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February 19, 2008


Umesh Sirsiwal

I saw the preview screening at TiE on Friday. As an immigrant and father of a 5 yrs old, I go through the same worry every day.

Having said that, have you looked at difference in education syllabus and complexity of test papers in different states in India.

I grew up in a small town in the state of Uttar Pradesh and then moved to bigger town in the sate of Madhya Pradesh. Both are in north part of India. Uttar Pradesh education syllabus was at least 2 years ahead of Madhya Pradesh. In addition, the test papers were a lot more complex and creativity was required. However, quality of teaches and schools in Uttar Pradesh was much poorer then in Madhya Pradesh. In addition there is a large north-south divide in terms of education culture.

Just to put things in context, out of 1.2B people in india 310M live in states of Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar. I know the schools in these states are marginal. Add to this rural north and east India population (states West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Assam) with non-existing educational infrastructure significant part of India has marginal education. In addition, even in larger cities there are so many street children attending sub-quality schools.

I don't disagree with your overall message with respect to academic sub-standards, but just wanted to point out the issues within education in India itself. Your movie may give some Indian politicians chance to congratulate themselves which will be so unfair to population in India as a whole.

Paul Spranger

My congratulations to Bob Compton! I have been fortunate to travel internationally for my company, mostly in the developing world. I also have had the experience of raising two children in the Carmel, IN school system.

My wake-up call came during a visit to a 5th grade class just outside Kathmandu, Nepal. As my photos document the classroom had no heat, no lights, crude benches for student seats, a single well worn blackboard and no text books in sight. I reviewed the students mid year "blue-book" exams in mathmatics and they were factoring complex algebraic equations - showing all work. Their English essays were on a 7th grade level in Carmel, IN.

While my daughter finished at Carmel High, I enrolled my then 8th Grade son in a start-up private high school with 26 other students of worried, like-minded parents.

I too am frightened for the future standard of living of the American middle class as a result of my business travels. Our greater population has understanding of the theory of wealth and the critical link to innovation and manufacturing.
My observation is the suburban comfort level will not be shaken until something disturbs the school-night minivan loop from the soccer field to the mall, then onto Blockbuster with a final stop at Pizza Hut. Homework? Only for Nerds.

To put a point on it, a PHD friend from Lilly & Company researched the achievement scores Grade 3-12 and noted the imputed IQ levels nearly matched the best private schools in the U.S yet the achievement vs. ability gap widened with each successive year. The upper Quartile graduating from Carmel High School is very much under represented in America's top colleges, just as Bob points out in his piece.

The new growth college major in America today is "Communications". That about says it all about America's competiveness and future standard of living. Our children will be the Assistant Manager's in the World's shopping malls.

Robert Cloutier

Saw this on GMA, and will purchase the DVD. However, I do have the opportunity to travel to Finland (Nokia) rather regularly, and am struck with their kids. Now, I see this article in the WSJ:

Their system is much more closely aligned with the one here in the US. So is it really the culture, or something else?

Great job on putting the focus on improving our students here so they are more competitive.


Maggie Guillaume

I have not seen this documentary yet, but will soon. I have however read a lot about it. I agree that American students are lagging behind other countries, notably China and India. However, I think we also need to ask ourselves why many of those students who excel in math and/or science do not pursue those fields as a career. Why aren't many of them becoming scientists and engineers? I've met quite a few people in this category and always ask them this question. (I'm in the finance industry). The answer I hear most is that these fields just don't pay enough. I work with a Harvard Law graduate attorney who is a math whiz (he even scored a perfect 800 on the math SAT's). When I asked him, he chuckled and said, "sorry, but I need a career that pays." One of my closest friends took many AP courses in math and physics in high school, but studied history in college (she now works at a PR firm). She too felt the math/science field just doesn't pay enough.

I personally have always loved math and took far more math courses in college than was required, but I never considered pursuing the field. Not so much because of the salary (though that was a factor), but more because I believed (and still do) that these fields can easily be outsourced to other countries. India and China will be graduating many students with engineering and science degrees, so I could easily see many high tech firms moving those jobs to low-cost/highly-educated countries. So why spend all that time and money (ie, accumluating school debt) when in the near future companies can just move those jobs to India and China? (And I wouldn't blame them...I too would look for the low-cost labor countries). Jobs like marketing, law and PR are much safer, and pay much higher, in the U.S.

