Duncan on Education

My friend Angie has a post about a UNESCO conference in Paris her daughter attended.  There are some interesting ideas in the notes her daughter took.  My favorite is this:

“The best way to build consensus is to get teachers’ opinions on reform.”

Seems pretty obvious to me, but what do I know?

Angie also has a link (which didn’t work when I tried it) to Secretary Duncan’s speech at the conference.  It contained some sobering facts:

One quarter of U.S. high school students drop out or fail to graduate on time. Almost one million students leave our schools for the streets each year. That is economically unsustainable and morally unacceptable.

… 75 percent of young Americans, between the ages of 17 to 24, are unable to enlist in the military today because they have failed to graduate from high school, have a criminal record, or are physically unfit.

Immigrants now constitute nearly half of America’s PhD scientists and engineers, even though they constitute only 12 percent of the workforce overall.

He also makes some interesting statements, including this one.

The United States cannot, acting by itself, dramatically reduce poverty and disease or develop sustainable sources of energy. America alone cannot combat terrorism or curb climate change. To succeed, we must collaborate with other countries.

Those new partnerships require American students to develop better critical thinking abilities, cross-cultural understanding, and facility in multiple languages. They also will require U.S. students to strengthen their skills in science, technology, engineering, and math—the STEM fields that anchor much of our innovation in the global economy.

I wonder where and how he thinks our young people are going to learn critical thinking if they are given multiple choice tests, if they are evaluated on their abilities to regurgitate information.

He goes on to describe K-12 education in the US:

We have more than two million children enrolled in preschool programs, 100,000 public schools, 49 million K-12 students, more than three million teachers, and 13,800 school districts—all of it largely administered and funded by local governments.

Fewer than 2,000 high schools in the United States—a manageable number—produce half of all its dropouts. These “dropout factories” produce almost 75 percent—three-fourths—of our dropouts from the minority community, our African-American and Latino boys and girls.

Of course, Duncan goes on to talk about how the Administration’s plan is going to solve problems by instituting things like the Common Core standards and having a Race to the Top.  But even there he says some interesting things.

If you haven’t read the speech, I urge you to.

Thanks, Angie, for the post.


2 thoughts on “Duncan on Education

  1. Critical thinking is a crucial skill to impart to our students. Students today except whatever they’re are offered and consider newspapers and wiki pages to be truth without every questioning their accuracy.
    Our students must be taught to question, form their own conclusions and not take the opinions of others as the truth without considering it for themselves first.

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