I read Thomas Friedman’s post “Can’t We Do Better” and enjoyed this posted comment from NYT and Readers’ Picks. You might, too.
I’m a professor of math at a Big Ten university. I follow these discussions and I am utterly disheartened. Nearly everything being said is irrelevant and unverified. So Shanghai students can shine like the sun at fourteen years of age and ace all the tests. How many of them go on to become serious scientists, inventors or entrepreneurs? The glory of our system was that it allowed students to follow a passion, to pursue one subject even at the expense of other subjects. The desire to pursue that one passion then motivated the student to learn what was needed to gain entrance to the programs they wanted to study in. Asian systems and many others always excelled in producing students who performed splendidly in standard tests and lagged in producing creative scientists, artists, writers and other creative personnel. We are pushing our system in that direction and we are noticing that no one is going into science any longer. Well that is predictable. Our students are a little at a time moving up in their performance in standard exams and moving away from the professions that created the new industries that fueled our economy. Alas we are becoming more like everyone else, but fortunately slowly enough that we just might survive this wrongheaded plunge toward the standard the stressful and the uninteresting,