I wrote a column back in January that discussed what's wrong with our schools and this week's edition of Newsweek magazine brought that point home once again in their cover story, "How Dumb Are We?" It was a sobering report to say the least.
Newsweek gave 1,000 Americans the U.S. Citizenship Test and 38 percent failed. They concluded that the country's future is imperiled by our ignorance and I have to agree. After leading the world in most educational categories for decades, we began to decline a couple of decades ago and that decline continues today. And as scary as a 38 percent failure rate is, people responding to individual questions fared much worse.
For example, one third of the people didn't know when the Declaration of Independence was adopted. 65 percent didn't know what happened at the Constitutional Convention. Eighty percent didn't know who was president during World War I. Forty percent didn't know who we fought in World War II.
Eighty-six percent didn't know how many voting members are in the U.S. House of Representatives. 73 percent didn't know what the main concern of the United States was during the Cold War. Sixty-one percent didn't know how long a U.S. Senator's term is. Eighty one percent couldn't identify one power reserved for the Federal government. Sixty three percent didn't know how many justices serve on the Supreme Court. And, 94 percent of the people didn't know how many amendments there are to the Constitution.
These are the same people who are raising hell every day about the condition of our country.
That's a pretty scary notion.
There's a difference between dumb and stupid. Dumb is a lack of knowledge. Stupid is knowing what to do but doing the opposite anyway. All of us do stupid things, even though we sometimes don't realize they're stupid until they blow up in our face. After the fact, we know we shouldn't have done or said what we did at the time because we were operating from an emotional perspective rather than an intellectual one. Our heart took over our head and that's usually not a good thing.
But being dumb is just not knowing. I hear people make outrageous statements every day that are based on fiction rather than fact and yet they say it with a fervor and a conviction that persuades other people to their point of view, even though that point of view is dead wrong. Some television and radio commentators come to mind here.
But it's one thing to realize we have a problem and quite another to fix it. All kinds of people talk freely about the problems we have in this country but few offer concrete suggestions or ideas about how to correct them.
So how do we fix ignorance? Like most other things, we start at the core and work outwardly and the core of every young person's life is their family. Parents need to become more involved with their child's education. They need to sit down with them every day after they get home from school and talk about what they did and what they learned and help them prepare for school tomorrow. Parents should reward positive performance and not accept sub-par performance.
Parents should be just as interested in their child's grades as they are their athletic accomplishments because only a handful will go on to make athletics their career.
Schools have to go back to the basics. Many teachers, even at the college level, have quit assigning written work for their students because they can't read their writing. Reading, writing, and arithmetic needs to once again be the anchor for every school system in America. And if you don't do the work, you don't pass. That was a common occurrence when I was in school, a very rare one today.
Educators need to stop falling in love with the latest fad and get back to the basics. Online education is the worst of these fads and some leader somewhere needs to step forward and say that out loud. It's possible today to receive a college education without spending a single hour in a traditional classroom with other students and a professor in front of you and I think that's not only a travesty but a tragedy as well.
Why have we gotten so far off base and sunk so low educationally? All you ever have to do is follow the money. We have an ever increasing number of distance learning and online classes because everyone else is doing it and if we don't do it, we lose students to the ones who do. God forbid that anyone stand on principle and say we're not going to do it because it's just not right and it's not in the educational best interest of the student. We follow along like sheep to the slaughter, concerned that if we don't play the game too, we'll lose students and that will mean we might ultimately lose our jobs.
Whatever happened to the idea of just doing the right thing?
If we don't start soon, some day in the not too distant future it's going to be too late.