A Nation at Risk — My Critique

I copied the report and then inserted my comments/questions, within brackets and bold.



A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n
A Nation At Risk – April 1983

A Nation At Risk
All, regardless of race or class or economic status, are entitled to a fair chance and to the tools for developing their individual powers of mind and spirit to the utmost. [They do. It is up to them to take advantage of this.] This promise means that all children by virtue of their own efforts, competently guided, can hope to attain the mature [This is something you expect by the age of 17-18?] and informed judgement needed to secure gainful employment [not really. IQ plays a big role in learning and not everyone has the same IQ, so their outcomes will be different.], and to manage their own lives, thereby serving not only their own interests but also the progress of society itself. [I agree that it should be by their own efforts and not group learning, which is what education to turning into.] Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. [Yes they are recovering from WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War. We weren’t an economic powerhouse until after WWII. So we weren’t one for very long. It was roughly 30 –40 years. What makes you think it should necessarily continue? We became that mainly because we were the only major country still intact, and relatively unharmed at home, after WWII.] This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds American prosperity, security, and civility.  [I question all 3. Just because you are more educated does not necessarily make you more civil, prosperous, or secure. There are plenty of college grads that cannot get a job, therefore not prosperous. And recent PISA scores showing very poor nations out performing the US shows that education does NOT mean prosperity. Education does not teach manners/civility nor should it. I will grant you that more, less educated, people are in prison. Most are in prison for drug possession. And there are some white collar crooks in prison as well. Most people protesting the Vietnam War were college students. Some of these people, who were educated, were belligerent. Security is an illusion. Our military does not make us more secure. In some ways it just makes us more of a target.] We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished [Boy that is a misstatement. Historically? He is talking about a change that started in the 1960s to 1980s. Vietnam War protests and ‘civil rights’ marches? Ironic isn’t it that the ‘problems’ with education began at the same time as we had the start of the highest high school graduation rate in our country’s history? 60% -75%- 70% high school graduation rates. 60% in 1960, 75% in 1970, and 70% thereafter (at least up to 2003). 2010 it 75.5%.  OR IS IT JUST IRONIC? It may indeed be the cause. Maybe the cause is that a group of not-so-bright students started going to and graduating from high school.]  and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur–others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments. [Again, maybe just after WWII we excelled because we were the only country in a position to do it. We weren’t that well educated before WWII.]

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. [So, which is it–  We have a mediocre system or others are matching an surpassing our educational attainments. Both I think.] As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik <Oct 4, 1957> challenge. [From 1960 to 1970 high school graduation rates only went up 10%. From 60-70%.] Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. [What gains?]  We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament. [We have been experimenting with a system that did, basically, work. I will agree with that. We have been guilty of  The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America by Charlotte Iserbyt—please read the book online.]

Our society and its educational institutions seem to have lost sight of the basic purposes of schooling, [Yes to teach the 3 Rs] and of the high expectations and disciplined effort needed to attain them. This report, the result of 18 months of study, [Wow! Figured out not only what was wrong but how to fix it in a year and a half!!!] seeks to generate reform of our educational system in fundamental ways and to renew the Nation’s commitment to schools and colleges of high quality throughout the length and breadth of our land. [Return to the basics.]

That we have compromised this commitment is, upon reflection, hardly surprising, given the multitude [yes stop trying to be all things to all people.] of often conflicting demands we have placed on our Nation’s schools and colleges. They are routinely called on to provide solutions to personal, social, and political problems that the home and other institutions either will not or cannot resolve. [This must stop.] We must understand that these demands on our schools and colleges often exact an educational cost as well as a financial one. [This was written almost 30 years ago and yet not heeded, I think. This goes to going back to teach the basics and forget about multiple paths through high school. Have one but high bar to pass in order to graduate high school. It does also say that high schools do not prepare students to go onto college nor the workforce. I will admit this but I am not so sure that it should. I mean the business should train them for their job and retrain when they get old. College should be just for those who did do well in high school. As graduate school should be for those who did well in college. Similarly the same for PhDs.]

On the occasion of the Commission’s first meeting, President Reagan noted the central importance of education in American life when he said: “Certainly there are few areas of American life as important to our society, to our people, and to our families as our schools and colleges.” [This is a common belief of the people of that age. My grandfather told me to get as much education as possible, I guess because he had little, but enough.] This report, therefore, is as much an open letter to the American people as it is a report to the Secretary of Education. We are confident that the American people, properly informed, will do what is right for their children and for the generations to come.

The Risk

History is not kind to idlers. The time is long past [how long is long 30-40 years, since WWII? That is just a drop of water in the time bucket. You are probably talking about the 1960s, in which case you are talking about 10-20 years only.] when American’s destiny was assured simply by an abundance of natural resources and inexhaustible human enthusiasm, and by our relative isolation from the malignant problems of older civilizations. The world is indeed one global village. [No it isn’t. It is getting smaller yes, in that it takes less time to travel it. But it is not one village (of 7 Billion people). Now, I see where Hillary Clinton got the Village notion.] We live among determined, well-educated, and strongly motivated competitors. We compete with them for international standing and markets, not only with products but also with the ideas of our laboratories and neighborhood workshops. America’s position in the world may once have been reasonably secure with only a few exceptionally well-trained men and women. It is no longer. [Sure it is. In fact it is very few that understand things at all. Especially with all of this specialization.]

