The Right Answer

A colleague emailed me this morning:

"I read this article in the paper this morning about a survey of how many high school students cheat and lie.

It’s depressing enough, but then the principal of Andover High (MA) was quoted (and he’s very supportive of today’s students) as saying, 'We need to create classrooms where learning takes on more importance than having the right answer.'

WTF? That says it all, doesn’t it?

What is learning for if not 'the right answer'?

I hope my doctor and airline pilot have the right answer and I don’t care if they don’t know all kinds of 'strategies for learning.' Good god."

I've ranted before on the Freeway about the dreadful state of American public education, and how far behind other countries we have fallen, in terms of being able to compete in the global marketplace.

I don't think many school-age daughters of immigrant parents are wearing tee shirts with anti-math messages. Many of them seem to have a grasp of the skills it takes to succeed these days. But the shirt continues to be a big seller.

I'm constantly astonished at the general lack of curiosity and the inability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time in our culture. So reading this story about how it's okay to lie and cheat to get ahead is really disheartening.

The "right answer" is to fix our broken education system.

More On The Obama School Search

Some cogent observations about school choice from Sandra Tsing Loh in today's New York Times:

"Now that we’ve made history by electing our first African-American president, what has changed? On first blush, not much, especially when it comes to our schools. Indeed, as the spiraling United States economy takes precedence, education is moving to the back burner, though sadly it was never really on the front burner during the campaign. Meanwhile Washington high society is swooning as chatty lifestyle stories document the courtship of Barack Obama’s daughters by a bevy of exclusive private schools. Am I the only one who is outraged here?"

"Sarah Palin was taken tirelessly to the mat for every detail of her personal life — her mothering skills, hunting proclivities, reading habits (such as they were), the wacky names of her children, her pricey outfits and even the height of her heels.

By contrast, the Obama family’s move from toney Chicago private school (chosen before presidential security was an issue) to toney Washington private school draws little national commentary.

Why? Because for the ruling American political and professional class, not to mention the news media, sending one’s child to public school is unthinkable; and has nothing to do with public education policy. (Love that Teach for America, though! And universal preschool — it’s great! Computers! Innovation! Stimulation! Richard Branson! Aspen Technology Conference! Blah, blah blah.)"

Too Pretty To Do Math?

“The United States is failing to develop the math skills of both girls and boys, especially among those who could excel at the highest levels, a new study asserts, and girls who do succeed in the field are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued.”

"The idea that the U.S. won’t even properly develop the skills of young people who could perform at the highest intellectual levels is breathtaking — breathtakingly stupid, that is.

The authors of the study, published in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, concluded that American culture does not value talent in math very highly. I suppose we’re busy with other things, like text-messaging while jay-walking. The math thing is seen as something for Asians and nerds."

As Bob Herbert, Bill Gates, and others have been saying for some time now, we had damn well better reverse this trend of ignoring practical education in math and the sciences, because while Americans have been focused on being pretty, the rest of the world has been eating our lunch (and dinner).