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Thread: A Cure For What Ails Us

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2004
    SE PA, zone 6b

    A Cure For What Ails Us

    Please forgive me if this is inappropriate here. I just think it is so important that I must share it. Thomas Friedman is a columnist for the NY Times and has a very good take on where we are in this country. I highly recommend his columns and books, especially The Earth Is Flat . Forget politics and really pay attention to the gist of the article. I don't intend to inundate this forum with more of this--you can follow up if you are interested. I just wanted to call it to your attention.

    Keeping Us in the Race
    Published: October 14, 2005
    What if we were really having a national discussion about what is most important to the country today and on the minds of most parents?

    I have no doubt that it would be a loud, noisy dinner-table conversation about why so many U.S. manufacturers are moving abroad - not just to find lower wages, but to find smarter workers, better infrastructure and cheaper health care. It would be about why in Germany, 36 percent of undergrads receive degrees in science and engineering; in China, 59 percent; in Japan, 66 percent; and in America, only 32 percent. It would be about why Japanese on bullet trains can get access to the Internet with cellphones, and Americans get their cellphone service interrupted five minutes from home.

    It would be about why U.S. 12th graders recently performed below the international average for 21 countries in math and science, and it would be about why, in recent years, U.S. industry appears to have spent more on lawsuits than on R.&D. Yes, we'd be talking about why the world is racing us to the top, not the bottom, and why we are quietly falling behind.
    And late in the evening, as the wine bottles emptied, someone at the national dinner table might finally say: "Hey, what if we were really thinking ahead? What if we asked some of the country's best minds to make a list of the steps we could take right now to enhance America's technology base?"

    Fortunately, two senators, Lamar Alexander and Jeff Bingaman, asked the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine to form a bipartisan study group to produce just such a list, which was released on Wednesday in a report called "Rising Above the Gathering Storm."

    Because of globalization, the report begins, U.S. "workers in virtually every sector must now face competitors who live just a mouse-click away in Ireland, Finland, India or dozens of other nations whose economies are growing. ... Having reviewed the trends in the United States and abroad, the committee is deeply concerned that the scientific and technical building blocks of our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength. ... We are worried about the future prosperity of the United States. ... We fear the abruptness with which a lead in science and technology can be lost and the difficulty of recovering a lead once lost - if indeed it can be regained at all."

    The report's key recommendations? Nothing fancy. Charles Vest, the former president of M.I.T., summed them up: "We need to get back to basic blocking and tackling" - educating more Americans in the skills needed for 21st-century jobs.

    Among the top priorities, the report says, should be these:

    (1) Annually recruiting 10,000 science and math teachers by awarding four-year merit-based scholarships, to be paid back through five years of K-12 public school teaching. (We have too many unqualified science and math teachers.)

    (2) Strengthening the math and science skills of 250,000 other teachers through extracurricular programs.

    (3) Creating opportunities and incentives for many more middle school and high school students to take advanced math and science courses, by offering, among other things, $100 mini-scholarships for success in exams, and creating more specialty math-and-science schools.

    (4) Increasing federal investment in long-term basic research by 10 percent a year over the next seven years.

    (5) Annually providing research grants of $500,000 each, payable over five years, to 200 of America's most outstanding young researchers.

    (6) Creating a new Advanced Research Projects Agency in the Energy Department to support "creative out-of-the-box transformational energy research that industry by itself cannot or will not support and in which risk may be high, but success would provide dramatic benefits for the nation."

    (7) Granting automatic one-year visa extensions to foreign students in the U.S. who receive doctorates in science, engineering or math so they can seek employment here, and creating 5,000 National Science Foundation-administered graduate fellowships to increase the number of U.S. citizens earning doctoral degrees in fields of "national need." (See the rest at www.nationalacademies.org.)

    These proposals are the new New Deal urgently called for by our times. This is where President Bush should have focused his second term, instead of squandering it on a silly, ideological jag called Social Security privatization. Because, as this report concludes, "Without a renewed effort to bolster the foundations of our competitiveness, we can expect to lose our privileged position."
    SE PA, zone 6b

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Zone 9a - Gulf Coast

    I started to answer this a few times, but I think I am too close. There are so many problems, and they seem to be getting worse.

    There is an extreme shortage of math teachers here. We are have larger class sizes, and many are losing their planning periods which means no tutoring after school.

    Paperwork is so time consuming and teachers have fewer and fewer rights. I don't mean the 'paddling' thing. I never did like that, but gee, if you have one or a few students who are so disruptive that you cannot teach, it is overwhelming to expect the teacher to do EVERYTHING to try to stop them.

    Too many suspensions and the principal gets in trouble. Too many discipline referrals and the teacher is in trouble.

    So, the bad kids rule and the smart kids go by the wayside.

    I knew I shouldn't have answered this post, but it is often true and so very sad.

    I rarely write a referral unless the student skips or tells me to shut up or something crazy like that. Even then, I make sure I have made at least one, preferably two parent/guardian contacts. Time consuming, but worth it (at least this year)!

    Besides, I do feel the parent has the right to know if something is starting to go wrong. If the parent can't correct it, then it is time for administration try to help.

    It's not an easy situation....
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2004
    SE PA, zone 6b
    Ann, and others--

    I have the advantage of reading Friedman's book
    I]The Earth Is Flat[/I] about how globalization has become reality in the last 3-4 years. I cannot recommend it high enough. We are in real trouble--there is a paradigm shift taking place that is of the order of the shift from the agricultural age to the industrial age. We have to catch up or lose our place in the world. That is why I posted the article (with trepidation, I might add). Surely, if enough people become aware, changes can be affected.

    I am appalled that you are not allowed to control the rowdies. What a tragedy, and what a cheat for the learners. Please don't read the column as a criticism of the teachers, but of the system--policy. I wish we could isolate the troublemakers. I know, that has all kinds or problems, but they are so unfair to the wannabe learners.

    I so admire your struggle to become a teacher. The kids need you and the country needs you even more. I wish I had some solutions--the column offers some, but I am not holding my breath waiting for them.

    Enough--I didn't want to start much--just inform. If enough of us are concerned, maybe change can be affected.
    SE PA, zone 6b

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Oskaloosa, KS
    Sandi and others:

    I consider myself a Friedman fan - I've read several of his books including The Earth Is Flat. My husband gets them, reads them and passes them on to me.

    In recent years I've seen too many instances of opposing parties with valid, but widely differing, viewpoints put us in a position where either nothing is done or things are put in place on an emergency basis in answer to a now critical need - when something less drastic could have been done years ago.

    We've been staring like deer in the headlights as gas prices (and now natural gas and heating oil) skyrocket. We wonder why people are buying Japanese cars - should we get our competitive edge back by limiting imports?

    Some of the more fascinating parts of The Earth Is Flat have to do with things like companies moving their factories FROM Mexico to other areas for the same reasons they moved TO Mexico in the first place. We (the USA) are not going to be able to compete in ordinary manufacturing if locating your plant in Mexico is considered "so last century".

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