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Casen Askew

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Would US schools be better off adopting the educational systems of our contenders?

A sound educational system will, in most cases, augment a superior and thriving nation. With each country racing to claim that title of being superior, every developed nation has implemented their own unique form of public education. Being an American junior in high school, I am greatly perturbed at the statistics, and being a Texas junior in high school whose state lags behind almost every other state in the academic fields of science and math, I would go as far as to say I am disturbed. With that being said, the topic I offer up for debate is simple. Should the United States integrate the educational systems of places like Singapore and Taiwan in order to address one of the many problems our nation is facing right now, an inferior academic program?


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    Apr 5 2011: The "system" is more than the curriculum and actions of the school. A major part of the failure of US education is what happens outside the school. Studies show the effect of family and peer groups plays a major role in student success. These influences, particularly in certain race peer groups, are negative toward education. Most families would say they support education, but older children are inundated with sibling-rearing responsibilities which take away time for homework. The attitude in many families and peer groups is that education only takes place in school.

    Adopting an approach from somewhere else is not enough. For schools to succeed in whatever approach, these family and peer group attitudes need to be adjusted or countered.
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    Apr 5 2011: A new curriculum based around the Technological Revolution would be a dramatic change from the industrialized model that is currently in use. A new technological curriculum would abandon the current textbook-driven, teacher-centered, paper and pencil curriculum that has proven to be unsuccessful and inadequate in preparing students to solve 21st century problems. Experts agree almost unanimously that young people aren't receiving the necessary skills to flourish in the 21st century marketplace. As Robert F. Duvall, President and CEO of the Council for Economic Education says, "We teach things, subject matter, but we don't teach how to think, that is, to analyze and synthesize novelty." Education will continue to fall apart if students, teachers, and parents don't stand up and take action. Taking action is leadership and thinking outside of the box is divergent thinking. Psychologists have proven that divergent thinking is more crucial than useless learned knowledge. Students can't be taught how to think. Rather, students need to think how to learn. Schools have an archaic curriculum that focuses on memorizing facts and forgetting them instead of learning. We need to get rid of the rigid rules, restrictions, and requirements that are discouraging creativity and allow students to create their own curriculum. Every individual thinks differently and should learn meaningful information in a way that is easy for them to comprehend and attain. Technology is the future and should be utilized in the classroom. Additionally, course titles need to be changed to fit today's global marketplace. Students don't need to learn about the history of feudal Europe in 3rd grade, 7th grade, and 10th grade. The problem with the current curriculum is that information is constantly repeated (and most of it is useless anyways). Learning how to create a product that utilizes technology through the sharing of ideas is far more important. I suggest reading Outliers and The World is Flat.
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      Apr 5 2011: I have to ask. What has led you to form such a well established opinion on the matter? I completely agree with you and have found your comments, to my delight, rather enjoyable. Are you employed in a field where these concerns rear their ugly head on a day-by-day basis? Or are you just a citizen concerned about our future as a nation? And another thing... What is your opinion on having trade schools near every public school? For instance, in my town there is a few big oil refineries. Well I think it would be a splendid idea for kids who don't really want to learn arithmetic and language arts to be put in these trade schools. I've always thought that idea would be great for a few reasons. I go to school with some people whom I'd rather not, people who don't want to be there and really shouldn't be. Well if they are put into these schools, by their own choice, they would get hands on training and could work for the refineries during the summer and have a steady job as soon as they graduate. I honestly can't see how it would be a detriment to society in any way, shape, or form. Your view?
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        Apr 5 2011: I am a frustrated High School Junior who realizes the material we are learning is useless. Through student, parent, and teacher feedback I have come to realize that no one approves of the current system in use. I have read an abundance of articles by scholarly faculty as well as renowned authors and entrepreneurs. Through my readings and observations I have come to realize that discipline problems are common, diversity in students is ignored, and grades are assigned based on test performance rather than knowledge displayed or improvement made. Doesn't this sound irrational? Do employers assign grades to workers? Are workers completely ignored by employers? Is diversity in the global marketplace ignored? Is collaboration with fellow employees discouraged? The current school system is in dire need of remodeling and only active students and teachers can lead the charge. Students are responsible and adept enough to create their own curriculums. I have researched several experimental schools that have implemented many 21st century ideals and concepts into its curriculum. Additionally, I have read about Private schools offering digital media enhancement classes and TED talk evaluations. Have you heard of such? Where do you go to school? What are your thoughts? I suggest reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and listening to Ken Robinson's TED talks. Outliers (also known as successful people) differentiate themselves from the rest of the world. Outliers are creative, passionate, personable, and divergent thinkers. Does school teach you how to be creative? Has Ancient Roman history taught you how to be passionate? Has your math teacher taught you how to be personable? Has your principal taught you how to be a divergent thinker? Have you tried coming up with a 100 ways to use a paper clip lately?