The risk is not only that the Japanese make automobiles more efficiently than Americans and have government subsidies for development and export. It is not just that the South Koreans recently built the world’s most efficient steel mill, or that American machine tools, once the pride of the world, are being displaced by German products. It is also that these developments signify a redistribution of trained capability throughout the globe. Knowledge, learning, information, and skilled intelligence are the new raw materials of international commerce and are today spreading throughout the world as vigorously as miracle drugs, synthetic fertilizers, and blue jeans did earlier. If only to keep and improve on the slim competitive edge we still retain in world markets, we must dedicate ourselves to the reform of our educational system for the benefit of all–old and young alike, affluent and poor, majority and minority. [Impossible. Again, not everyone is capable of learning that which is important, or deeply scientific.] Learning is the indispensable investment required for success in the “information age” we are entering. [Yes, but not all are capable of understanding. Also, tell this to American businesses.]

Our concern, however, goes well beyond matters such as industry and commerce. It also includes the intellectual, moral, and spiritual strengths of our people which knit together the very fabric of our society. The people of the United States need to know that individuals in our society who do not possess the levels of skill, literacy, and training essential to this new era will be effectively disenfranchised, not simply from the material rewards that accompany competent performance, but also from the chance to participate fully in our national life. [Yes. But can anything be done? I doubt it. Textbooks and test questions have become so watered down, so politically correct, that what is taught in High School is a waste of time.] A high level of shared education is essential to a free, [How high, I think is the question? Apparently before 1960 we were not free? Less than half of our people had a high school diploma.] democratic society and to the fostering of a common culture, [A common culture is not possible with cultural pluralism. It is a contradiction.] especially in a country that prides itself on pluralism and individual freedom.

For our country to function, citizens must be able to reach some common understandings on complex issues, [I agree 100%.] often on short notice and on the basis of conflicting or incomplete evidence. Education helps form these common understandings, a point Thomas Jefferson made long ago in his justly famous dictum:

    I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion. [This appears to be more of a person telling another that he/she is wrong but not about public education. Possibly true in the micro (for the individual) but not necessarily in the macro (for everyone in society).]

Part of what is at risk is the promise first made on this continent: All, regardless of race or class or economic status, are entitled to a fair chance and to the tools for developing their individual powers of mind and spirit to the utmost. [Ah yes. Go to America and become a millionaire. This has been a myth for several hundred years.] This promise means that all children by virtue of their own efforts, competently guided, can hope to attain the mature [This part of this paragraph is a repeat of the lines of the Introduction. You expect and want 17-19 year olds to be mature? Why?] and informed judgment [They will not be informed if they are taught the higher order thinking skills instead of a broad based pool of knowledge, in order to be informed.] needed to secure gainful employment, and to manage their own lives, thereby serving not only their own interests but also the progress of society itself. [Yes, but not all children can learn as well as others nor as much as others. Wisdom and IQs are not doled out in equal measure to all. We can tell our leaders that wars solve nothing but they continue to engage in it. Our leaders never learn. Since we elect them then we never learn either.]

Indicators of the Risk

The educational dimensions of the risk before us have been amply documented in testimony received by the Commission. For example:

    * International comparisons of student achievement, completed a decade ago <1970s>, reveal that on 19 academic tests [What 19 tests? I do not remember taking any of these 19 tests in the 1970s.] American students were never first or second [This is just what I asked when were we ever number 1 in mathematics and science?] and, in comparison with other industrialized nations, were last seven times. [More recent data suggests the same, or nearly so, but it also says more of our students scored high on these test than anywhere else, and it is those that score high that will lead us in the future, not average or the many that were below average.]

    * Some 23 million American adults are functionally illiterate by the simplest tests of everyday reading, writing, and comprehension. [Roughly 10-15%. Explainable by the Bell-shaped curve?]

    * About 13 percent of all 17-year-olds in the United States can be considered functionally illiterate. [Again Bell Shaped Curve.] Functional illiteracy among minority youth may run as high as 40 percent.

    * Average achievement of high school students on most standardized tests is now lower than 26 years ago when Sputnik was launched. [This could have something to do with  a lot more distractions, more TVs, and now more computers, Internet access, cell phones, etc. More affluence, buying more technology, radios, record player, tape players, etc., more distractions. In 1957 not many families had even one TV.]

    * Over half the population of gifted students do not match their tested ability with comparable achievement in school. [From what I read Einstein did not do well in school. There seems to be some disagreement about this though.  Regardless, some postal carriers have high IQs, for example. A high IQ does not equal high success, riches. Also, this could be due to boredom. When you dumb down school so that more of lower IQ’d people can pass then those at the upper end really are bored to death. You actually mention IQs, I think.]

    * The College Board’s Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT) demonstrate a virtually unbroken decline from 1963 to 1980. [basically the baby boomers?] Average verbal scores fell over 50 points and average mathematics scores dropped nearly 40 points. [Fell from what time period? How long before 1963? Remembering that then high school graduation rates were at about 60%- 70%. Probably at least twice the kids were graduating high school compared to 1945. The baby boomers – the inventors of the Internet and many other technological products and services.]

