadership structure is no longer functional; it needs an overhaul of sorts. As long as that condition remains, we will won’t get economic justice, educational justice, gender justice, or any other justice.
      Thank you, Madelyn for chiming in.
      David



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