Posts Tagged ‘education crisis’

Another View: STEM is a Problem, Not a Solution

March 25, 2013
  • My blog posts are also posted on Facebook. People seem to be more inclined to comment on Facebook for some reason. Here is one response to my last blog post on the education crisis. For those who only read the blog at this site, I’m posting an interesting reaction to it.
  • I hate to say this (and I’m sure that I’ll be bombarded with negative responses), but one of the problems with education IS STEM. In so many places, the fine arts and performing arts have been abandoned in favor of adding additional requirements for students in other disciplines. We’re going to end up with a generation of young people that can execute based upon formulas, yet don’t have the ability to figure out how and why they’re doing something.

STEMMING the Education Crisis

March 25, 2013

Just about all of us know there is a crisis in public education, one that must be overcome in order for America to continue to lead globally. There is a program that offers hope. It’s called STEM. Instead of institutions of higher education just decrying the fact that our public schools are not properly inspiring and preparing students for college,  they are starting to do something about it, to get involved in helping them do that, and Columbus State University is accepting the challenge to, as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Tom Hackett says, “create innovative solutions to expand and energize the next generation of STEM leaders.” STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, disciplines in great demand for the economic success of our country.

The school is about to launch NeXtGen STEM with a one-day Immersion Conference on Thursday, and it is bringing Dr. Bernard Harris, an astronaut, physician, businessman, and the frist African-American to walk in space, to  work with the Columbus Middle and High School Educational Community, and to be the Hunter Lecture Series speaker Thursday night at seven at the Iron Works Convention and Trade Center.

This is an encouraging development.




It’s Education, Stupid!

March 18, 2013

The number one crisis in America is not the national debt or the deficit.  It is the crisis  in education and the growing income inequality between the one percent and the ninety-nine percent.

That growing income gap is what made it possible for President Obama to totally surprise a lot of people and decidedly win reelection.  The average American can now easily observe that corporations are doing very well with record profits, and CEO  salaries get fatter and fatter, while he struggles to make ends meet, to properly support his family.

Education is widely touted as the solution for the unemployed.  Maybe it is.  There are jobs crying for people to fill them, but finding workers educated enough to fill  them is a problem.

Just check out these stats provided by the National  Commission on Adult Literacy:

One in three of our children is not graduating from high school.

The global competitiveness of our workforce has significantly declined.

Says the commission, “Among the 30 OECD free-market countries, the U.S. is the only nation where young adults are less educated than the previous  generation.”

The 2007 State New Economy index reports, ” Workers who were skilled with their hands and could reliably work in repetitive and sometimes physically demanding jobs were the engine of the old economy. In today’s New Economy, knowledge-based jobs are driving prosperity…jobs held by individuals with at least two years of college.”

In our state, Georgia, we have a 25 percent illiteracy rate. That is incredible. A state with compulsory public education has a 25 percent illiteracy rate.

Nationally, the National assessment  of  Adult Literacy showed that in 2005, “a staggering 30 million American adults scored at ‘below basis’ – meaning they could perform no  more than rudimentary literacy tests. Another 63 million adults could perform only simple basic everyday literacy activities.

Just think what this means to the children of illiterate parents who do not get intellectual stimulation and training at home.

The Commission says something can be done. It recommends Congress enact a new Adult Education and Economic Growth Act to  overhaul and expand adult education and workforce skills training.  You can read about it this site.

The results of not doing anything about this means the global  market will furnish the needed educated workers if America fails to educate new workers “from the adult ranks.”  “88 million of 188 million adults aged 18 to 64 will struggle with only a high school education and low English proficiency. Large numbers of them will become a drain on the economy, rather than a positive economic force.”

Wonder why news media does so little reporting on this crisis.

Our Education Crisis – Part 3

October 13, 2010

You can pay teachers better, rewarding the better ones with merit pay.  You can  make them more accountable.  You can drop the student teacher ratio.  All of that means nothing, though, if students  won’t perform because they simply are not motivated. 

Newsweek columnist Robert Samuelson says that school “reform” fails because student motivation has shrunken.  He doesn’t blame teachers. He says that as high schools have become more inclusive and as “adolescent culture has strengthened, the authority of schools and teachers has eroded.”

It’s easy to agree with Samuelson  that positive student motivation is critically important to good educational outcomes.  A retired Columbus teacher made the same point during the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning discussion. She said that students have to do the work and, if they don’t, no amount of good teaching is going to be successful.

Looking at the inclusion issue in the Muscogee County School District, we get the impression that not all of the schools in the district pratice the same amount of inclusion.  A student must have a B average to be accepted at Columbus High School, as well as promise to behave.  Columbus High, the college prep magnate, and Northside High School, which is located in affluent North Columbus, are the only schools in the Muscogee County system, by the way, to have a  90 percent graduation rate.  Jordan and Spencer bring up the rear with 56 percent.  It appears that Jordan and Spencer are both much more inclusive than Columbus High. (I got those statistics by going to NBC’s  Education Nation website, which provides an incredible amount of information about schools all over the United States. Check it out.)