    * College Board achievement tests also reveal consistent declines in recent years in such subjects as physics and English. [Notice Physics is not capitalized where English is? Again this also may be caused by the distractions of technology. Or in the quality of the students?]

    * Both the number and proportion of students demonstrating superior achievement on the SATs (i.e., those with scores of 650 or higher) have also dramatically declined. [Again, SAT used to be for those few going to college, now you test everyone. Again, not everyone can have a high IQ.]

    * Many 17-year-olds do not possess the “higher order” intellectual skills we should expect of them. [According to http://www.cala.fsu.edu/files/higher_order_thinking_skills.pdf —– “Higher order thinking skills include critical, logical, reflective, metacognitive, and creative thinking.” Why do you expect 17-year-olds to possess these? Many adults do not possess these skills but yet you expect 17 year olds to have them innately. And you expect to teach them these without a knowledge base it won’t do much good.] Nearly 40 percent cannot draw inferences from written material; only one-fifth can write a persuasive essay; and only one-third can solve a mathematics problem requiring several steps. [If you will check out Myers-Briggs personality types you may find that 33% solving a several step mathematics problem might actually be quite good. NTs are the ones good at mathematics (INTJs and INTPs in particular and collectively they make up maybe only 5% of the general population.)]

    * There was a steady decline in science achievement scores of U.S. 17-year-olds as measured by national assessments of science in 1969, 1973, and 1977. [This could happen because we are trying to cram too much down their throats and of course, there has been an explosion of scientific knowledge since 1945. Just curious did the tests change, become harder? I do not know.]

    * Between 1975 and 1980, remedial mathematics courses in public 4-year colleges increased by 72 percent and now constitute one-quarter of all mathematics courses taught in those institutions. [Again see above about NTs. Actually I learned more math in college than I did in high school. Perhaps they do not want to do the work. I was taught in college that Mathematics is not a spectator sport. You have to get into it and do the work—to participate. If you do not then chances are you will not learn. Unlike say history just reading it you can learn who did or said what and when. Realize that this is a time when high school graduation rates were at their peek and college entrance was growing. So, you have lower IQ’d people going to college. The average IQ of the people graduating both high school and college has gone down in the past 30 years or so and the more you try to force people to go to college and graduate high school the lower the IQs will go.]

    * Average tested achievement of students graduating from college is also lower. [Because more and more people are being allowed in that probably should not have been. If you have everyone going to college then the average IQs will go even lower, getting closer and closer to 100.]

    * Business and military leaders complain that they are required to spend millions of dollars on costly remedial education and training programs in such basic skills as reading, writing, spelling, and computation. [The US Army does have this. Now it is to help the applicants get a GED, so that they can enter. I did not know this existed in the 1970s. I went into the USCG without and remedial training.] The Department of the Navy, for example, reported to the Commission that one-quarter of its recent recruits cannot read at the ninth grade level, the minimum needed simply to understand written safety instructions. [What exactly is the 9th grade level? The last time I had reading as a subject was in 7th grade I think. Also, now the Army says that about 23% of the people taking the ASVAB test fail and the Army is the easiest branch of the service to get into.] Without remedial work they cannot even begin, much less complete, the sophisticated training essential in much of the modern military. [Unfortunately, this is so. Most bright people do not enter the military. They are not desperate enough to want to join. Why did you let them enlist in the first place? There is a test you have to take in order to get into the military. It is the ASVAB. The Navy and Coast Guard have a rather distinct culture and vocabulary. They use bulkhead instead of wall, overhead instead of ceiling, deck instead of floor, port and starboard, instead of left and right side of a ship. Point is it is almost totally different environment.]

These deficiencies come at a time when the demand for highly skilled workers in new fields is accelerating rapidly. For example:

    * Computers and computer-controlled equipment are penetrating every aspect of our lives–homes, factories, and offices. [Yes in 1983 you almost had to be a nerd to use a computer but NOT TODAY. In fact computers became more complex, in part, because computer manufacturers wanted to make them easier for the non-nerd to use, that is, do most of the things that the user had to do, in the background, to automate the processes. The definition of being computer literate has changed from understanding the inner workings to being able to use one.]

    * One estimate indicates that by the turn of the century millions of jobs will involve laser technology and robotics. [This has proved to be wrong, I think. Robotics may have replaced millions of jobs. Even if it were right. It still does not take a rocket scientist to operate them. They do not have to know the underlying science principles to operate it anymore than they need to know how a computer works in order to operate that, or know the science behind the telephone in order to use it, or understand the internal combustion engine of a car in order to drive it. The major problem is the employers do not know what it takes to do a given job. They think that since the job involves computers and robotics that the workers need to know a lot of math and mechanics. In order to design it yes. In order to operate it NO!!! Just train them (show) the people what to do and they should be able to do it.]

    * Technology [meaning computers? I have already addressed this.] is radically transforming a host of other occupations. They include health care, medical science, energy production, food processing, construction, and the building, repair, and maintenance of sophisticated scientific, educational, military, and industrial equipment. [Yes and just recently I saw a local newscast showing a group of octogenarians learning how to use a computer. Most kids learn it at home. My point is we do not have to spend $ Million or $ Billions on technology just to have the kids teach the teachers how to use it.]

