This was inspired by a reply in the US Soccer thread:
My thoughts were: LMAO at you sounding proud of this. It's not so much that you, as a nation, don't care through conscious choice. It's more like, with the weakest school system in the developed world, you just don't know any better.
Quite a few media outlets have written about US kids having difficulty with maths and English after graduating from school, and needing extra help in getting ready for uni. Judging from this forum alone, US teens don't have a very good command of their native language. Of course, I'm just judging from statistics and forum-experience, which isn't worth much..
So! Everyone who's from the US.. How do you/did you find your education system? I know how weak it is overall, but I'd be quite interested to hear some first-hand accounts about people's schools.
As a Teacher, I can tell you the constant issue in NYC. We get complaints about how bad our city schools are, and yet they keep cutting funding and refuse to offer competitive salaries. The constant question raised is 'how the hell can you attract qualified educators, and expect them to perform well without adequate supplies, too many students in a classroom, and being so worried about getting positive reviews from their micromanaging supervisors to do a good job?'
I'd have to say my schooling was the average run of the mill as well but I felt I was behind when I landed in a university setting. I would have to agree with Gillium that the kids who wanted to do well did, the kids who looked for excuses did.
The American education system has been behind other countries considerably going by the TIMSS system, UNICEF also scored US 18 out of 24 countries in terms of relative effectiveness. From my personal experiences there are too many teachers who reap the benefits of working 9 months a year, have phenomenal pensions, and still don't produce a viable crop.
When the American/Government educational system doesn't produce a successful class what do they do? They lower requirements/scores. I personally feel that teachers should be paid a base salary and get their wage increases based off of performance, you reap what you sow.
I would say that I am very fortunate in that I got (and am still receiving) one of the best educations in the world. Keep in mind that I went to private school and am currently enrolled in a very prestigious university. so my experience by no means is indicative of the majority.
I also must add that I pursue my academics with zeal. As with many things in life, education comes down to how much effort you are willing to go through to achieve what you want. Americans, FOR THE MOST PART, are extremely narrow when it comes down to the things that they will pursue with effort. Education, along with maintaining healthy bodies, is just not one of those things. While I do realize that there are many difficulties facing educators,none of the fixed problems are going to do a damn if little johnny isn't even listening to the teacher as he is asleep in the back of the classroom.
I started college when I was about 24 having served in the military and gained life experience and read on my own while in I noticed a lot about the 18 year old kids fresh out of high school that I'm sure was true of me when I was fresh out of high school.
They all lacked discipline and focus and vision. They didn't take anything seriously and their general knowledge of the subjects were piss poor. I hadn't taken any formal academic classes for about 6 years and thought I would be in over my head and would need a little extra help. After the first two weeks I had kids asking me for help in the courses and I agreed to help them. Talk about an exercise in futility shit.
When I would organize a study group for the class the initial response was almost overwhelming, but the number of kids who actually showed up to the study group was probably a quarter of the number of kids who voiced their interest. Of the quarter that showed up, probably two or three of the kids were motivated to accomplish the goals we set out, the others just wanted to fucking copy off of us and didn't participate in any of the discussion.
This happened both semesters of my freshman year in about 5 of the classes I had taken that year. I think it's very indicative of the preparedness of these kids when coming out of a public, run of the mill high school. It was pathetic and a waste of my time, energy, and resources. My sophomore year I had kids approach me for help and I told them that I'd be studying at this time, if you showed up be prepared to work and discuss, if you don't the get the fudge out.
I think one thing everyone always forgets in these discussions is that when you compare the entire US to a european country our states are as large as a few of them. The us has a very large range of school quality.
I have lived in detroit and troy michigan, Virginia, Seattle, rural Missouri, and now Birmingham Alabama, and let me tell you, the quality varies all over the board. Too rural and it goes to crap, to inner city and it goes to crap. However, after working with many europeans during research I can say I dont feel I am behind at all.
It all really depends on how hard YOU tried as a student. I had a great friend in high school that went to Harvard and didnt learn shit cause he got into drugs and video games. I also have friends who went to community college and own their own companies and a couple million a year in sales....
