america2029

Posts Tagged ‘waiting for superman’

Waiting for Superman?

In Education, Innovation, Program Launch on October 6, 2012 at 4:26 am

America 2029

Davis Guggenheim named his movie on the plight of education Waiting for “Superman” because of the childlike hope that people seem to have that someone (some thing?) will come and fix the system.

The U.S. education system has been described as “broken,” “in crisis,” and “failing.”  These are strong words.  Apparently government officials and businesses have decided that education must get us out of our current global crisis, where Americans are reportedly unable to compete globally.

Compared to other developed nations, our test scores clearly lag.  It should be pointed out, however, that in many of those nations, individuals have highly restricted ranges of choice, and students are made to feel the stress of the nation in their performance records.

Davis Guggenheim notes that American students rank first in confidence, despite their low performance.  I would argue that confidence and optimism are probably stronger predictors of success than test scores.  All the data that I have seen strongly suggest that this is so.  Imposing the stress of our nation on the students—as other nations do—would only lower self-esteem.  It is the positive American spirit that has been the source of our innovation in the past.

I hope that the irony of the title has not escaped Guggenheim and the educational community: There is no Superman! People are waiting for the impossible to happen.  Clearly there are many social needs that education can address—and it will continue to do so.  However, just because educators are not superhuman does not mean that they have failed our nation in their duty.

Let’s check the official record, as recorded by the National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the U.S. Department of Education.  Over the last twenty years:

  • Dropout rates are down.
  • Number of math and science courses taken are up.
  • Number of AP courses taken are up.
  • Average SAT scores are flat (math up and reading down).
  • Numbers of African American and Hispanic students getting college degrees and graduate degrees has risen dramatically in the last 10 years, suggesting that high schools are successfully preparing them.

Even the flat SAT scores are not of concern, in that there has been an increase, during this time period, in the number of students taking these tests.  As more students take the SATs, less talented students now have the opportunity to participate in the program, creating downward pressure on average scores.  This is a statistical phenomenon.  You would expect scores to be lowered during this time period, and yet they have remained flat, defying the downward pressure.

My point is this: Educators have continued to make steady progress, but not at the same rate as other developed nations, many of which place undue stress on students.  The problem is that this progress has been linear—as most human progress through history has been.

Human technology grows exponentially, but individuals learn information, day by day, in a linear fashion.  Critics are blaming educators because they and their students can’t keep pace with technology.  Teachers haven’t been able to program their students for nonlinear growth.  Yet, all throughout business, the problem is the same: Humans haven’t figured out how to grow exponentially.

Actually, students today—the Millennial generation—are better equipped than most adults to handle this exponential growth of knowledge.  It is true that they memorize fewer facts, including such basics as the fact that Canada is north of the United States.  At the same time, they can “Google” anything they want and provide you with the answers that you seek for today’s global world.

How, then, will America deal with the need for exponential growth of human talent? Neither schools nor businesses are providing this urgently needed growth.

America 2029 will be our nation’s Superman.  It will provide the breakthrough tools so that humans can process data at exponential rates.  It derives these super powers from a near-certain event that will occur in 2029, as technology continues to grow exponentially with absolute mathematical precision.