Education Olympics

According to Cisco CEO John Chambers, America has fallen behind in math and science. Here is a direct quote from an article appearing on CNET: Education and research. It is no longer accurate to say America is falling behind on education. We have fallen behind. We are slipping on nearly every international metric on math and science. Congress must ensure that funding for K-12 math and science education is a national priority. And if we prioritize federally sponsored research at universities while making it easier for foreign graduate students to stay in the United States, we will keep the best and brightest here.

If you haven’t noticed from my last name, it is Iranian and although I was born in the US I did get a chance to visit Iran when I was 2 and 9. Rumor has it I got very sick at age 2 and didn’t enjoy it much. Apparently I drank the water.

When I was 9 however I did enjoy the trip and I have vivid memories of the people and places. There were few paved roads when I was in Teheran but I hear that has changed now. The people were unbelievably nice to me as well.

The reason they were extra nice was that I spoke Farsi (the national language) with an American accent. This was fascinating to the kids my age. They had never heard an American accent before. There were some kids working in an ice cream shop that kept feeding me free ice cream in order to get me to talk. They were being entertained, not realizing that in the process I was developing a serious ice cream addiction (a problem I am still trying to shake 🙂 ).

I remember coming back home at night after a hard day of binging and seeing my cousins doing homework. My cousins were 6 and 7. I recall vividly that these kids had 4-5 hours of homework each night! This was staggering to me as at most I had one hour. This is also one of the reasons that Iranian kids partially educated in Iran had no problem with American math courses. They were years ahead. The same goes for science.

Now that I think about it I wonder why Iran isn’t farther ahead in the world. They should be a technology powerhouse. The reason they are not is probably because the government has not set up a system where entrepreneurs can flourish. In other words, even with very bright students, your society needs to have the right environment to succeed. This sentiment seems echoed by Chambers who says: “our economy remains the most innovative and dynamic in the world.”

Getting back to education, there is an article in the USA Today that details how parents and children don’t think they really need much more math and science education.

I am not sure that the average American student or parent realizes how far behind we all are. If I didn’t go to Iran when I was younger I may never have known  firsthand. I haven’t seen mainstream news stations or newspapers broadcasting how far behind we are in science in math and that is too bad. We should see an annual report card of the nation’s education on the news each year if not more often.

My view is that the United States is the greatest country in the world. A biased attitude but I am fine with that. If we are the best, we should act like the best. The best country has to have the best-educated students. There should be no exceptions. If we don’t have the same math and science education as the third world then what is wrong with us? What is the point of being such a powerful nation if we can’t use it to ensure our future?

American education (not including college) is considered a joke by students from many other countries. This is a very sad fact.

We have been landlocked for so long that I think we have forgotten to get out our telescopes and to look in different directions for countries that do it much better than we do.

In my opinion there should be worldwide competition for education and all countries should have to compete. Why don’t we establish an education Olympics. Sure it is nice that a hundred million of us can watch Olympic figure skating or downhill skiing but what is more important is how our children are educated. A proper education is the only way we can ensure our children can compete for jobs in the future.

My kids are young. It will be a few years before they go to school but I know that just about wherever I send them, the education won’t be as rigorous as what I saw my cousins go through in Iran.

We need to invest in serious education overhaul and not just tweak our system… We need to provide a distraction-free and in-depth education for all to remain this great nation we are today.

  • Gene Retske
    February 22, 2006 at 6:12 am

    Rich –
    Your comments about the sad state of affairs of the educational system in the US are very appropriate. There are reasons for this. Our system has become so bogged down in political correctness and sensitivity that all the competitiveness has been taken out of it. In many schools, grades are no longer given, or consideration is given for effort, not results. When I was a kid, we were encouraged to get good grades and to achieve.
    But, the big wakeup call came when the Russians launched the first Sputnik satellite, and won the space race. President John F. Kennedy made science and math a major priority, and throughout the 60s and 70s, our education system was on a mission to regain our superiority. Today, we have lost that competitive edge, and education is soft and ineffective.
    One possible solution is to use our greatest strength, competition, and open education to competition. This has been proposed, but the powerful teacher’s lobby, the NEA, has fought it tooth and nail, aided by ACLU lawsuits where ever vouchers and other competitive mechanisms have been introduced. The answer lies in you, and the millions of other parents who want your children to get a good solid education.
    I could go on for hours about this, and may, on my personal blog –
    Gene Retske

  • Rich Tehrani
    February 22, 2006 at 10:30 am

    Thank you for the feedback. I hope that the will of the parents can steer the government in the direction of better education. I am concerned with the lack of apparent concern on this issue. I hope parents everywhere wake up.

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