At the end of the day it comes down to doing what you love and working hard.
make important points that shouldn't be missed. I want to underscore them once or twice... depending on where you go US secondary schools are some of the best in the world, and some of the worst. Of course the "average" falls somewhere in between, and more rather then less fall closer to the "some of the worst" side of things. But anyway, you have to consider the following.
While the United states--so much anecdote evidence suggests, and I'll accept it--has some of the poorest secondary education in both the developed and developing world, the United states is both A) one of the largest countries in developed and developing world, and B) attempts to provide one of the most egalitarian educational systems in the world. To make my point, I'll contrast this with Germany. Germany has about one-third the population America has, and is very unegalitarian, in the sense that not all children receive the same education. The better, brighter German students go to Gymnasium and then onto Uni, the one's who don't make the cut go off to various types of vocational "high schools". Germany's smaller size and the stratification of it's secondary school system mean's it's quite literally impossible for the American secondary system to compete. The United States would instantly improve it's overall quality of education if it first randomly kicked out two-thirds of the students in the system, and then systematically throw out all but the top 25% of those. Test scores would certainly go up, no?
This isn't so much a defense of the US secondary school system, but just stating the facts. I think there are many serious problems with the US secondary school system and that we can and must do better--much better. The problem is that "the US secondary school system" is such a disjointed and ambiguous thing it's hard to state what THE problem is--it really various state by state. How do you fix it all? God help me if I know.
As for American universities, you run into much the same problems of too many students and an egalitarian perspective. In America we have a queer view on the place of a universities. Universities in the US are places where one goes for a piece of paper that then helps them get a job, not to really to get an education. I've bitched about this enough in another thread though.
I feel like there's 2 main factors to our pathetic school system. First, like Stu said, teachers and schools just don't have a big enough budget to accomplish the enormous task of teaching the young in this country. But another part of the problem I think is lack of parenting skills in this country.
As said before, the students who want to learn and do well accomplish it, but that is only a fraction of them. These parents either give their kids too much freedom at too young an age or take too good care of them (read: SPOILED KIDS). They either don't care, think school is a waste, or get everything handed to them and expect the same in school (which does happen a lot).
Then underpayed teachers get to sort out the mess and get blamed when it doesn't happen, so instead of bothering with all the parents who expect them to take their place and get blamed when the kids don't know shit, they just push them through to shut everyone up and get them off their backs.
My best friend got pushed through half his classes his senior year, not knowing shit. Still got his diploma, though. Then he started going to our community college, which was good, but gave it up saying "school isn't for me". What he should've said is "I'm too lazy to work hard, so I don't like school, it was not this hard in high school".
Now at 25, he is finally starting to understand the concept of life, but has been saying he's a "grown-ass man" since Kings of Comedy came out (rest in peace Bernie Mac) when he was like 17 or so. It's a vicious cycle that continues to get worse as time goes on.
But wait, there's a glimmer of hope, in my county (PG), they made the public school kids wear uniforms. Ya, that's right, that'll fix everything...
I agree with you stokedporcupine, but to say we have some of the best, worst, and average would make you assume a bell curve. At least that's what I assumed when I immediately read your post. I would consider myself average, run of the mill but who knows until you experience it all. I will say that after a major change I had a lot of catching up to do in my third year of college because the school I went to did just enough to educate you.
I will have to agree with you on the university point as well, I went to college because everyone said that's what you do to make more money and provide a better living. Sure there are some excellent opportunities around but it seems everyone wants education and when you show them the paper they then want experience...well what the fuck was the degree? I'd assume the lab work, field work, and student-teacher interactions were fuckin experience. Sure I educated myself, but on what? On how to surive each class? How chase tail?
Secondly, parenting skills weren't an issue with me and actually it seems that on a larger scale parenting skills are what helps younger children become educated. Studies show that up until the 3rd or 4th grade our youth of America are a leader world wide educationally speaking. Not until they are further pushed into the American way of education do they start to lag behind
Our educational system has been stifled by government monopoly and a teachers union whose interest is in protecting their members and keeping salaries & benefits artificially high, rather than rewarding achievement. A free-market solution is needed and it's time to get the government completely out of education. It should be run by private for-profit and non-profit entities. Teachers should be paid based on performance, not tenure. Parents should be allowed to choose the school they wish their children to attend rather than have their property confiscated to support a system that is sub-par.