Analysts examining these indicators of student performance and the demands for new skills have made some chilling observations. Educational researcher Paul Hurd concluded at the end of a thorough national survey of student achievement that within the context of the modern scientific revolution, “We are raising a new generation of Americans that is scientifically and technologically illiterate.” [When were we ever scientifically and technologically literate as a society. A lot of scientific advances surrounding WWII, were done with a lot of help from foreign scientists, including Germans (Einstein and others) in particular. Again, you do not need to understand the sciences behind these technologies in order to use them to be productive.] In a similar vein, John Slaughter, a former Director of the National Science Foundation, warned of “a growing chasm between a small scientific and technological elite and a citizenry ill-informed, indeed uninformed, on issues with a science component.” [I agree but this goes back to the NT (rational thinkers) and their rarity in the general population. Again, at that time there probably was a chasm and still is but not as important a distinction, as I have already stated.]

But the problem does not stop there, nor do all observers see it the same way. Some worry that schools may emphasize such rudiments as reading and computation at the expense of other essential skills such as comprehension, analysis, solving problems, and drawing conclusions. [They should. These other skills should be left to colleges. High school should give a very, very broad basis of knowledge, but not much in depth. By the way I take reading to mean comprehending the written word. Reading in and of itself is useless unless you do understand what you have just read.] Still others are concerned that an over-emphasis on technical and occupational skills will leave little time for studying the arts and humanities that so enrich daily life, help maintain civility, and develop a sense of community. Knowledge of the humanities, they maintain, must be harnessed to science and technology if the latter are to remain creative and humane, just as the humanities need to be informed by science and technology if they are to remain relevant to the human condition. [I do agree that humanities are necessary, but not so much for the reason you give. I agree up to a point. I mean, it was non-technical people that wanted and used the Atomic Bomb. The humanities types ordered scientists to create it. Einstein and other scientists (who did not work on it) were against the idea of an A-Bomb. So, it was the humanities people that wanted this, not the scientists. The scientists knew what it could do. So, humanities does not necessarily mean more human or ethical. Intelligence does, usually.] Another analyst, Paul Copperman, has drawn a sobering conclusion. Until now, he has noted:

    Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in education, in literacy, and in economic attainment. [Let me see. That is from roughly 1900 to 1960s or 1970s or maybe 1980s? If you take a generation to be about 20 years then that is at most 4 generations. That is NOT much of a track record.] For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents. [Again, we are talking about 3-4 generations, not much of trend there, not much data as it were. Yes in about 1980 or even the 70s we hit a wall in terms of the percentage of people graduating high school. But the Bell Curve explains this. We are educating/graduating too many as it is. If we take the Army’s ASVAB test score of a 31 percentile as the minimum, then only about 69% of our kids should be graduating high school. That is about 2/3 not the 3/4 that graduate now.]

It is important, of course, to recognize that the average citizen today is better educated and more knowledgeable than the average citizen of a generation ago–more literate, and exposed to more mathematics, literature, and science. [More literate, and exposed to more mathematics, literature, and science and at the same time less educational skills? Perhaps we are spreading them too thin, trying to teach too much, too broad and not deep enough in few subjects. I would actually support this. Depth is not necessary, but maybe the tests are probing too deep. Most courses are now survey courses, and there is more history, technology and other knowledge to cover in the same amount of time. I mean, we should be giving a broad knowledge base but not testing them as in depth. The more courses you have the less time you have to concentrate on any one or two of them. What skills?]  The positive impact of this fact on the well-being of our country and the lives of our people cannot be overstated. [It cannot be confirmed either. Again, education is NOT the reason we became a powerful country.] Nevertheless, the average graduate of our schools and colleges today is not as well-educated as the average graduate of 25 or 35 years ago, [25-35 years ago it was about 1945-1955 when less than half of the kids graduated high school. The more kids that graduate the lower the average IQ falls. Again, for colleges that may very well be because more people have been going to college and will have lower IQs because usually the cream of the crop only went to college in the past. Same for high school. From 1910 with its high school graduation rate of about 10% to 1960 with its rate of about 60%, and in 1970 peaked at 75%, and from 1971 on (now 40 years) it has remained at about 70% with most of these being of only average IQs. In 2010, it was 75.5%.] when a much smaller proportion of our population completed high school and college. [Right. It is what I just said.] The negative impact of this fact likewise cannot be overstated. [Negative maybe but it is to be expected.]

Hope and Frustration

Statistics and their interpretation by experts show only the surface dimension of the difficulties we face. Beneath them lies a tension between hope and frustration that characterizes current attitudes about education at every level. [People cannot accept the fact that they may have dumb kids? They cannot accept the fact that they do have an equal opportunity for an education but not guaranteed of an equal outcome. Do I have a right to play in the NBA, or NFL or to be some super-genius? Do I have a right to be a millionaire? No. Then you do not have a right to graduate High School. You have a right to try to graduate.]

We have heard the voices of high school and college students, school board members, and teachers; of leaders of industry, minority groups, and higher education; of parents and State officials. We could hear the hope evident in their commitment to quality education and in their descriptions of outstanding programs and schools. We could also hear the intensity of their frustration, a growing impatience with shoddiness in many walks of American life, and the complaint that this shoddiness is too often reflected in our schools and colleges. Their frustration threatens to overwhelm their hope. [Are you writing a critical paper or a paper of hope? Specifically what complaints?]

