Friday, December 16, 2011

Mind Games (Part I)

The news and political conversations revolve around education reform almost constantly. The Obama administration has started his vision for education “The Race to the Top”. When Bush was President he passed “No Child Left Behind”. The U.S. already spends more per capita on education (nearly 12,000 dollars per student annually) than any other nation in the world, but this certainly has not correlated to success in the classroom. According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), out of 65 industrialized nations the United States ranks 30th in math, 18th in reading, 23nd in science, and 29th in problem solving when testing a sample of 15 to 16 year old students. This does not bode well for the United States who currently has the largest economy in the world (by far). The United States is on the decline and throwing more money at education has not solved the high dropout rate and it has done nothing to bolster academic achievement. How can this be, it makes little sense, right? Wrong, the U.S. government is not thinking about this problem in the correct context.

It does not matter how much money the government throws at education, if the curriculum and teachers are bad then the students will suffer. Money is just one variable out of hundreds that can determine a good or poor education. But the single most important variable in the equation for a successful education is the student followed closely by the family. This is where education starts and finishes. If a student and his or her family have a poor attitude towards education then it really does not matter how much money is thrown at these students because they will fail. Education does fail students, but students also fail education. The combination of these two things has led to disastrous results. I have harped about, in the past, how education fails students. Today, I am going to talk about how students fail education. Students and children (along with their families) who have the right mind set and a positive attitude can succeed even in poor educational environments.

What is needed for kids to have the right attitude? They need to stop thinking about today, and start thinking about the future and where they want to be in the next 5, 10, 20, or 50 years. To have the right attitude they need to visualize the future and understand the consequences of the actions they take today. It is all about putting mind over matter to succeed.

I have been very critical of both political and corporate leadership. One reason for this is because our leaders lack strategic vision and the ability to visualize the consequences their actions and policies will have on future generations. This is particularly true when talking about the future fiscal ramifications of policies and actions. Many leaders make decisions based on what is best for them as influenced by special interests. Still, many leaders are just unable to visualize the future. If they could, then politicians would not have passed ObamaCare or the Recovery Act which have already had major negative fiscal ramifications on our nation. Corporate leaders enacting diversity quotas do not see how that is making them less competitive. Sure, corporate and political leaders set fiscal goals, but they are not the ones that have to do the work to attain those goals. A monkey can set goals they do not have to achieve. The bottom line is that we do not want our future leaders falling into the same trap as this current generation of leaders – lacking the ability to visualize the future.

My Book: Is America Dying? (, Barnes and Noble)

1 comment:

  1. Identifying and addressing the hundreds of "variables" involved in quality education seems the fundamental challenge of educational reform.

    Your observations on being "future oriented" reminded me of an interesting book I read several years back. Harvard sociologist Edward Banfield wrote a book called The Unheavenly City, in which he attempted to explain the persistence of urban poverty. Instead of the "blaming society" approach so common at that time, he argued that orientation towards time explained the rise of economic classes. A person focused on "what's happening now" does not really consider that a good education NOW will lead to better opportunities later, that if they smoke crack NOW they might be addicted later, or that if they engage in sexual intercourse NOW they may be a parent later. Check it out.