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Competitive Disadvantage

Watch this uplifting video promoting the Common Core State Standards. I found a link to it on the facebook page of PARCC, one of the assessment consortia working to develop tests for the CCSS.

I am struck by the propaganda in this video. One woman says we are adopting the CCSS to “make sure America maintains a competitive edge.” And here I thought it was about helping students learn!

The statistics at the beginning also say a lot about our national self-esteem. Any psychologist would tell you that constantly comparing yourself to others and trying to “measure up” is not a healthy outlook. Just because Shanghai has 5,000 high rises and we only built two in LA does not mean we are failing as a country. What does that have to do with educational standards? Maybe it is a good thing we did not build more high rises. Maybe that is not what LA needed.

Is it possible that these countries were not motivated by the need to out perform their neighbor? What it is we are competing for exactly?

I am not sure, but I do know our national self-esteem is low and as a result, we feel very threatened by other countries’ high rises and high-speed rails. Perhaps we need to follow some positive thinking advice,

“Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.” Unknown

What do we have?

  1. Andrew
    May 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    It appears that the educators in the video need a lesson in both history and economics, with an emphasis on the global labor market.

    Hewlett Packard didn’t move operations to Vietnam because the Vietnamese labor force is smarter than the Chinese or the American labor force, it did so because it is much cheaper. Compared to the US, the cost of labor is so low in Vietnam that Hewlett Packard has invested in a technical school to educate workers currently less skilled than their American counterparts.

    I hate to burst the educational bubble, but the adoption implementation of the CCSS will not solve the problem of a global labor market. If current science and math literate workers at companies such as Intel and IBM aren’t able to compete for jobs with their peers in India or Russia, then fundamental problem isn’t educational but economic and political. In short, the US will not become a more competitive mecca of industry until (1)the cost of production and transportation of goods from other regions cuts dramatically into corporate profits and (2)the American public undergoes a transformation of values (from distressed consumption to sustainable contentment.)

    As for references to high rises and high speed trains elsewhere in the world, these were the result of peculiar economic,environmental, and political conditions. Post-war Europe and Japan faced challenges very different from Nebraska or California! Among other things, personal automobiles were not affordable, land (space) was very limited, and the governments were not politically pressured by the automobile and oil industry lobbies. The Europeans and Japanese developed public transportation and rail systems because they had to. For the past 100 years Americans have focused almost exclusively on the automobile, trucking and airline industries (oil based) because they could.

    The idea–intimated by the video–that Americans lag behind in bullet trains and high rises due to educational deficiencies is simply wrong. We forget that, more often than not, necessity is the mother of invention. Likewise the attempt to play “catch-up” by implementation of Common Core State Standards is wrongheaded. It’s Washington (Congress) that needs to wake up.

    The US faces a complex web of social, economic, and political problems that adults expect children to resolve by mastering more skills, taking more tests and going to college. Talk about passing the buck! What makes us think that tweaking 4th grade math competency areas will ensure all students access to health care or a bed to sleep in? While I believe that reform of education is needed, without focus on implementation of other programs and reforms at the state and national level it is at best a distracting palliative.

  2. May 14, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Good points

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