What lies behind this emerging national sense of frustration can be described as both a dimming of personal expectations and the fear of losing a shared vision for America. [What, the myth that the streets of the New World are paved in gold? That is what drew most of our ancestors here.]

On the personal level the student, the parent, and the caring teacher all perceive that a basic promise is not being kept. More and more young people emerge from high school ready neither for college [Since when was high school supposed to prepare you for college? They had college prep schools for that.] nor for work [For work the company was supposed to train you on what they wanted you to do. They just wanted to know that you could be trained. Now employers want the schools to train their future employees in technology that changes too fast to be practical and is too varied, company to company, also making this impossible.]. This predicament becomes more acute as the knowledge base continues its rapid expansion, the number of traditional jobs shrinks, and new jobs demand greater sophistication and preparation. [This most definitely is not true today. Most of the jobs are retail sales jobs where someone with say an 8th grade education can do it, maybe 6th grade. Anyone who is not a complete moron can scan items and hit buttons to fill an order for a Big Mac.]

On a broader scale, we sense that this undertone of frustration has significant political implications, for it cuts across ages, generations, races, and political and economic groups. We have come to understand that the public will demand that educational and political leaders act forcefully and effectively on these issues. [They cannot. They have tried for about 50 years now and not succeeded. The President or someone else will bring up education when he feels the need for it, to give the people a false sense of hope. But things never change.] Indeed, such demands have already appeared and could well become a unifying national preoccupation. This unity, however, can be achieved only if we avoid the unproductive tendency of some to search for scapegoats among the victims, such as the beleaguered teachers. [Boy do I agree with this!!!! But it has become just that. Firing teachers based on their students performance on ‘standardized’ tests is wrong. We ARE making the teachers the scapegoats!!!!!!!]

On the positive side is the significant movement by political and educational leaders to search for solutions–so far centering largely on the nearly desperate need for increased support for the teaching of mathematics and science. [Boy has this ever failed. Increasing mathematics and science in high school will NOT increase the number of STEM students in college. So increasing the number of mathematics and science courses required to graduate high school is not only not needed but it will mean less students actually graduating high school and dreading high school.] This movement is but a start on what we believe is a larger and more educationally encompassing need to improve teaching and learning in fields such as English, history, geography, economics, and foreign languages. [Let’s mess this up too.] We believe this movement must be broadened and directed toward reform and excellence throughout education. [No.]

Excellence in Education

We define “excellence” to mean several related things. At the level of the individual learner, it means performing on the boundary of individual ability [Hollow words. What exactly does this mean? If they are D students then that is acceptable to you?] in ways that test and push back personal limits, in school and in the workplace. Excellence characterizes a school or college that sets high expectations and goals for all learners, then tries in every way possible to help students reach them. [Sounds good but who defines these high expectations and how do they measure the results?] Excellence characterizes a society that has adopted these policies, for it will then be prepared through the education [Education should NOT prepare for anything except a well rounded individual (and more or less permanent facts) and not ‘skills’ because skills are fleeting.] of its people to respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing world. [Very little of the advanced things ‘taught’ in high is remembered very long afterward.] Our Nation’s people and its schools and colleges must be committed to achieving excellence in all these senses.

We do not believe that a public commitment to excellence and educational reform must be made at the expense of a strong public commitment to the equitable treatment of our diverse population. The twin goals of equity and high-quality schooling have profound and practical meaning for our economy and society, and we cannot permit one to yield to the other either in principle or in practice. [Equity meaning outcomes? Outcomes cannot be guaranteed.] To do so would deny young people their chance to learn and live according to their aspirations and abilities. [And if they have the inability to learn, you’re OK with that? I don’t think so. Who does live to their aspirations and abilities, even now? Not me.] It also would lead to a generalized accommodation to mediocrity in our society on the one hand or the creation of an undemocratic elitism on the other. [No. Actually the irony of trying to do things like close the achievement gap leads to the mediocrity that you want to avoid. We have the elitism already. The rich run this country and most of the world.]

Our goal must be to develop the talents of all to their fullest. [How do you do that? I mean how do you determine what their fullest is or should be?]  Attaining that goal requires that we expect and assist all students to work to the limits of their capabilities. [Again, if they are incapable then what? Fire the teachers and close the schools?] We should expect schools to have genuinely high standards rather than minimum ones, and parents to support and encourage their children to make the most of their talents and abilities. [No. The high standards would just become the minimum. Whatever you set as a standard will become the goal. Granted set it high but expect fewer, not more, kids failing to make it.]

The search for solutions to our educational problems must also include a commitment to life-long learning. [Again how do you do this?] The task of rebuilding our system of learning is enormous and must be properly understood and taken seriously: Although a million and a half new workers enter the economy each year from our schools and colleges, the adults working today will still make up about 75 percent of the workforce in the year 2000. These workers, and new entrants into the workforce, will need further education and retraining if they–and we as a Nation–are to thrive and prosper. [I agree but who is to pay for this retraining? And where do you get it?]

