American students’ poor performance in the classroom is a threat to the strength of our great democracy. Students in elementary school, high school, and college have huge gaps in their knowledge of American history and in their understanding of the rights and privileges that being a citizen of the United States bestows upon them.
Because many students don’t know what our predecessors went through in their fight to create our nation, they don’t appreciate the freedoms and the opportunities that they have, freedoms and opportunities that people in many others countries can only dream of enjoying.
Here are a few of the frightening results of a survey conducted by Common Core, an organization that works to improve education in America:
• Nearly a quarter of the students surveyed could not identify Adolf Hitler, and 10 percent believed that hewas a munitions manufacturer.
• Fewer than half know that the Civil War took place from 1861 to 1865.
• A third do not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of
speech and religion.
Those numbers are scary, and the performance of American students is so dismal that ACT (formerly known as American College Testing) reported that only 23% of the class of 2009 was ready to earn at least a “C” average or better in first-year college courses in the four subject areas tested on the ACT – English, math, reading and science.
That 23% statistic is sad, but it actually represents an increase from 22% in 2008. Students are scoring those horrible numbers in spite of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the huge educational program from the federal government that’s supposed to guarantee that every student receives a strong education and graduates from high school with the knowledge necessary to succeed in college or the skills necessary to prosper in the workplace.
In the opinion of many educators, NCLB has actually been harmful to education because it puts too much emphasis on preparing students for standardized tests in reading and math. “Teaching to the test” takes away important time from all the other material that students need to learn before they head for further education and the workforce.
It’s not just history that American students don’t know and understand. They also don’t do well in math, science, grammar, and critical thinking. So, when these students leave school, many are unprepared for the valuable jobs that are available to them, and their lack of knowledge hurts our economy and their own earning power.
The days when “A strong back and a weak mind” could guarantee steady employment have faded into the history books. Even in these times of high unemployment, many businesses are having trouble finding enough qualified workers. As an example, a report entitled “California’s Forgotten Middle Skill Jobs,” released in October 2009, said that “in the clinical laboratory scientist profession alone, the supply of workers through 2016 will fall short by 559 percent.”
Ironically, the writer of that statement is an example of the problem within American education because no shortfall of anything can ever be 559%. The greatest possible shortfall of anything is 100%. If you need 100 laboratory scientists, and you have zero, your shortfall is 100%. If you need 559 laboratory scientists, and you have zero, your shortfall is still 100%.
Students’ deficiencies in English, science, reading, and math are a huge problem, but students do have the opportunity to learn those subjects. That’s rarely true for the law. Many bar associations have tried to persuade our schools to include training in the law, but hardly any school districts in the entire country have been wise enough to realize that an understanding of our legal system is a life skill that everyone needs.
Because people don’t know the law, they frequently fear the law. When people fear the law, they’re less likely to stand up for their legal rights when they do suffer a personal injury.
When our Founders wrote the Bill Of Rights, their goal was to protect the rights of every individual. The Bill of Rights is still in place, and it still protects every victim of personal injury or wrongful death.
Because many people fear the legal system and because they believe that the law exists only to protect the wealthy and the big corporations, many victims of dangerous drugs, defective products, and SUV rollovers fail to promptly hire a personal injury attorney to seek compensation for their damages. Like the poor performance of our students, the widespread fear of our legal system is a failure of our educational institutions.
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