Facts behind the American education depression and its effects on Whittier students

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Jon-Paul Cook, News - By Jon-Paul Cook on Sunday, September 26, 2010 - 02:29

Our country has many numbers declaring it to be a world power in education as well as economically: Thirty-one of the top 100 universities can be found on American soil.

The United States spends more than $560 billion dollars a year on education, according to the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization states the U.S. is number one in terms of average years of schooling for adults.

Why then do the students of countries like Japan, France, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Germany et cetera consistently outperform our students in math and science placement exams?
Some have the misconception that all of these countries have bright students merely because they learn by rote memorization or are pushed much harder than our own.

In reality, most of the high performing countries no longer practice this technique and have turned to higher thinking skills.

"I was surprised to find out that 10 of the best business schools in the world are found in France." Said Professor of French at Cal State Fullerton Marie Luebbers. "I went to school in Paris, and it is very different. There was no campus or green. All the money came from government and went to teachers, so there was nothing for decoration."

"All I know is that music and the arts are given more emphasis from primary education on, and more students have an exposure to it from an early age," Professor of Music and Choir Director Stephen Cook said, when asked about foreign education.
Other professors did not have an opinion on foreign education, not having attended schools abroad.

It is not common knowledge why these foreign students outperform us or else we would be doing more in this country to close the gap.

Perhaps our lower test scores are due to student apathy. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 61 percent of American students find school boring and 35 percent outright hate it. Compare that to students in Japan, France, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Germany and others, where half as many students are bored sitting in their seats as there are in our country. Naturally, there are many more factors that determine how much a student gets out of his education, but boredom is not helpful.

On her experience as a study-abroad student, Lynne Saladin said, "The Spanish government prefers quantity over quality in the way they do things. But because it's so cheap, people don't appreciate it. Most of the people I met did not study, and instead went out partying every night."

"There's just one exam at the end of the year that determines your grade," Saladin said. "And you have to declare your major before you enter a university. There are no liberal arts programs."

Student Kallia Wade had a contrasting experience as a student in Jamaica, "People who go to universities are privileged and actually go to class because it costs so much. They get really upset when they fail." But also referred to the fact that there are no liberal arts schools in her country because "it's geared to professional degrees."

When asked about their thoughts on education, college students often refer to the fact that they were not challenged enough in high school. "We only ever had to read like two books in high school and mostly skimmed over them to get the answers anyway," first-year Lindsey Kish said. "Some of the books were really boring. I used to be excited about school, but pretty soon, I wasn't anymore."

 Maybe American students are bored in school because they have something more interesting to look forward to at the end of the day. How about 1500 hours per year spent in front of a television?

Compared to only 900 hours per year spent in school. This data from the A.C. Neilson Co. suggests which activity American children prefer to spend their time doing.
"I think we live in an anti-intellectual society." Professor of English Wendy Furman-Adams said. "I'm concerned that the traditional liberal arts are in danger.

Education has become so expensive; people are looking for more practical routes. It's developed a mistaken pragmatism in people.

A liberal arts education is really the only way to prepare students properly for the world. We do not have crystal balls," Furman Adams said. "But really, I think America does higher education better than anybody else in the world, although it's built on a very weak K-12 foundation. It needs to be vastly better funded, and teachers need more respect and support, on top of being held accountable."

As well or as poorly as we are faring on the education front, it can and has been said by student Michael Latimer, "It could be much worse."