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Beyond the Classroom: Our schools aren’t failing

By Staff | Oct 10, 2014

Time and time again we hear that America’s schools are failing. As an example from just one report, The Learning Curve, developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the United States ranks 17th of 40 countries ranked in overall educational performance. The top 10 countries in educational performance are: 1. Finland, 2. South Korea, 3. Hong Kong SAR, 4. Japan, 5. Singapore, 6.United Kingdom, 7.Netherlands, 8. New Zealand, 9. Switzerland, 10. Canada.

On the surface, this sounds pretty depressing to an educator. I, however choose to look at results. If one does an Internet search on international rankings by innovation, patent applications or productivity, we find the U.S. ranks in the top three in all of those areas. Furthermore, the countries which rank ahead of the U.S. in these areas are not the same countries. Innovation: South Korea, Sweden, United States (Bloomberg.com, 2014). Patent Applications: China, Japan, United States (data.worldbank.org, 2013). Productivity: Germany; France; United States. (inc.com, 2014).

As national education consultant John Draper said, “If United States education is so bad, why is our country so good?” Much of the answer to the apparent discrepancy between United States education scores and the continuation of the United States as a leader in many different areas may be explained by a Los Angeles Times article dated July 15, 2012. The opening paragraph reads: “The people of a large and mighty nation wonder why their schools can’t do more to imitate those of another large, powerful nation across the Pacific Ocean. But this time it’s not the United States seeking to emulate the schools of an Asian country – it’s China seeking to emulate ours, at least to some extent.”

The article goes on to say that China is trying to stimulate more creative thinking in the classroom instead of just teaching their students to be good “test-takers.”

Please do not take this column to mean that there is no room for improvement in the United States education system or in our local districts. Anyone who believes we have all the answers shows ignorance; however, let’s keep in mind that when the powers that be lament the “failure” of American education, they are ignoring what the country that those students inhabit has accomplished in the past and continue to accomplish in the present.

Yes, there are many issues facing American education as well as education right here in Leeds, but I do get frustrated when people continue to say “the sky is falling.” They have been saying that same thing at least since 1983, and somehow, those students who graduated in 1983 and after have managed to keep the United States the most powerful nation in the world, as well as one of the most productive.

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