America’s New Sputnik…Our dire Education System

I don’t know about you but when I read and listened to the news yesterday about testing scores for 15 year olds across 65 countries in science, reading and math, my heart sank!  America the Great wouldn’t get into most of our great colleges with the grades it delivered.  American students  came in 23rd in science, 17th in reading and paltry 32nd in math.

At the top of the list was Shanghai, China on all three counts.  Estonia (most people don’t even know where that is) outscored us.  this should be a wake-up call to America.  If we are to lead innovation in the 21st century, we need well educated kids in science and math, if we don’t, we will not be serving lunch we will be lunch meat!

Exactly one year ago, while in London on business, I went on a college tour of the acclaimed “Imperial College of London”.  A university my daughter is considering for the Fall of 2011. I was with a group of 83 perfectly bilingual, bright, interested Chinese students who were touring the great colleges of Europe for possible admission in the fall of 2010.  We all knew that China was busy developing Olympic calibre athletes for the last 24 years. Taking the most athletic 3 year olds, separating them  from their families  and creating world class athletes.  Well, they were doing the same with their brightest academic 3 year olds.   I spent the better part of an afternoon with the 4th graduating class of that government effort.  They were impressive and engaging.

Following the tour, I called my husband and shared what I had just experienced.  It was really scary to see that potential future where our kids may be left out.  Yes I know that we have great talent here but the thought of China with it’s huge population and determination to win, scared me.   President Obama seems to be committed to pushing our math and science programs, realizing that we could be left in the dust if we don’t wake up.  

Almost fifty years ago, Sputnik, a Soviet Union space ship was launched and our government had an aha moment.  We were being outspaced.   They then invested more heavily in our math and sciences programs in our schools in order to keep up with the Smirnoff’s.   Reaction is one thing but I for one would like to think that we have a plan and we are organized.  Clearly we don’t and that is troublesome.

As parent’s we can start small and get familiar with what our kids are learning at school.  How do our programs compare within the counties, states and across the country?  Who is monitoring and developing strategies to move up the ladder and not down? Who’s feet are near the fire?  Corporate America would fire people who had such a record of non-success.  We should be embarrassed and demand better of our schools and administrators and give our kids a fighting chance for their future at home. 

Attached is the December 7th, New York times article by Sam Dillon
EDUCATION   | December 07, 2010
Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators
By SAM DILLON
Shanghai students outscored counterparts in dozens of other countries in China’s debut in global standardized testing.

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