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A Nation at Risk; The Crisis in Education

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Theodore Larkin Professor Rick Rubinson Sociology of Education 9/10/13 A Nation at Risk: The Crisis in Education As a U.S. citizen, one can easily be deceived into thinking that our educational system is top-notch, yielding industrious, thriving individuals as we pave the way in a progressively scientific world. These false assumptions are not completely unfounded as the U.S. spends more on education than any other nation and is home to the most confident students in the world; however, our perf
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  Theodore Larkin Professor Rick Rubinson Sociology of Education 9/10/13 A Nation at Risk: The Crisis in Education As a U.S. citizen, one can easily be deceived into thinking that our educational system is top-notch, yielding industrious, thriving individuals as we pave the way in a  progressively scientific world. These false assumptions are not completely unfounded as the U.S. spends more on education than any other nation and is home to the most confident students in the world; however, our performance on the global scale is merely average when compared to other leading nations, making reform a necessity. Educational movements such as former president Bush’s    No Child Left Behind   project and President Obama’s  Race to the Top  project have failed to significantly change our educational statistics. The Waiting for Superman  documentary and the commentaries by Robert Samuelson, George Will, and Etienne LeGrande explain how the future of our education system needs to motivate all students to learn and experience the eye opening wonders of the world around them regardless of their ethnicity, parental marriage status, location or socioeconomic situation.   George Will, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, focuses on the relationship  between African American home life and education in his article published in the Washington Post:  For black children, daunting divides in achievement and family life.  One tragic imbroglio mentioned in his article that sets itself apart from other current American issues is that “ 70% of African American children are born out of wedlock. ”    Will goes on to explain that that only 35% of African American children share a home with two parents, partially describing why, while only 24% of Caucasian 8 th  graders watch greater than four hours of television per day, 59% of their black classmates do. Referencing an article written by Patrick F. Fagan, Will wrote:   “ Out-of-wedlock birth has  been shown to decrease the health of newborns, increase newborns chances of dying, retard children's cognitive development, decrease educational achievement, decrease job attainment, increase behavior problems, lower impulse control, warp social development; and increase the crime rate in a community”.  Will then goes on to shares a report from the Educational Testing Service about  The Black-White Achievement Gap: When Progress Stopped, written by Paul E. Barton and Richard J. Coley. The report states that: “By age 4, the average child in a professional family hears about 20 million more words than the average child in a working-class family and about 35 million more than the average child in a welfare family”. Will concludes that “About 90% of the difference in schools' proficiencies are due to five factors: the number of days students are absent from school, the number of hours students spend watching television, the number of pages read for homework, the quantity and quality of reading material in the students' homes and, much the most important, the presence of two parents in the home.”  Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson begins his article School Reform's Meager Results  by stating that the waves of reform haven't produced significant educational gains and the archetypal elucidations don't explain our lack of progress. While majority of the public may believe that schools and teachers are responsible for the student ’ s lack of success, Samuelson suggests that the real cause of failure is the rapidly decreasing student motivation: Students, after all, have  to do the work, , If they aren't motivated, even capable teachers may fail. Motivation comes from many foundations: inquisitiveness, parental expectations, ambition, stimulating or challenging teachers, peer pressure and the aspirations to get into a “good” college. Samuelson explains that in a 2008 survey of public high school teachers 21%  judged student absenteeism a serious problem and 29 % cited student apathy. Corresponding to Samuelson, Etienne R. LeGrand’s article entitled How to motivate students when culture attacks ambition also focuses decline in overall student motivation over the last few decades as the main reason schools fail. LeGrand goes on to references a few alarming statistics: “ O ne in five students says he doesn’t try as hard as he can in school because he is worried about what others will say and only 32% of teens say their friends believe it’s important to get good grades while just 20% say it’s important to go to one of the bes t colleges.” Le Grand explains that the authority of teachers and schools has  been compromised due to increased peer pressure, increases in stereotypes of school  being “uncool” and decreased student motivation.   Lack of incentive among adolescents occurs because more students don't enjoy school, don't apply themselves in school and as a result don't do well in school. George Will expressed his support of the importance of student motivation at home and school through his 5 concluding factors: the number of days students are absent from school, the number of hours students spend watching television, the number of pages read for homework, the quantity and quality of reading material in the students' homes and, much the most important, the presence of two parents in the home. A student would become much more motivated if: he/she didn’t miss school often, he/she spent less time watching television, he/she read more books for homework, the quality of the books in his/her  home was increased, or two parents lived in his/her home. Robert Samuelson and Etienne LeGrand both expressed their belief in the importance of student motivation at home and school by suggesting that the real cause of educational failure is the decreasing amount student motivation. Collectively the three commentaries point to student motivation both at school and at home as the most important issue in addressing school reform. The charter school movement described in Waiting for Superman is similar to all three commentaries but is most closely related to the George Will article since it touches upon lack of proper home life for all kids, students dropping out at young ages, the issue of affording college or even private school, and the amount of government spending which is not correctly being utilized on our Education system. The  No Child Left Behind   movement is a federal law that mandates a number of programs aimed at improving U.S. education in elementary, middle and high schools by increasing accountability standards. This law focuses solely on increasing standardized test scores although it hasn't been successful in enhancing public education, as evidenced by lack of significantly better results in standardized testing. This form of education is severely flawed and biased in that teachers now care only about student standardized test results instead of how much of the content the student comprehends. The  Race to the Top  movement focuses on educational reform through competition at the State level. The State winners are supposed to act as examples for school districts throughout the country to follow. The  Race to the Top  movement is slightly similar to the three commentaries as it provides motivation for all states while the commentaries focus on motivation for all students. This form of education is severely flawed and biased in that teachers now care only about student standardized test results instead of how much of the content the student
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