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What ails education, motivation or money?

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Column by Jim Flynn

We’d be disappointed but not surprised if local schools had to reduce classes to a four-day week. We’re already disappointed that motivated young people are not experiencing the first-rate academic and trades educations which were once available in many public schools.
The lengths of U.S. school days and school years are among the shortest in the world. Yet based on billions spent, rather than results achieved, we have a national delusion that public schools are a top priority of local, state, and federal governments. Schools are, but education isn’t.
For decades our public schools have been an expansive and expensive social experiment, concerned with transportation, nutrition, health, security, class size, diversity, activities, politically correct textbooks, family problems, student counseling, and community uplift.
During the same period, an increasing number of countries have passed the U.S. in student performance, graduations, and college attendance.
In a recent interview a Florida college professor said his best students are from China, India, private schools, and home schooling. Between 40 and 50 percent of U.S. public high school graduates need remedial classes in order to handle college work.
A few months ago, after reviewing national history scores, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan commented: “Student performance is still too low. These results tell us we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education.” That’s old news, Mr. Secretary.
Testing is about money. The No-Child-Left-Behind program is almost 10 years old, and the Department of Education is complaining the law needs an “update,” by which they mean spending more to continue our national failure to raise student performance scores.
The most recent report of a Paris-based economic assessment organization which examines student performance in math, science, and reading in 65 countries was not flattering to American education. The best performances were in China (Shanghai and Hong Kong), Japan, Korea, and Finland.
The Paris Student Assessment Study ranked the U.S. 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in mathematics. The comment Secretary Duncan was: “This is an absolute wake-up call for America….We have to get much more serious about investment in education.”
“Investment” is a Washington euphemism for more money. Truth is we’re second only to Luxembourg in how much we spend per student.
So how could the nation which spends so much and considers itself exceptional be rated “average” compared to other developed countries? Perhaps motivation not money is the primary problem in U.S. education.
Why not limit the academic curriculum to motivated volunteers?
We have a 25 percent national drop-out rate. More social services aren’t going to change that. Schools should be offering more appropriate education for unmotivated students at a level of learning which will enable them to secure rewarding employment and achieve a middle-class lifestyle.
During our best economic times those kinds of choices were available in many schools. Remember “The Greatest Generation” born 1914-1940. Most of its members were not college graduates. They were hard working people with sufficient education to become successful citizens.

The mention Supporter Duncan

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