Poisoned apple: Miseducation of the American student

Anastasia Spytsya

Public education: Every single one of us understands this institution differently. Some of us think education is overrated, some of us go to school to get a diploma, and some still see it as a basic opportunity to better ourselves.

I see public education as a necessary institution for social advancement that needs a fundamental reform because it indeed has failed over the years. On the other hand, my expectations of public education should not be too high because public education is a government-run program. And, unfortunately, many programs controlled by our government have failed as well.

The other night I was having a conversation with a person who is about to get a master’s degree. Somehow, we started talking about classical music and the person did not know who Johann Sebastian Bach was. Because of this, I decided to do some basic research on American students’ intellectual performance on an international level. I knew we weren’t in a good shape, but my findings blew me away.

Today, the United States’ high school graduation rate ranks near the bottom among developed nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Students who study in the OECD countries, which make up 90 percent of the global economy, took a Programme for International Student Achievement test.

The United States ranks 21st of 30 OECD countries in scientific literacy.

The United States ranks 25th of 30 OECD countries in mathematics literacy.

The United States ranks 24th of 29 OECD countries in problem solving.

This means American students do not possess the necessary skills to meet present workforce demands. National surveys corroborate this finding; for example, 46 percent of American manufacturers say that their employees have inadequate problem-solving skills.

What does this all mean? It means that with each year we do not progress. We regress. And who do we blame for that? First of all, ourselves for being lazy to fall into such a failing educational system; secondly, our government, for not meeting standards.

American students spend about 20,000 hours attending school from elementary school through high school graduation. Yet when it comes to testing, we manage to perform poorer with every year. I have found numerous articles proving that 80 percent of the material covered in public education consists of memorization and only 10 to 15 percent is devoted to problem solving. Don’t you guys know from your own experience at Kent State?

Critical thinking, problem solving and effective communication skills are needed most in the workforce; yet, they are the ones that are never taught. What we are taught is how to take biased, inaccurate and insufficient standardized tests that I like to call “measure of failure.”

I do understand the original politics for establishing such tests. Fairness and equality, which standardized testing was supposed to bring, is something that I cry my heart out for. I know that all of us can perform higher learning skills in a different manner, so “one-size-fits-all” tests lower our intellectual skills.

Our professors should have high expectations from us. But narrowing material to only what will be on the test or so he or she can get promoted for “excellent teaching” are not high expectations.

Our schools do not teach us what we need to know in order to be competitive at the job market. There is a reason why potential employees look for experience — they know that we are simply not qualified enough to work for them with “just” a bachelor’s degree.

Our education is aimed to “fairness,” but not to excellence. The operative rule of thumb today is, “if at first everyone does not succeed, lower the standards for students.”

We are willingly accepting poison from the Department of Education, and we are willingly accepting the fact that we are miseducated. How stupid is it of us to willingly admit that we are a nation of not so intelligent people and do nothing about it?

P.S. By no means do I mean to ignore the rest of the numerous issues public education is facing. Please, understand that I am limited on the length of the column.

Anastasia Spytsya is a senior Russian translation major and political science minor and

columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.

Contact her at [email protected].