Saturday, May 17, 2008

Compromised Competitiveness

Note: First Published in The Bobo Files as Guest Blogger on May 16, 2008

America's claim to being "The Most Powerful Nation on Earth" may soon be an empty boast, if not an immature chest thumping exercise. The genius and highly motivated energy of its workforce that propelled its industries to global dominance after World War II, is in a despondent state of decay and disrepair.The replacements for its retiring work force are less knowledgeable and less educated, less skilled and demotivated, disinclined to learn and prone to shortcuts, weak in science and math, and possess poor reading proficiency. The failure of its Educational Institutions and systems has compromised America's once vaunted advantage and competitiveness.

In an increasingly demanding and competitive global economy that requires knowledge acquisition and information processing, such traits are anathema to success. And, where technology develops at a fast pace, the inability to cope, adapt, and use its benefits to create cutting edge advantages is critical to sustaining a lead in the global marketplace. The downward spiral in education has been going on for 40 years. The Reagan Administration documented the deterioration of public education in 1984 (A Nation At Risk), and crafted a 25 year plan to arrest it. Billions were allocated for the project, and at the end of its term, what surfaced was not only further decline but also fraud committed by school authorities to pad up the percentages of high school graduates. This is what the students obtained from the institutions of learning. Practically every state cheated to meet the legal requirements of rising academic proficiency.

Several research studies and recent surveys have attempted to unravel the cause, from teaching methods and skills, inadequate teachers, low pay, safety and security, invasive digital media, preference for visual feeding rather than reading printed material to discern concepts, among others. But it is the values of getting a good education that seems to be missing from the students, values that have been obliterated by too much sense of entitlement without the corresponding effort, sense of duty and responsibility. The youth, with their keen sense of spotting inconsistencies, if not hypocrisy, are acute readers of the social signals that radiate from the society which they belong to and will struggle to survive in. These signals built their perceptions.

They see that making a fortune is the most important basis of respect, regardless of how it was made. They know youth is marketable and would want to use it while they can to make a career in music, film, modeling, advertising, or any other shortcut that would lead to wealth in a short span - without the need for education nor schooling. They scoff at hard work, in school or elsewhere, and are focused on instant gratification. Nobility and patriotism, if ever considered, are secondary to wealth and fame. The framers of the constitution and creators of the Bill of Rights owned slaves; native Americans were pushed by droves of immigrants and were practically wiped out in a "pacification campaign"; America stands for Democracy but supported despots and dictators; these are some inconsistencies that are opposed to the values taught in the academe.

Furthermore, parents have given them up to the schools to be taught values and cared for, which the schools were ill-equipped to handle; the schools had been used to commit fraud to make city officials look good, and abandoned actual improvement mandated; the federal government had provided funds but abandoned its duty to provide safeguards in the use of funds for the intended purposes and results. Has America given up on the public schools?

If America has given up on the public school system, it is only because it has given up on the kids, perhaps unconsciously; without realizing that in the process it has given up on the future or is in denial about its bleak consequence. And if the resignation about the future or the denial of its consequence continues, America may be giving up on democracy. There will be no democracy if there are no schools that would mold civic identity and democratic responsibility, it has to come first on America's agenda.

Who would care about the deficit if the future is finished before it begins? What purpose would a defense budget serve if without democracy, no liberties will be left to defend? What truly public issues or public goods would be advanced, if without public education there can be no public? After all passionate arguments have been exhausted and all sectors have exhaled all anxieties about the crisis in education, what America undertakes to address the crisis will determine how serious it is to regain its competitive edge and strengthen its democratic foundations. Or, the world will witness the end of the American Empire.


Patrick Buchanan, Dumbing Down Of America
Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason
Susan Jacoby, The Dumbing of America
John Cochran, Failing Reports on US Schools
Christopher B. Swanson, PhD, Cities in Crisis
Peterson Institute for International Economics, The Accelerating Decline in America's High Skilled Work Force


Kim said...

excellent post Durano...
obviously the corruption in public education is showing an impact that may never be repaired...
priorities nowadays are all topsy turvy...
and it is a huge concern for the younger generations who need a basic education...
governments...parents and teachers ...all need to make a more concerted EFFORT ....NOW...if this situation is to be remedied !!

BoBo said...

Hello Durano - just wanted to drop by and say thanks again for posting this up over at my site on Friday. It certainly generated a lot of discussion and thoughts!

upyours said...

Hey Durano,
Read this post at Bobofiles.
My involvement with American education occurs on 2 levels: as a parent of 2 college kids and a 2nd Grader, and as the husband of a high school teacher.
It is my opinion that the qualification process for a would-be
public school teacher in America is one of the more stringent ones anywhere. In California, one has to pass the CBEST, pass a 4-part course in Diversity and Second Language Acquisition, pass a 2-stage Technology (Computer) course, pass a Health Education course with a CPR component, pass a course in Mainstreaming Special Populations, and hurdle 2 or 3 single or multiple subject specialization exams just to clear a preliminary teaching credential. The process is long, tedious, not to mention costly.
True, there are rotten teachers who might beat the system, just like there are rotten cops and rogue soldiers. But largely, the system is capable of weeding them out.
Two issues need to be addressed. First, the entire elementary, middle school and high school curricula need an overhaul. Second, parents should reclaim their lost moral authority over their kids. Bop them on the head from time to time, just to show them who's boss, assuming of course that parents themselves know right from wrong. Teachers cannot be surrogate parents. They cannot and should not be expected to solve deep sociological problems for which the solution starts at home. Their job is to instruct; ours, as parents, to mold our kids.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hello Kim,

America's wake up call has been sounded 24 years ago under the Reagan administration, but it seems corruption has overtaken it. America spends about $6,000 plus per child and the Bush Administration had increased this further to $10,000 plus per,but in all subjects, learning is deteriorating. How can learning advance when only 1 in 8 students can read proficiently by middle school? How can they understand math or science with that?

