One of my favorite magazines is “The Economist.” A recent issue of the magazine had an intriguing article about American kids and how we’ve essentially prepared them to destroy our nation. National productivity is a grave concern for the U.S., as the number of young people in our country is expected to dwindle dramatically over the next 30 years. That reduction in young labor, which serves as the economic fuel for our nation, is only worsened by weak education and poor job training.
I hate saying it this way, but the data seem to show that our kids are just flat out lazy. What’s worse is that we are making them this way. This is not just a BET problem, it’s an American problem. Our children are not, according to a variety of statistical evidence, being raised as the productive, industrious Americans who led our country to national prominence. Rather, they are on average being raised as chubby little PlayStation addicts who can’t spell the word “NBA.”
Educated citizens are typically more capable, since an educated workforce gets things done more efficiently. Greater productivity increases a country’s Gross National Product. Therefore, the quality of the educational system has a direct impact on a nation’s economic prosperity. In most measures of future success, America is falling woefully short.
According to the OECD handbook, American children attend school for only 180 days per year, compared to an average of 195 days for other OECD countries. It’s even worse when compared to Asian countries, which average 200 days per year. Over a 12-year period, these missed days add up to one less year of education for American children relative to OECD and Asian children.
American children have one of the shortest school days in the world, averaging only 6.5 hours per day. This computes to 32 hours per week, which is less than the 37 hours per week students spend in school in Luxembourg. In Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, children go to school for 44, 53 and 60 hours per week, respectively.
American children tend to perform quite poorly on international proficiency tests, especially relative to Asian children. This is a peculiar outcome in light of the fact that Asian countries spend less per capita on education, but seem to simply work their children harder.
Many children are not prepared for college. California’s state universities are forced to send 1/3 of their incoming freshmen to remedial classes to compensate for what they didn’t learn in high school.
As a professor for the last 16 years, I’ve seen this problem up close. I’ve had those moments where a student has sent me an email in which they “wonna no wut’s gona be on tha tes Fridee.” Of course, much of this horrible grammar might come from being part of the text messaging generation, but it’s a problem when there is similar grammar being used on research papers. Some might consider this an issue with urban education, but I teach at a private university where the tuition is nearly $30,000 per year.
The truth is that America needs a no-nonsense educational overhaul. The overhaul must start on Capitol Hill and end in our living rooms. Teachers should be compensated in a way that reflects an increase in our society’s value of education. Inner city schools should not be left straining for the very same resources that are readily available to kids in the suburbs. Our children should be forced to turn off the television to spend 3 hours a night in a book. We need to find a way to help our kids understand the tremendous value of simply being smart.
If America continues to toss billions in wealth out the window by refusing to educate our children, there will surely be hell to pay. I am cautiously optimistic that President Obama gets it.