Are you doing well?

The New York times published an article yesterday about the relative state of American education. “The study, released Monday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group based in Paris representing 30 nations, used tests given to students in 2003 and was intended to assess relative performance and to try to determine reasons for it.”

So far, so good. The US ranked 18th in reading and 28th in math. Out of 40 countries that’s pretty well straight down the middle average. Nothing to brag about and definitely something to keep in mind when reviewing the importance of education in this country. Note that only the word importance appeared in that previous sentence, not importance of funding. The study “noted that while the Czech Republic spent only one third as much per student as the United States did, it was one of the top 10 performing nations in the study, while the United States performed below the average of the nations surveyed.”

What really caught my eye was the following paragraph:

” The survey also questioned students about their own views of themselves and their work, and found that while good students were more likely to think they were good, countries that did well often had a large number of students who did not feel they were doing well. In the United States, 36 percent of the students agreed with the statement, “I am just not good at mathematics,” while in Hong Kong, 57 percent agreed. In South Korea the figure was 62 percent.”

Without knowing the full scope of questions asked, there seems to be a very important follow-up question about these views: “How do you react when you feel that you are not doing well?” I’m afraid, if the students were honest, you would find a large percentage that give up when they encounter that feeling. If most of the students in America would change their answer to that question from “I quit” or “I cheat” to “I apply myself even harder until I understand and succeed,” the United States would have no problem scaling the ranking ladder and becoming more than just average.

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