Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Like many of my colleagues in higher education, I am accustomed to students whose math skills require remedial attention in a college environment. Increasingly I am alarmed to find more and more students with fundamental math and writing skills that are in desperate need of remediation. I am more alarmed that I have been in past due to the level of math skills absent, not just poorly understood, but missing altogether. However, math is not the only basic skill that is missing. Many students are unable, or mostly unable, to write a sentence with a capital letter to begin, and a period at the end. Assignments are sometimes submitted using the jargon and language that has been developed for texting, and for popular social media venues. In addition, many students do not read textbook assigned chapters, or instructions prior to submitting assignments. There is seemingly a huge disconnect between what we need to know to compete in the global workforce, as well as enough education to read and interpret a newspaper, choose from a menu, keep a checkbook in balance, etc. and what we do know. This is very scary considering what it takes to make a living in a difficult economy.
Having been a product of the U.S. public education system myself, and having had to work to through my own educational deficiencies in the past, I can attest that those who find themselves unprepared with respect to a quality education can indeed triumph in higher education given time, persistence, and encouragement.
However, I am increasingly afraid for our future generations given that we are not fixing our education system in this country nearly fast enough, if at all. My own K-12 education was sub-par at best, and with the current indicators from my perspective discouraging, it may be that the state of our education system is dire. We can no longer wring our hands and say that we might well lose a generation of children if we were to take the drastic steps to tear down our education system to its foundation, and begin again with a new model, because we have already lost a few if not several generations to an abysmally inadequate system.
I propose that we begin by rescuing our youth, one person at a time. By this I mean that I will pledge myself to helping each student individually, if at all possible, to begin the process that is bridging the gap between what they do know, and what they must know. Because I am very fond of all topics mathematical and scientific, this may be an opportunity that holds at least as much benefit for me, as it may for those who need the knowledge and the ability to apply it. Nothing feels quite like the learning process, and that is a good thing!