The Learning Society

In a world of ever-accelerating competition and change in the conditions of the workplace, of ever-greater danger, and of ever-larger opportunities for those prepared to meet them, educational reform should focus on the goal of creating a Learning Society. [No need to change high school or college to do this.] At the heart of such a society is the commitment to a set of values and to a system of education that affords all members the opportunity to stretch their minds to full capacity, from early childhood through adulthood, learning more as the world itself changes. [This has not been achieved. I have a Master of Science in Computer Information Systems degree but I am considered overqualified, not just more qualified or qualified to do more things. I am being penalized because of my education, not praised.] Such a society has as a basic foundation the idea that education is important not only because of what it contributes to one’s career goals but also because of the value it adds to the general quality of one’s life. Also at the heart of the Learning Society are educational opportunities extending far beyond the traditional institutions of learning, our schools and colleges. They extend into homes and workplaces; into libraries, art galleries, museums, and science centers [and Internet now]; indeed, into every place where the individual can develop and mature in work and life. In our view, formal schooling in youth is the essential foundation for learning throughout one’s life. [Exactly then teach the basics to give them the essential foundation that you say they need.] But without life-long learning, one’s skills will become rapidly dated. [Don’t necessarily agree with this one. But if true it is still possible to have more skills than someone current. Also have the ability to learn more than someone current. And skills do transfer, or should but often do not.]

In contrast to the ideal of the Learning Society, however, we find that for too many people education means doing the minimum work necessary for the moment, then coasting through life on what may have been learned in its first quarter. But this should not surprise us because we tend to express our educational standards and expectations largely in terms of “minimum requirements.” [Same can be said about most things in life, minimum requirements for certifications, licenses, jobs, age to vote, age to drink, and almost any achievement. This does not make it right though, nor wrong.] And where there should be a coherent continuum of learning, we have none, but instead an often incoherent, outdated patchwork quilt. [Part of what it means to be human (or smart) is adaptability and being able to assemble knowledge from different sources and different times, in different ways to become ‘educated’.] Many individual, sometimes heroic, examples of schools and colleges of great merit do exist. Our findings and testimony confirm the vitality of a number of notable schools and programs, but their very distinction stands out against a vast mass shaped by tensions and pressures that inhibit systematic academic and vocational achievement for the majority of students. In some metropolitan areas basic literacy has become the goal rather than the starting point. [As it should be. Again, what do you expect high school students/graduates to do—solve the problems of the world? High school should be teach basics, broad knowledge base, not necessarily solve anything.] In some colleges maintaining enrollments is of greater day-to-day concern than maintaining rigorous academic standards. [This would not be if colleges were free, non-profit—not out to make a buck. Why is it that colleges cost so much but K-12 are free and compulsory? ] And the ideal of academic excellence as the primary goal of schooling seems to be fading across the board in American education. [Again, it all boils down to IQs. The more people you try to educate the more mediocre the system becomes. The quality of the clay decreases with the more clay you add. You will eventually run out of high quality clay.]

Thus, we issue this call to all who care about America and its future: to parents and students; to teachers, administrators, and school board members; to colleges and industry; to union members and military leaders; to governors and State legislators; to the President; to members of Congress and other public officials; to members of learned and scientific societies; to the print and electronic media; to concerned citizens everywhere. America is at risk.

We are confident that America can address this risk. [I am not. But then again I am not convinced that we are at as big a risk as you say.] If the tasks we set forth are initiated now and our recommendations are fully realized over the next several years, we can expect reform of our Nation’s schools, colleges, and universities [reform them into what?]. This would also reverse the current declining trend–a trend that stems more from weakness of purpose, confusion of vision, underuse of talent, and lack of leadership, than from conditions beyond our control. [No. They are from conditions beyond our control. We cannot control the IQs of the kids.]

The Tools at Hand

It is our conviction that the essential raw materials needed to reform our educational system are waiting to be mobilized through effective leadership:

    * the natural abilities of the young that cry out to be developed and the undiminished concern of parents for the well-being of their children; [Wrong assumption. They have natural curiosity. Not all young have the same abilities in the same abundance or even at the same age.]

    * the commitment of the Nation to high retention rates in schools and colleges and to full access to education for all; [Access yes for all citizens. Define high retention rates (graduation rates?). But not necessarily the same outcomes-  that is, a high school diploma or college degree.]

    * the persistent and authentic American dream that superior performance can raise one’s state in life and shape one’s own future; [Here is one of many myths. Especially if you apply it to those over 40.]

    * the dedication, against all odds, that keeps teachers serving in schools and colleges, even as the rewards diminish; [Teaching usually does not qualify for anything else, so like most us we are stuck where we are.]

    * our better understanding of learning and teaching and the implications of this knowledge for school practice, and the numerous examples of local success as a result of superior effort and effective dissemination; [Are you talking about mind control techniques? Pavlov’s dog? Whatever happened to the teacher lecture and the students taking notes? Studying?]

    * the ingenuity of our policymakers, scientists, State and local educators, and scholars in formulating solutions once problems are better understood; [That may be the problem itself—not a definition of the problems. Wisdom begins with definition.— Socrates.]

    * the traditional belief that paying for education is an investment in ever-renewable human resources that are more durable and flexible than capital plant and equipment, and the availability in this country of sufficient financial means to invest in education; [We misspend $ Billions in this country on education. If we truly wanted to invest in education then college should be free, like K-12 is. I know taxes.]

