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Monday, December 5, 2011

A FEW CONTROVERSIAL THOUGHTS ABOUT EDUCATION

If you read my education chapter in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity (digital version for $3.99), you would have been surprised to learn that:

1.  I think there is TOO MUCH emphasis placed on Reading, 'Riting and'Rithmetic.  We are doing enough with Math and Science.  A lot more effort should be applied on the other four R's:  Rigor, Respect, Relevance and Relationship.  These latter four R's determine the success or failure of your life.  The primary reason why teachers don't spend more time on these four is that the school system has determined that the family has responsibility for them.  Yes, they are right, but most families fail on these subjects.

2.  Society made the choice:  teachers are not well paid and our students do not score as well on standardized tests given internationally.  This is because we have deemed other priorities to be more important.  Don't blame your legislators or school administrators...blame yourself.

3.  When there is a budget crunch, pre-school suffers the most.  I think that the age period from 2-4 is the most important in the mind of the child.  Not the all-day variety, but at the age of two, child with parent or some other responsible adult every Saturday morning, for the room and adult are both available.  A solution to the future of humanity is to stimulate the natural curiosity and creativity of a 2-4 year old while properly civilizing them to survive in the real world.  Today, we say no or otherwise stifle this spark.  Of course this will cost money, but this is also the period when potential criminals can be smartly guided, when future mental or physical problems can be minimized.

So is American doomed?  Nope, some time in the past some group determined that we don't need everyone to have a perfect K-12 education.  Sort of with the attitude that all we need are 5% of our students to excel and the rest can be good followers, we spend nearly twice/capita than the #2 (Denmark) on higher education.    We are the only supreme nation remaining.  If does not matter if our K-12 system is deficient.  The primary object is that we graduate enough leaders and thinkers with a working class that is creative and resilient to dominate the world.  They don't all need to solve trigonometry problems or know what is the capital of Ghana or who wrote Hamlet.  We are, though, declining.  Only a few years ago we dominated the top 20 universities with 18.  Today, we only have 13 of the best 20, and Harvard is #2 to Cambridge.  (Oh, the photo on the left is the Stanford's women lacrosse team edging Harvard, 19-18.)

I'm not saying that the reality of the above is necessarily right and moral.  Decisions must be made on priorities and we apparently have accepted inadequate K-12 education for the best higher education system in the world.  It's working, for the USA is the only world power.

Two more articles I recently read caught my attention.  The Asian population of the USA is slightly less than 5%.  The Stanford freshman class has 22.4% Asian-Americans, plus a few more not from America. In an article today entitled:

Asians battle perceived bias in college admissions

there is a kind of reverse discrimination occurring.  If you have an Asian surname, you might need to score 100 points higher on college board exams relative to other races to be accepted.  The Stanford admission rate could then mean at least two things:  they picked on merit alone, or a lot more than 22.4% would have been accepted if the judgement was equitable.  A tad more than 34,000 applied and 7.1% were accepted.  Harvard's is even lower at 6.2%:

The fearsome aspect of these low acceptance rates is that, save for an idiotic few, only the best apply.

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Against the predictions of a few of my doomsday friends, the Dow Jones Industrials rose 78 to 12,097.  European stock markets hit a five week high today.  Anyone notice that the Shanghai market is only about one-fourth of what it was in late October of 2007 (Dow at 0.87 of that date)?  Gold fell $22/toz to $1722, while the WTI is at $101/barrel and Brent at $109/barrel.

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HAS IT REALLY BEEN HALF A CENTURY?  PBS had an excellent tribute to Peter, Paul and Mary tonight.  I grew up with the group, as they formed in 1961 when I was a senior at Stanford, for they extended Peter Seeger/Weavers and Bob Dylan songs, making a difference for humanity.  Here, Mary Travers, Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey in 1963 singing Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer" at the that march when Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C.


In 1969 they had their only #1 hit,  John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane:"


The group broke up in 1970 but had numerous reunions.  Who can forget their first hit, Lemon Tree (from a Brazilian folk song),  Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," "Puff the Magic Dragon" (co-written by Peter Yarrow), "500 Miles", Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," and "I Dig Rock and Roll Music" (co-written by Paul Stookey), where Mary Travers, who passed away from leukemia in 2009, never before showed so much movement... then again, maybe she always had it in her.

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