Carol Albanese

I am a 34 year old student at this time who had the pleasure of viewing just part of this film. I am currently in school to become a teacher and it is a lot to swallow; American students and teachers face so much more than before. Our country still has what it takes to make leaders and also to rank number one in the world. The main problem has come down to trying to please every type of person that comes through a class room. Teachers are no longer just a facilitator of knowledge. They are increasing becoming everything in between except that. What truly needs to happen in this country is not just a better education for our children, I completely agree with that, but we need for our communities and parents to step up. Parents are some of the biggest problems when it comes to our education system. I am a parent and very involved. I believe that when America wakes up and realizes that we have let things just get way too out of hand, then maybe we can get our education system back on track. Unfortunatley, there are always the ones who think there isnt a problem and then those who know there is but wont do anything except complain. I for one am going to try my hardest to be the type of teacher who helps children understand there is a very big world out there that no longer just consist of America. I think Americans all need to understand that.


Mr. Compton amuses me with his self promoting "reality" and his comments that accompanied the picture of his Aunt; "There is nothing so enjoyable as having family at a screening", I guess as long as that family is not your wife and children. I am not an educator nor an Ivy leaguer, but I have seen first hand the surest way to doom a child's education is to compromise their trust in their parents.

COMMENT FROM BOB COMPTON: Teri, I have no idea what you are driving at with your oddball comment. My wife and children do not live in South Carolina where the Bill Gates Foundation had me screening the film. My great Aunt, however, does live there as do multiple cousins.

My wife and children will be at the screening in our hometown of Memphis if you would like to meet them - February 28th at 6pm Malco Paridiso Theater - open to the public.

MY daughter and I seem to share enough trust to make a tandem bungee plunge 200 feet into the Zambezi Gorge in Zambia - http://bobcompton.typepad.com/africa/2006/08/zambezi_gorge_p.html


Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

After spending 1.5 years volunteering in my son's public school (a top-rated one in IN...and we happen to be very near Carmel, IN), my eyes were opened and we made the decision to homeschool. We are one of the few families in our area doing this for strictly academic reasons (vs. religious). Yes, even at the elementary school level, our schools are broken. You can not build a skyscraper on an inadequate, unlevel foundation and that is precisely what most high schools are attempting.

Our schools are very much in crisis--I hope that your documentary scares this country into reforming our public educational system NOW. If we don't change our priorities soon, I fear for the future of my children, my children's children, and this very country's standing in the global economy.

I hope this shakes parents of school-age children to their very core. It is up to us - the parents - to be certain our children are getting an excellent education; even if that means doing it ourselves (in our case).

Jason Lum

I am certainly aware of the significant differences between the quality of the high school experience in the United States compared to those in South Asia and East Asia. The comparisons are not very favorable to the United States.

Having lived in Singapore and traveled widely throughout East Asia, I find that young people in Asia are far more motivated to pursue higher education and take their schoolwork more seriously than their US counterparts. This is not an attack upon the system of higher education in the US -- the United States continues to have the best universities in the world, which is one reason why slots into our top universities remain so hypercompetitive. However, as a mirror of our culture, many high school students in the United States simply spend more time focusing on sports and leisure, than do their counterparts in the developing world.

It is probably natural that young people in the United States -- a developed nation that is one of the wealthiest on the planet -- would not have the same drive, desire, and motivation to study as those families in the developing world who are yearning for a better life. However, as a nation we need to take a hard look at the value we place upon education, as opposed to athletics, consumerism, and mindless entertainment. If this DVD serves as a conversation point regarding these important issues, then perhaps it is something well worth watching.


Simple. The kids in US high schools should be taught to forget about proms, sex, booze, meth labs and concentrate on real-life issues. Lest, they will find jobs working for an Indian or Chinese boss. What else is there to say ?

Go to any Engineering graduation day event in the USA and one finds what ? That 80% or more have Indian or Chinese names ! They are clearly poised to take over this country, let alone the global economy. Wake up, parents !

Eric Wenzel

Love the movie concept and do agree with the premise though was concerned that the Americans profiled in the trailer do not behave like top high school students I have seen. I hope the movie does not fail because of caricaturing of American culture... I'll soon find out since I ordered it!

Michael Sakowski

The American Problem: We are an entertainment-centered culture. TV provides entertainment. Sports provides entertainment. Academics? . . . Not too entertaining!

I am trying to combat this at the 7-12 grade and College Freshman level with a sabbatical project I am working on. I start each class period with motivational resources consisting of applications of math, some of which are "entertaining" to show students the value of math. Then utilize videos of real-life applications and short game-show-like bonus problems to keep their interest. But still my classroom is centered around traditional lectures. I am hoping this can bridge the large gap between the "entertainment world" and the "academic world". Go to http://www.mathmotivation.com to see what I am doing.

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