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          Apr 5 2011: It's people like you who allow me to see hope for us as a species. The logical thinkers, the believers, the problems solvers. I feel that my abilities as a young mind seeking knowledge are being suppressed. I attend a school on the Gulf Coast that, I'm disappointed to say, does not academically excel. We have some teachers who care about as much as the unwilling students they are trying to teach. I honestly feel that I have been hindered by my school career. I don't feel like I have been pushed. I don't feel like they have forced me to be a logical thinker. I'll definitely check out "Outliers." However, I disagree on a part of what you said. I don't believe that students, as a majority, are "responsible and adept enough to create their own curriculums." Students like you, yes. Students like me, yes. But a majority of the students at schools are not like you or me. I believe this lack of thirst for knowledge is something that has been bred into the minds of todays youth. That remains, for now, an impasse. You can't help those who do not want to be helped. So to fix the resultant you must fix the problem augmenting it. Which brings us back to trade schools. Separate the students. This separation could lead to schools(academic) improving. More kids would be there to learn and not because they had to be. This may come off as senseless rambling because, against my instinct, I am not going back and proof reading, but I'm just throwing ideas and thoughts out there.
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        Apr 5 2011: I have a feeling America is going to go green pretty soon. Therefore, your friends who are going to work in oil refineries will need to have more skills. For the time being, working for the oil refineries is a fine job. However, I already see the U.S. turning green. You should read Thomas L. Friedman's The World is Flat, Hot, and Crowded. Friedman talks about the future of the green economy and how it will shape infrastructure. Being a native of Texas, I am sure many of your classmates desire to work for the oil refineries. However, at least in my humble opinion, the Middle East is so unstable the U.S. is going to turn away from oil and become energy dependent. I know the U.S. has plenty of oil. However, as my AP U.S. teacher was telling me, the U.S. wants to be the last country on the planet with oil so they control the global market. The reason the U.S. isn't energy dependent already is because the U.S. is rich in petroleum.
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        Apr 5 2011: My trade school theory is below.
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    Apr 4 2011: A Global Education addresses political, social, and economic issues through different forms of online communication. Online communication allows individuals from all over the globe to connect and share ideas and information. More minds= more contributions= more innovations= more thought-provoking questions= more answers= more thinking= more innovations= more contributions. The Global Education ensures new ideas are always being presented and improved upon by others.
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    Apr 4 2011: The U.S. educational system has many flaws. However, adopting another countries educational system is not the answer. The U.S. needs to develop its own educational program. Every country plays a different role in the world economy and therefore needs different skills to complete different tasks. America, and other developed countries, need a new curriculum based around the Technological Revolution. A new technological curriculum would allow U.S. students to utilize technology they use at home to learn in the classroom. American education in the 1800's promoted creativity within the industrial system. Contrary to England, where students had very little autonomy, U.S. students were allowed to generate new ideas in classrooms. School was less structured and students were able to share ideas with fellow peers. However, education in England consisted of apprenticeships were students learned trades, but weren't encouraged to think outside of the box. The U.S. needs to redefine education and put the student back in charge. With the emergence of new technologies students are now the creators. Learning how to create websites, applications, and technological devices if far more important than learning about ancient history. Classes need to consist of groups of kids who are passionate and self-motivated. The U.S. should use a TED based model of learning to attract passionate and enthusiastic kids back to the classroom. Students should share ideas and theories they are passionate about and explore other areas of academics by skimming other blogs. 21st century learning is collaborative and informative. In a global world, more ideas are able to be shared and pondered. The U.S. needs to create what I call "The Global Education".
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    Apr 5 2011: On a side note: Where do you want to go to college? I have considered going to UT Austin. It looks like a school with stellar departments and there seem to be job growth in Austin? Am I right. I don't live in Texas so I have no clue. But, I have read Businessweek articles that give UT Austin and the city itself high marks.
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      Apr 6 2011: I am actually looking into UT at Austin. They are ranked number 9 in the nation in aerospace engineering which is the career I am wanting to pursue. I've only been to the city twice, but it's a very beautiful city. I don't know all the specifics b/c I live about 5 or 6 hours away.
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    Apr 5 2011: Having a standardized American educational system would require two things that are just not political viable.