    * the equally sound tradition, from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 until today, that the Federal Government should supplement State, local, and other resources to foster key national educational goals; [Wrong. When they fund things they want to control things and they mess it up. Too many cooks spoil the broth!!!]  and

    * the voluntary efforts of individuals, businesses, and parent and civic groups to cooperate in strengthening educational programs. [Only schools should strengthen educational programs. A consensus among more people is harder to do. The larger the group the less effective it is. Again, too many cooks spoil the broth.]

These raw materials, combined with the unparalleled array of educational organizations in America, offer us the possibility to create a Learning Society, in which public, private, and parochial schools; colleges and universities; vocational and technical schools and institutes; libraries; science centers, museums, and other cultural institutions; and corporate training and retraining programs offer opportunities and choices for all to learn throughout life. [Okay. But again, who pays for these things? Corporations have said they are NOT in the training business, and then complain that there are not enough qualified people? They want the schools to do the training, then use and abuse their people, then lay them off, instead of retraining for another job within that company.]

The Public’s Commitment
Of all the tools at hand, the public’s support for education is the most powerful. In a message to a National Academy of Sciences meeting in May 1982, President Reagan commented on this fact when he said [Appeal to authority. A classic error in logic, as if, because Reagan said it then it must be right? Remember he played second fiddle to a chimp, in the movie Bedtime for Bonzo.]:

    This public awareness–and I hope public action–is long overdue…. This country was built on American respect for education [perhaps in New England in the 1600s and shortly afterward]. . . [which it has lost] Our challenge now is to create a resurgence of that thirst for education that typifies [a small part of ] our Nation’s history. [Failed miserably at this, haven’t we?]

The most recent (1982) Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools strongly supported a theme heard during our hearings: People are steadfast in their belief that education is the major foundation for the future strength of this country [another myth. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both college drop outs]. They even considered education more important than developing the best industrial system [and the economy at that time] or the strongest military force, [perhaps because we already have the strongest military force] perhaps because they understood education as the cornerstone of both. [It is the cornerstone of neither. In the military, most – a lot of the enlisted are among the least educated in our country. Since they make up the majority of the military the majority is not highly educated. By the same token most of the workers in industry are not highly educated either.] They also held that education is “extremely important” to one’s future success, [another myth. I cite Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. I am highly educated and I cannot get a job.] and that public education should be the top priority for additional Federal funds. [The Federal government needs to stay out of education. They just mess it up.]  Education occupied [Education already is heavily funded. The money is just misspent. Another myth is that if something is not working just throw more money at it to get it to work.] first place among 12 funding categories considered in the survey–above health care, welfare, and military defense, with 55 percent selecting public education as one of their first three choices. [This is potentially misleading. When barely half of the people think it is in the top three, then how few called education number one? At only 1/3 then less than 20% thought it was the most important.] Very clearly, the public understands the primary importance of education [yes but what form should it take?] as the foundation for a satisfying life, an enlightened and civil society, a strong economy, and a secure Nation. [I have addressed these elsewhere. I am not sure but ignorance may indeed be bliss. Enlightened yes but not necessarily civil. Education does NOT cause/generate jobs. If it did we’d have jobs to spare and China would not have a glut of college graduates with no place to put them. How does knowing how to add 2 and 2 make us more secure? We were more secure before WWII then we are now. We were less educated then too.]

By the way the Pacific fleet was NOT destroyed at Peal Harbor, on December 7, 1941. It was damaged yes but all but 2 ships were refloated (it is a shallow water harbor after all) and used in the war. The main ships, that won the Pacific, were not even in port at the time, the 4 aircraft carriers. So, they were not damged at all and were also unable to help.

At the same time, the public has no patience with undemanding and superfluous high school offerings. In another survey, more than 75 percent of all those questioned [just so long as it isn’t them?] believed every student planning to go to college should take 4 years of mathematics [Geometry and Algebra—what else? Geometry covers concrete math and Algebra covers abstract math. What more do you want? A semester of Trig and Algebra II, pre-Cal and Cal I? Knowing how to factor a polynomial is surely going to help them at a job. Yeah right. But I guess you are talking about going to college. It won’t even help much unless you do go to college and major in math or science.], English, history/U.S. government, and science [how much science?], with more than 50 percent adding 2 years each of a foreign language and economics or business. [The public wants a lot doesn’t it? Of course this is the same uneducated public you claim we have. I had about 3 years of French and have forgotten most of it almost 40 years later. So that 2 years of a foreign language was a waste, not totally, but close enough. Even just after 2 years you cannot hold much of a conversation in that language especially above a 1st grade level. Economics in high school? Business in high school? I am not sure that having a course in either is going to help you at work, with a high school diploma. I have had both in college.] The public even supports requiring much of this curriculum for students who do not plan to go to college. [Conventional wisdom is oft times wrong too. What is their justification for these changes? Again one course in business  and one in economics will not help much if at all.] These standards far exceed the strictest high school graduation requirements of any State today, and they also exceed the admission standards of all but a handful of our most selective colleges and universities. [This is because it is ridiculous. Algebra and Geometry should suffice. Then would it not be a waste to take extra mathematics, if the colleges do not require it? What I suggest is not a trial by fire—throwing them into 4 science (our schools are now proposing that) and 4 mathematics classes but instead have the math that I said above and 1 or 2 years of pure science. But before you chose the science courses have a couple of years of history of science/scientists and mathematics/mathematicians. Show what problems they had and how they solved them. Eventually touch on the problems that exist now. I think that if kids are exposed to various mathematics (beyond Algebra and Geometry) and sciences in an historical context then they would know what they like or like to pursue in Junior and Senior years of high school and into college. Think about it. If we force kids to take 4 years of science and they do not like it (because they cannot do it) then they will dread going to school 10-12 grades and whatever they did learn they will try to forget later, as soon as possible.]

