Friday, April 5, 2013

America's Greatest Challenge

The other day I had a long conversation with someone whose life paralleled my own. His father had died when he was very young but he had drive and ended up with a PhD. I always worried that the social security check wouldn't provide enough food to get us through to the end of the month. I remember having a dream where there was nothing left but Arm and Hammer baking soda. Because we had both spent 30 years in higher education we knew that upward mobility in America was now exceeded by 16 other countries.

Accomplishing what we did  is 10 to 20 times more difficult to do today than it was for us. No one could afford to be a college professor today because universities charge as much as they can get away with and loan burdens for students are unconscionable. You'd have to be a Wall Street vulture to pay college loans back.

I thought about the conversation and worry China might exploit this and become the strongest country in the world. We can turn things around if people just listen. But they have to understand just how dire the situation is. A lot of people refuse to look at this problem

Number one: people in xiang xia (rural areas ) have worked for thousands of years in incessant labor for very small results. The grinding work ethic is spread throughout China, and while the newest generation has been somewhat liberated from that, I've worked with a UCLA doctoral candidate who has never received less than A+ in any course that allowed that grade. He came to America and I was lucky enough to teach him American idioms so he could excel. (Quite honestly he would've done extremely well whether I taught him American idioms or not.)
This next point is important. Shanghai K-12 students, who are number one in the world, put our students to shame. We rank 17th among nations in math ability. However you still hear parents complain about their children having too much homework (an absurdity).
In America college students graduate without knowing calculus, while in China it's required for admission to University. The teachers unions spread falsehoods that the problem in America is class-size, while the problem in America is low expectations.We now rely on highly educated foreigners to make advances in high tech.
I love my country. My family has been here for 392 years. I don't want to live anywhere else. But I worry that we can't continue moving in this direction.. If this angers my fellow citizens, so be it. Telling the truth is not unpatriotic.

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