Jonathan Kahane: ‘Kicking the can down the road’ in education is wrong
To the editor:
As the days grow shorter and the nights become cooler, rumors of school beginning again can be heard throughout the land. In fact, since the latter part of July, I have noticed stores offering “Back to School” sales. (This phenomenon possibly represents the most successful aspect of the “Ed. Biz” as labeled by the great Harvard professor of statistics and comedian/satirist Tom Lehrer.)
Along with talk concerning the bountiful harvest and the fall foliage, we hear students whispering about what fashions are “in,” which teams will be successful, who will be dating who (by the way, that should be “whom.”) … and, oh yeah, which courses to take.
At the same time, we hear the “experts” talking about why our education system continues to fall behind other countries in the world — particularly in math and science.
The usual culprits are cited — short school year, short school day, too little homework, too much homework, and on and on. We are told that not enough students are graduating. (The graduation rate hovers around 60 percent in some cities.)
This problem seems to be present from the grade school level through college and beyond. The “experts” say we have to increase the graduation rate.
This is only part of the problem. Increasing the graduation rate might even contribute to the problem. We have to increase the graduation rate of students who have earned that distinction. By allowing students to “get through” without having achieved the goals necessary, we are doing a disservice to everyone. This “passing on of the problem” and allowing underqualified students to progress to the next level is detrimental.
I have been teaching at the college level (graduate and undergraduate) for more than 40 years. I have students who are unable to read and write. I have others who are unable to do basic arithmetic. Many of these very students are upperclassmen.
We have been “kicking the can down the road” so that it becomes the next person’s problem for too long. Now it is everyone’s problem.