Another dimension of the public’s support offers the prospect of constructive reform. The best term to characterize it may simply be the honorable word “patriotism.” Citizens know intuitively what some of the best economists have shown in their research, that education is one of the chief engines of a society’s material well-being. [The Roaring 20s was pretty well. They were not perfect. But only 10% or so of the people graduated high school. So, education did not generate the Roaring 20s nor the prior 50 years either. A lack of education do not produce the Great Depression either, although both co-existed (it was the educated that caused the Depression). The uneducated masses believed the drivel that FDR was spewing and kept electing him. He kept giving them hope, false hope and the sheeple believed him.]
They know, too, that education is the common bond of a pluralistic society and helps tie us to other cultures around the globe. [We are already tied to other cultures because many of our citizens’ ancestors came from differing cultures—hence pluralistic. Education may indeed be the common bond but not much of a bond.] Citizens also know in their bones that the safety of the United States depends principally on the wit, skill, and spirit of a self-confident people, today and tomorrow. [It has nothing to do with any of this. It has more to do with the right foreign policy, maybe the way the founding fathers initially set it up—no foreign entanglements.] It is, therefore, essential–especially in a period of long-term decline in educational achievement–for government at all levels to affirm its responsibility for nurturing the Nation’s intellectual capital. [Here we go again with government intervention.]

And perhaps most important, citizens know and believe that the meaning of America to the rest of the world must be something better than it seems to many today. Americans like to think of this Nation as the preeminent country for generating the great ideas and material benefits for all mankind. [Yes they like to think that but it is not necessarily true. The news media tells us of American successes but not the successes of other countries, as if they did not have any. If it is true then perhaps it is because we are the largest Western Civilization on the planet. So, we should have more ideas than other Western Civilized countries. Both India and China are Eastern countries.] The citizen is dismayed at a steady 15-year decline in industrial productivity, as one great American industry after another falls to world competition [maybe the authors of this paper should take economics. In it they would learn that we are losing industry to other countries mainly because of lower labor costs, less regulation, their government’s financial backing, and less concern for the environment, not because we do not educate our kids well enough.]. The citizen wants the country to act on the belief, expressed in our hearings and by the large majority in the Gallup Poll, that education should be at the top of the Nation’s agenda. [Education needs to be at the top our children’s agenda. We need to remove all or most all distractions. Parents want their kids to do well so they want them to be educated. Education is local and should be local, not national. I wonder how the Gallop people phrased the question(s)?]

What it boils down to is you expect too much from the system and from children/people in general. There are those that expect all kids to graduate college and actually feel it is necessary. This is impossible and impractical.

In statistics, there is the Normal (or Bell-shaped) Curve and it can be applied to IQs. With average IQ of 100 and normal range of 90-109, I am told that between that range 50% of the people would be. Also since this is a symmetrical curve then 50% would be above 100 and 50% below 100 (and 25% at 110 and above and 25% at 89 and below). If you then say that people of normal IQs should graduate high school then the maximum number of high school graduates  would be 75%, which is what we had in 1970. My reasoning is that since 50% is between 90 and 109, that 25 % must be between 90-100 and 25% must be between 100 and 109. With 25% being between 90-100 and 50% between 100 and max then between 90 and max is 75%. However, if we chose 95 and above and say that they should graduate then this drops to 62.5% or maybe slightly more, that is slightly more than ½ of 25% (or 12.5%) would be between 95 and 100 with slightly less ½ of 25% being between 90 and 95. If we then average the two (62.5% and 75%) we get 68.75% which is very close to 70%, which is what we have had for 40 years now. So, about 70% graduation rate is the best you can realistically hope for. This is across the board—across all races, colors, creeds and sexes. It does not mean that 70% from each and every group should graduate—just 70% average among the whole population, not all subsets of the set of humans. So, the achievement gap is irrelevant. I cannot stress this distinction enough. This should show that all kids should not, can not, graduate HS or college. An IQ of 92-93 is the bare minimum (31st percentile) that the Army requires of its high school graduates.

It is impractical because we do not have enough teacher/professors or schools to be able to handle every person eligible in the country and foreigners as well. One of the reasons why college was so important was because very few people had it the first half of the 20th Century. Now, if everyone has a college degree then you will need a Master’s just to standout. Then they will say that everyone will need a Master’s and then PhD etc. There will be no end to it. I guess our society will become professional students and never actually do anything. We will have some well educated ditch diggers, and janitors, too.

Even at 70% we still graduate more kids (not percentage wise—just pure numbers) from high school than any other country, probably.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: