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American Education And The All Consuming PSSA

I’m not sure this will be a true “Rant Files” post, but we’ll run with it anyway.

Now, like everyone else in America we have a student involved with some form of testing used to rank the schools they go to.  In Pennsylvania, it is the PSSA (Click Here for the Wiki definition).

Unfortunately, this has resulted in schools teaching to prepare for those tests, and pride in higher rankings in those tests that it has adversely affected the quality of learning in out entire country.

Why?

  • The schools teach to test … they no longer teach to learn and apply the knowledge learned.
  • We teach quantity, not quality … our schools in this country teach quite a bit more than schools in other countries, but our students retain less overall than students in other countries.
  • There are others, but those are the main two we will discuss at this time.

What are the results of this?

  • Our own colleges and universities value international students heavily over American students because the international students bring the rankings up, bringing in more tuition to those colleges and universities. Scan the net, you’ll find many articles supporting that.  If you don’t believe that, go to the individual establishments and look at their push to gain international students.  They don’t bring in international students because it’s “cool”.
  • Our jobs are going to international individuals (not just offshore, or outsourcing … companies are moving people to this country to take over American jobs). They are not always getting our jobs because they are cheaper, but because they are better educated, more confident in what they know, and more capable to get the job done.  **Reality check here**
  • The hopes of the current generation to even have a little taste of “The American Dream” without having to move to another country are diminishing quickly.

How can I make these accusations, and what is my background?

  • I worked in a fortune 100 companies where I had the ability to communicate with people from about 60% of the countries on this planet.  Although my job was technical, part of it was discussing daily life and smalltalk to get the customer to calm down and be able to work a problem with me … or at least to get me the information I needed to do so.  Many of those people were parents, so education was always a top topic.
  • I still have family in both Italy and Germany.  That family includes farmers, business owners, and university professors.  I’ve talked with them enough to know where education stands in their countries.
  • I was educated with the basics well enough that it allowed me to get to a place that others only get to by attending college for six years, after only going to a tech school in the 80s. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had teach that instilled such a good foundation of basics and a capability of learning that at the age of 7 I was learning analogue electronics, at the age of 8 leaning how to program computers, at the age of 9.5 learning digital electronics and computer upgrades, at the age of 12 had written and sold my first full accounting package that remained in use until 1999, and at the age of 16 was working in an electronics sales job making the same part time as the full time adult sales people did.  I was a product of the education system at that time.

What are the differences?

  • Well, as I said before our schools now teach to test – not teach to acquire a solid foundation of basics that can be built upon. Teaching how to effectively apply the knowledge gained is also a lost art form in out schools.
  • Other countries teach much less in their schools than we do in America, but they teach it well.  When those students go on a holiday break they have effectively been educated with a good foundation of basics and knowledge of how to apply them that when they come back from even a longer holiday break they take very little time to get back on track compared to the time it takes our students.  They also retain what they have learned, and have the capability to quickly and solidly learn new things on their own – many times after education, our students who should be self sufficient still need hand holding in the workplace.  I know that because I’ve worked with the current generations of workers. “Taking off running with something” is NOT in their resume’ of capbilities anymore as it was with previous generations.

Who is to blame?

  • Everyone:
  1. the teachers for not keeping with the basics to provide a good learning foundation.
  2. the parents for not reinforcing to the schools what their children need to learn. (the customer is always right – unless they keep their mouths shut because they don’t want to make waves).
  3. the politicians for putting into place a system that both forces schools to pay more attention to rankings, and allows them bragging rights about their rankings – both causing them to put students second.
  4. etc, etc, etc.

My foundation:

It wasn’t that it was my being a “geek” that go me my knowledge and abilities, but the foundation and work ethic that my teachers, family, and mentors put in to me through my education that gave me the confidence, knowledge, and know-how to do anything I needed to.  I still retain that capability.  Sadly I don’t see that in many students today (they still need mommy to hand hold them most of the time) … unless you give them a written test – but if you make them apply what was on a test or remember it even shortly after a test, many, sadly, can’t.

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