This, of course, brings up the poverty issue.  Can kids who live in poverty  achieve?  There is some evidence that they can.  I recall a National Teacher of the Year that I heard speaking to the Rotary Club of Columbus who won that title by teaching kids, who lived in poverty in Los Angeles, so well that most of them not only graduated, but went on to college.  It boiled down to the teacher, a highly compassionate and motivated man, whose students he motivated to the point that they lived up to his high expectations.  

That opinion came up during the CALL discussion that the best teachers, teachers like him, are not where they are needed most. They may start out in a school loaded with disadvantaged kids, but at the first opportunity they transfer to schools where life is easier because the kids are already motivated by their parents.  This generality was made by some  retired teachers.  A school administrator who did not want to be identified, said the MCSD is sensitive to that claim, but there are some really good teachers in schools where the student poverty percentage is high.

Let’s hope that person is right.

Our Education Crisis – Part 2

October 9, 2010


“I don’t think it’s fair comparing the United States to Finland,” said a retired school teacher who was participating in a discussion about America’s poor showing in the world’s education rankings. Finland is Number 1 in public education in the world, which includes being number one in science and math. The United States in 17 in science and 24 in math.  Some others in the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning Wednesday afternoon discussion group at Columbus State University’s Turner Center for Continuing Education agreed. She explained, “Finland is homogeneous whereas the United States heterogeneous; it is made up of a number of cultures.”  That may be true, but Finland is still way ahead.

J-P Kärnä

Helsinki University of Technology auditorium, Helsinki, Finland. (Photo by J-P Kärnä)

Others of the retired teachers were not happy with the reported premise of the documentary Waiting for Superman that the core problem is with the quality of teachers and teaching.  ( The film opened Friday at the Tara Cinema in Atlanta. Hopefully, it will be coming to Columbus soon.)

According to an article in Time, the film is critical of teacher’s unions and others that are reportedly trying to maintain the status quo because that is in the best interest of teachers, but not in the best interest of the students and the country.  Teachers need to be more accountable, we’re told, and those who can’t teach well need to be doing something else.  

Again,  we heard the defense that it is wrong to blame the teachers because America has different cultures.  And, as far as accountability goes,  all of those standardized tests are simply causing teachers to “teach to the test.”  If their careers depend on how well students score on tests, a lot will simply teach to the test.  Cramming information into kids brains right before a test so they can pass the test is not teaching them to learn and to think.  For one thing, the information won’t stick.

Still, how can we know if teachers are effective if standardized tests are not used?  The Chair of the Columbus State University School of Education’s Teacher Education Department, Dr. Deirdre Greer, didn’t say the testing should stop. She maintains students can pass them if they are simply taught their subjects in a way that will enable them to retain the information.  She says teaching to the test is not necessary, but teachers are doing it because of the pressure that’s being put on them. 

Then, there is something else to consider in all of this.  Some believe there is another big problem that is hindering education reform.

More on that later. Stay tuned.

This is Not the First Time America has Fallen Behind in Education

September 29, 2010


As I watched Brian Williams’ Education Nation  report on the education crisis in America on Nightly News,  I had reflect on the resemblance to the same crisis that we had in 1957, when Dwight Eisenhower was president.  That crisis was the subject of one of the very few actual commentaries I did in my broadcast journalism career.

I was working at WSB Radio in Atlanta at the time.  The Associated Press decided to start an awards program for excellence in broadcast news reporting in Georgia.  WSB Radio took just about all of the first place awards, including commentary, which was something that was not normally done on WSB at that time. Program Manager Elmo Ellis ask me if I wanted to do one. He said we would be sure to win because no one else had entered one.  WSB did one that year, and guess who won the  first AP Award for a commentary on radio in Georgia.  Elmo was right. We were the only station to enter one.

I did that commentary on the emphasis that America had to place on education in order to catch up with the Soviet Union which had shocked the world when it put Sputnik into orbit. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was, I think , something to effect that being a teacher was a very important job and that teacher pay had to be made competitive with other professions in order to get the best people to make teaching their career.

That emphasis did catch on and more money was poured into education and improvement all over the country was quick in coming.  It wasn’t because of my tape recorded editorial.  WSB Radio’s Georgia audience was huge, with more people listening when I did the morning news than all other Atlanta stations combined. And since WSB was a 50,000-watt AM station, it had quite a reach at night and was considered a “national” station, but its national audience was miniscule.  I don’t know when the editorial ran. I didn’t hear it on the air. It could have run at 2 in the morning for all I know. It didn’t matter. It served its purpose by winning the AP Award for Excellence in Broadcast News.    

As you know, the United States caught up with and passed the Soviet Union in space, and the country’s education system benefited from that.  But, we let things slip, and now our education system is behind a number of developed nations.  If something isn’t done, it will have a bad effect on the country’s economic health. Those who can do something about it now realize that, so there is hope.

NASA produced replica of Sputnik 1