Two interesting pieces about education in the NY Times today, one in The Week in Review section, called Testing the Chinese Way, by Elisabeth Rosenthal, and the other an opinion piece, We're No. 1(1)! by Thomas Friedman: whether intentional or not, to me they seemed rather companionable.
Rosenthal recounts the experience of her own children when enrolled in an international school in Beijing. It was, she writes, "a mostly Western elementary school curriculum with the emphasis on discipline and testing that typifies Asian educational styles." Her point seems to be that neither of her children suffered unduly under such a regiman, although her son did have a year when he required "endless parental cheerleading" and that when they returned to the States, the kids chose a more traditional program because they preferred the feedback that regular testing provided them. The question of whether such a test-centered approach actually benefited her children is left unanswered; it seems that the best she can say is that they were not harmed by it. To me the obvious follow up question is would we be able to say the same about those kids who may not have endless parental cheerleading?
Just a few pages later in the Sunday paper, Thomas Friedman addresses the fact that the USA is not even in the top ten of Newsweek Magazine's top 100 countries in the world. (We're number 11.) Friedman attributes the poor ranking to our education system, and cites Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson's opinion that when it comes to education reform the fault may not lie with "bad teachers, weak principals, or selfish unions," but rather with a lack of student motivation. In a recent piece Samuelson wrote, "Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don't like school, don't work hard and don't do well."
Where are those parental cheerleaders when you need them?