Recent studies prove that America’s economic and cultural domination will end within the century. Whether today’s students like it or not, the U.S. is no longer poised to be the world’s biggest or most productive economy, and American graduates are outperformed and, increasingly, jobless.
Wake Education Partnership, an organization that claims to promote excellence in public schools released “Suspending Disbelief,” a publication detailing methods by which Wake County can reshape its curriculum for today’s world. According to the organization’s research, student must do the following to compete in the 21st century: use all forms of technology, be culturally aware, effectively communicate across cultures, be aware of global events and dynamics, work together in multicultural teams, and learn how to learn.
These broad competencies are correct, but without concrete suggestions, little progress can occur.
“Some concrete methods range from a required graduation project or a required class,” said Principal Scott Lyons. “Other than meeting with teachers and requiring additional components for graduation, Leesville can’t do much.” Due to requirements set by state government, Wake County and Leesville can not dramatically change policy, despite the need for more global awareness.
Americans today are used to being a world power. Despite this attitude, the U.S. educational system ranks 18th out of 36 industrialized nations. This statistic is appalling, especially considering the fact that barely twenty years ago, the United States ranked first.
While improving education by incorporating more technology and global curriculum would help, I see a more direct cause of America’s fall: a superiority complex intrinsic to our culture.
Most Americans are wondering why the U.S. has fallen behind. What are competitive countries doing to beat the United States?
South Korea, consistently the world’s educational powerhouse, treats education differently than the United States does. Whereas students in the United States attend school for about six hours daily, many foreign students are at school from early in the morning until late in the evening.
As “Suspending Disbelief” pointed out, superior systems approach curriculum differently, too. In the United States, students learn a little about a wide variety of things, but other curriculum standards focus more energy on building foundational skills. For subjects like science and math, quality is definitely better than quantity.
Instead of educational policy, the real reason for America’s rapid decline is attitude. Years ago, Americans fought to be the best. Since then, we have grown complacent. Ever since the U.S. led the second half of the 20th century, other countries have innovated, fought, and sacrificed in order to prepare better students than the United States.
In a UPI interview, Richard Freeman, a Harvard economics professor, said, “We’ve been asleep for a good number of years as a country.” It’s time we wake up.
For Wake County, this means incorporating new standards like required graduation projects, more emphasis on foreign language classes, and more collaboration with foreign schools. For Americans, this means readjusting our attitude for the 21st century. No matter how many changes Wake County or North Carolina, Americans must look inside themselves for the motivation to succeed.
America’s 20th century successes are the result of diversity, hard work, and innovation. For the last decade, these traits belong instead to countries like Finland, South Korea, and Hong Kong. Now is the time to implement the successful strategies of other countries, reinvent our schools, and stop perpetuating the superiority complex responsible for our demise.
Pierre Lourens served for The Mycenaean in 2008-2009 as a staff writer. In that year, he took on the project of creating the first online edition of The Mycenaean. The following year, he was a co-Editor-in-Chief with Amy Kreis.
Jared, I think drop-out rates are more the consequences of societal problems and attitudes — not failing academics or rigorous projects. If you are saying that the number of failing students will not improve, that is true; but standards must be increased in order to be globally competitive, period. Those students who fail can go through remediation or trade schools. We should teach to the highest, not the lowest, common denominator.
I think graduation projects only make the concept of graduating from high school even more daunting for a struggling student. Students may feel overwhelmed and the dropout rate will not improve.