    First we would need to take the power of education from the states and local government, eliminate elected school boards and all of the other little bureaucrats out there, and announce a new national standardized educational system.

    Second, along with that, we'd need to restructure our educational financial system, which would cause everyone's tax bill to roughly come out the same, but any time Washington raises taxes, people act like the world is about to end.

    I would blame the majority of the income disparity in this country on those that are without STEM skills. Calculus was invented over 300 years ago, but probably fewer than 10% of the public know it. The size of the population that doesn't know algebra is embarrassing.

    If I could give a recommendation, use the Khan Academy and if possible see if you can get your local or school library to order materials from the Teaching Company (or see if they can order those courses for you). If you look at the curriculum of the nation's most elite private schools, almost all of them design their teaching strategy to encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning. For example, check out Phillips Exeter Academy's Harkness Method.

    My recommendation for now is don't be afraid to make others feel stupid. Being in high school sucks sometimes because of the peer pressure to conform, but don't yield to it. Try to get into AP classes and challenge yourself.
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      Apr 6 2011: I agree on most of your points, but restructuring education does not necessarily mean higher costs (i.e. increased tax bills). There are ways to change the system with little to no cost. I am sure there are many approaches (e.g. Khan Academy as you mention) which might actually be instrumental in lowering costs.
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    Apr 5 2011: Re-opening trade schools is a great idea in theory. However, economically it would kill Universities and change the global marketplace. Universities make thousands of dollars off students each year. With this money, they pay thousands of faculty members and employees. Losing thousands of kids to trade schools each year would not only kill Universities revenue (which is used to pay not only faculty and employees, but also to fund athletic teams) but would also destroy test evaluation and tutoring businesses who make millions of dollars off apprehensive High School students. The College Board would be put out of business and test preparation centers would be abolished. Teachers who oversee or proctor these tests would lose money and Universities would lose not only tuition money, but also application money. Universities, would miss the 50-100 dollars they charge to read applications. Trade schools would allow more kids to go straight into the workforce. However, at least in America, the work force is really diminished. Most jobs have been moved overseas. Cheap labor overseas is much more economically affordable for entrepreneurs looking to grow their business. Why pay an American minimum wage when you can pay someone overseas a dollar a day. As a result, re-opening more trade schools is not the answer. The future job market for Americans is going to be based around the Technological Revolution and social media boom. Many Americans will be working for companies such as Apple and Facebook. The positions they will need to fill will include marketing, design, filming, and broadcasting. Basically, kids will be either engineers or social media junkies. That is why I believe we need to offer classes that revolve around social media. Many High School students will end up working for sites such as TED as bloggers and organizers. What do you want to do in the future? Medicine and engineering will always be lucrative careers. However, careers in social media are booming.
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      Apr 6 2011: I understand your argument and agree with the part concerning cheap labor and Americans losing job opportunities due to this trend of companies using foreign workers. The University issue is what I disagree with. The trade schools would just be intended for the portion of high school students who have no aspirations of college anyway. The ones that want to just live off of welfare. The trade schools would not be a detriment to universities. If anything, the same students that would have gone to college will, except they'd know quite a bit more because the educational system would become noticeably better with the introduction of these trade schools. Take out all the bad apples, and the fruit salad will undoubtedly taste better. But like I said, I completely understand your point of there being a shortfall of available jobs. That's the problem with our country. In order to fix issue A, you have to fix issue B. And issue B can't be resolved unless issue C, which unfortunately is solely dependent on the improvement of issue A, is dealt with. The government can't look to fixing one problem at a time. You can't focus on education, fix it, and move on to the next problem. The fact that each problem fits hand-in-hand with the next makes them inseparable. Which, for lack of a euphemism, sucks.
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        Apr 6 2011: I understand your point. The problem with our capitalistic society is that it is very cyclical. Improving issue A affects issue B which affects issue C. I don't know how America should improve upon making sure everyone is satisfied in this money-making process. The problem is that the government can't be to active or to passive. I think everyone needs to come together and think about an option where everyone is going to successful. As you said in your response, many of your high school friends would be satisfied living on welfare. Who's pocket is welfare coming out of? The government can only tax hard-working individuals so much (and I consider myself more liberal on most issues). Taking money away from taxpayers is only going to hurt the American people more. I am not advocating the abolishment of welfare. However, capitalism relies on a perfect balance that allows company A, B, and C to flourish ( as well as the government). In our system the government is basically just a major company that acts as the middleman. Opening up more trade schools would hurt the middleman which would hurt companies fighting for business.