If you’re like most Americans, you watched the 2012 Olympics when they aired on TV this summer. In fact, it is reported that 219.4 million viewers watched the global event, making it “the most watched television event ever.”
Even while settling into our new Omaha home and after enjoying the USA Swim Trials live, my family found time to watch the Olympics. We were moved by the pageantry, impressed with the discipline and athleticism, and of course we were thrilled to see the USA bring home 104 medals – 17 more than our nearest competitor. Breaking records and “bringing home the gold” is exciting to all Americans because we like to compete – and we like to win.
But education is clearly one place where we are not winning.
The website StudentsFirst.org features a video that relates our nation’s global ranking in education to the Olympics. The video is not pretty. Neither are the latest facts:
• The U.S. ranks 25th in math out of 24 industrialized nations.
• Fully 70% of students entering ninth grade read below grade level.
• Every year more than 1 million U.S. teens fail to graduate on time with their peers.
• Nearly half of community college freshmen and 1 in 5 freshman at four-year schools have to take remedial courses.
What this means is we cannot “rest on our laurels.”
This idiom is based on the literal meaning of “laurels,” the rings of leaves worn on the heads of the earliest Olympians. America is a winning nation. More than that, we are a leading nation, historically victorious in leading via educated citizens who brought insightful knowledge and innovative discoveries to the world, including technology that has “shrunk the planet” to bring us all closer together. But our discipline in education and commitment to strive for excellence is falling short – and we have lost ground.
The line relayed in the StudentsFirst.org video, “When You’re With the USA, You Can Coast All Day,” is sarcasm. I don’t believe we truly think that way. I do believe we are working very hard to bring innovative, best 21st Century Education practices to our schools that infuse energy and a love of learning to our children. Educators and educational leaders must strive to ensure that all students have access and opportunities to environments that promote a passion for learning, shape critical thinking, act responsibly, and lead with integrity. Helping students to learn how to collaborate effectively in order to promote productive solutions is key to our future, and theirs.
What do you think? Share your thoughts here.