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June 04, 2008


Tom Layton

It is educational standards that put us into this mess. Americans hate standards. Take the mother of all standards, the metric system. Only three countries in the world refuse this standard of measurement — Liberia (populated by former slaves from America), Burma (also known as Myanmar) and the US.

What Americans want above all else is [1] choice and [2] quality. We have gotten ourselves into this crazy competition — my list of standards is bigger than your list of standards. We should not be teaching kids anything they can find on Google in less than a minute. We should be teaching them is how to find, understand, verify and apply information. Where do we come up the time to teach that? Well, we could stop teaching students how to divide complex fractions. It's a start.


I went to 9th and 10th grades in India back in the '60s. The only thing that has changed from when I took my classes and now is that a 3rd langauage has been replaced by computer programming. However, one can argue that learning a computer language is like learning a 3rd language.

The difference now is in the higher education environment. When I graduated from one of the IITs, good graduate schools were hard to come by. One had to look to the US, North America or Australia for graduate studies. Jobs were also scarce. Now, the whole situation is reversed. Jobs and good graduate programs are readily available in India, so more expatriate Indians are going back. This reverse brain drain is another negative for the US economy. Unfortunately, there aren't enough kids here getting excited about science and technology to fill the void.

Kyle Kauffman

When someone asks me what I do, I proudly say that I am a teacher. They usually smile and then ask, "what do you teach"? Here's where things get interesting... I say, I teach physics. At that point I usually get one of two reactions: 1) the person makes a terrible face and proclaims how much they disliked physics, or 2) they share that they never took physics because it was too hard.

I teach in an excellent high school of about 1300 students with about 80% of our students going on to higher education of some type. I will have a total of 65 students taking physics next year. Those who take physics enjoy it, are successful in college, and admit that they rarely had to work harder. Unfortunately, too many students avoid physics because they feel it's too much work or they have negative attitudes towards math.

Physical science has an image problem. Students perceive much of physics as irrelevant to their lives or they believe that physics understanding is beyond them. My hope is with the new sustainability movement, the good PR of the environmental movement will spill over into the physical sciences. A firm understanding of physics along with a keen sense for human behavior could do much to make America a more sustainable nation, both environmentally and economically.


That's a neat idea Bob. I have to wonder if the U.S. will one day move to national academic standards in math, science, and English, (though perhaps not fashion) and a national assessment.

Bob Compton Comments: I think moving to National Education Standards would have been a great idea in the 1970's.

Today, we need to catch up to the Global Education Standards as they are being set by India and China. Our children are going to be competing with Indian and Chinese children for the high-tech, high wage careers of the 21st century.

It seems only logical to me that our students need to at least be up to the same education standards, if not above the Indians and Chinese.

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