Also, there's too much rights and even laws that are abused to the point that parents are scared to discipline their own kids. The value of getting a good education is lost, and the children only see what society, it seems, and wealth. Forcing them to school to learn as a way to make money is dismissed when money is already being made through commercial modeling, dancing, acting, or selling drugs.

Politics and politicians are also part of the confusion that ails the education system.

As I mentioned, if this is how America's future looks and it continues to languish in such decay,it will be the end of their empire as we know it.:-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Bobo,

You're more than welcome Bobo, and thanks too for the opportunity. Your readers are quite vocal, and varied in their approaches; but all of them seem to be concerned and would want to get involved to end the crisis.That's the best part.

My only concern is to let them work together, regardless of ideological orientation, since the problem is getting worse and the goal is common along the entire stretch of the political spectrum.

I've just returned from a 15 hour road trip and as I opened my blog, the link to your blog settings is still open. :-) Any way, I have no intention of sabotaging your posts or settings - just reminding you that it's still open. :-)

Take care. Your blog is a beehive of political activity. I vary my topics and also its subject locations. Having to talk politics everyday may drive me to the funny farm.:-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Upyours,

I see your credentials on the topic are based on first hand experience on practically all levels.

I agree with you 100% about parents reclaiming authority. Who ever gave the idea that school was fun? School is hard work. Fun is after school or during breaks with classmates and friends.

Observe the Asian parent when its grade distribution time. They come to the school, then if they see the child's performance is below their expectation, they berate the child right there - in their own language!

Asians have a high regard for good education, and respect for teachers and authority is ingrained. Schools have no problem with discipline as far as they're concerned.

It starts in the home, and parental involvement should be constant. The child will perform up to the level that parents tolerate, and parents must be taught to motivate their child. Then the school and the teachers can supplement these by their school work load, completion schedules, and correctness of output. The concept of "no child left behind" has been corrupted by scaling down requirements and giving undeserved grades to problem students so they can avoid dealing with them.

It's all one big mess, and Americans should be grateful that Asian students are present to challenge their sense of pride, and Asian teachers are there to provide the quality methods and global standards of education for them to learn; Rather than show their inferiority through illusions of power by name calling, bullying, ganging up on the minority, and other plainly immature acts that project their state of imbecility. :-) --Durano, done!

ZenDenizen said...

It's interesting but the kids I know are savvier than kids when I was growing up but that can only take you so far without a solid educational foundation.

upyours said...

Hey man,
So sorry to take up much space, but lots to be said about this.
I've read some of the books my wife bought for the courses she took.
Fact 1: A child's mind is a blank canvas. Barring any physiological, neurological and/or learning handicap, any child anywhere, of whatever racial stock, is capable of learning any language and learn to produce the sounds (phonemes) necessary to communicate, and thereby learn, in that language. This throws the myth of Asian educational "superiority" off kilter. Asians do well in school not because they are ethnically and culturally hard-wired to excel, but because if they don't at least show a respectable showing, they get their asses whipped or worse, bring shame to their ancestors. In other words, it's the OR ELSE...!
If there is one thing worth emulating from Asians, it's the respect for their elders and legitimate authority. This simple behavioral and attitudinal shift will bring benefits. No unnecessary sassing, no shooting off, no cussing at the teacher. STFU and listen!! One time my wife was on the subject of negative and positive numbers and the rules for adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying them. You know, positive plus positive equals a positive sum, etc. A boy suddenly piped up, "You're just making this stuff up". I rest my case.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Zen,

You're so right about lack of education taking them only up to a point. Consider those who have achieved a degree of success without having formal education, in lots of instances they have been duped left and right by scammers, losing their fortune in the process.

Talent and luck can take them to a wealthy lifestyle fast, but without the knowledge of how the world operates, that wealth will soon be in the hands of Lawyers, unscrupulous businessmen and agents, hangers on, accountants, and even the lovers they so proudly parade as trophies. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Upyours,

Yes you're right about the "or else" factor and the family name up to the ancestors being shamed by non-performance. This is part of the Asian Culture and family values.

The myth that Asians were superior was due largely to their overall performance and discipline based on their culture and values. Compare that to the discipline and values of the average American who wants things easy and fun and have this notion that they don't need to know "this stuff" to make money. It's because parents have abandoned discipline and surrendered to the fast and easy culture.

Like I said, it all starts in the home. Reclaim that authority and you would start developing better attitudes that could change the downward spiral of education in a country already left behind by developments. :-) --Durano, done!