Some days, most days, I shake my head a bit when I see the news or read the headlines about the utter lack of scholastic intelligence that society expects out of high school and, heaven forbid, college graduates. Of course, this isn’t any breaking news…but with media and technology these days, it’s just more apparent.
The United States, once prized for its educational system, is slowly falling behind other nations both in Asia and Europe in smarts. Why is there such a strong surge of technological advances going on in Japan and Korea? Enormous and successful companies like Samsung, Toyota, LG, Hyundai, Toshiba…I could keep going. My last post even discusses atmospheric forecasting computer models that are far superior to American models being created in Europe.
This shouldn’t be surprising at all, really. Why have nations like Japan and Korea, Norway, Sweden…why have they stolen the technological and scientific fame that America once held as it’s prized possession? Perhaps it has to do with scholastic environment and academic standards.
In America, between the “No Child Left Behind” Act and the introduction of the hideous, disgraceful Common Core State-Standards…teachers are literally forced to assign passing grades to failing students. Not only that, but certain adopted curriculum standards simply outlaw free-thought…taking after the famed, ruthless, industrialist John D. Rockefeller’s quote, “I don't want a nation of thinkers. I want a nation of workers.” Rockefeller didn’t say that because it was good for the nation (he wasn’t a politician), but rather it was good for himself (maybe should have been a politician?).
As the United States is falling behind academically to other nations, our academic leaders are introducing standards that simply do not allow the formation of scientific hypothesis, theories, and eventually, facts, which don’t align with these standards…like Portland, Oregon’s ban on “textbooks and material casting doubt on human effects on climate change”. We’re talking about science! But, apparently Portland Public Schools already thinks that there is nothing left to discover in science.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Apollo 13. It’s a great movie because it shows what America was capable of, even before all of the technology we have these days. America didn’t put a man on the moon because some rocket scientist was gently passed through grade school because “no child left behind”. In the movie, Houston Space Center was able to return three astronauts from the dark side of the moon back to Earth with virtually no power, no oxygen, no computer, and outer space temperature extremes. Those space scientists weren’t high-school flunkies given a free pass to scoot them along their way.
Meanwhile, these days, the United States scoffs at North Korea for failing rocket launches, but our own missile defense system which would be used to protect an attack, according to the LA Times, has proven unreliable…and we have our own SpaceX rocket blowing up before we even press the launch button. When we do get a spacecraft launched…in the case of 1999’s Mars Climate Orbiter, someone input the wrong units into the engine thrusters meant to put the craft in stable orbit around the planet, and led to the craft’s burning up in Mars’ upper-atmosphere. This is a mistake that could have been caught by a high-schooler (one that legitimately passes middle-school), but wasn’t caught by American rocket scientists.
Too make things even a little dicier, some candidates for President of the United States in 2016 have mentioned “free college”, and that everyone should be given a chance to succeed. While I agree that opportunities to succeed are great, and that America should be the place to succeed, if we are, in the words of The Washington Post, “giving [students] a diploma, no matter how fraudulent, [because it] might provide them with a chance to get some kind of job and, eventually, as they mature, sort themselves out”, we’re in a heap of trouble in this nation. Folks who aren't even supposed to be graduating high school will be graduating college and entering a workforce, disguised as "educated", and we expect to see success in America?
My case has been validated by the New York Post, “As the American economy sputters along and many people live paycheck-to-paycheck, economists say a highly-skilled workforce is key to economic recovery.”
So, I have a couple of questions for our politicians & society:
- Meteorologist Dan Schreiber