4.23.2014

I Agree with Ed Rendell x2

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-50gWcpzXyWI/US195PvmQBI/AAAAAAAAOx0/F-LAmbiDThE/s1600/Nation_of_Wusses.jpgWhen a topic gets covered in Time Magazine, you know it's gone mainstream.  I'm speaking of the growing backlash against standardized testing, which has led many parents to opt their kids out of testing. 

There's been standardized tests for eons, but it's this latest push - Common Core, designed to unify English and math standards nationwide in the US's fight to catch up to other nations whose kids are more advanced - that seems to have stressed out kids and parents alike.  I've heard it in my own neighborhood from friends of mine who've had to soothe their own freaked-out kids.

At an individual level, a parent's care of their own child is practically inscrutable, so I don't judge any one decision because I don't know the factors that went into it.  I do know that those who have shared their decision process have given reasons I find wholly satisfactory and quite commendable.

Still, writ large, I'm troubled.  It's not to anyone's benefit for a nine-year-old to be unnecessarily stressed.  Nor are standardized tests anywhere close to perfect in terms of preparing our kids.  And yet I find it disheartening that we as a nation have gone directly from wringing our hands about falling behind other countries to crying foul as soon as the remedy to our lagging status starts to hurt a little.  Especially when much of success comes from grinding through when things get hard. 

Former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell once famously said, when the NFL canceled an Eagles game due to snow, that we had become "a nation of wusses."  Less famously but perhaps more infamously, he was also quoted as saying, “The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium. They would have walked, and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.”

There's obviously more than a little racist overtone to his rant.  But there is a big kernel of truth in his statement.  If the kids in China (and Finland, Iran, and Chile) are pushing through advanced maths while kids in America recoil at the first sniff of rote memorization and tedious drills, guess who's going to be ahead in a generation?

One might argue that success is more than just routinized tasks, and that America excels (and the rest of the world struggles) in things like management, creativity, and innovation.  This is not an untrue statement, but neither it is a complete statement.  I fear our kids think the world is all about jumping right to VP of Marketing or Multimedia Mogul Extraordinaire or Chief Designer, when in fact the vast majority of professions are not that, and even those upper echelon jobs require some serious hard skills.

I recall that when I was a kid, I was business-happy, and my parents insisted that I get a hard degree (btw, when I say "hard," I mean quantitative, vs. not easy) and then an MBA later.  Of course, I didn't listen to them.  But I did take to heart the importance of acquiring hard skills, and so made sure that in any given semester I balanced soft skill classes (management, marketing) with hard skill classes (finance, accounting).  

For most of us, hard skills are, in fact, harder.  It's not fun for most people to master the sciences and maths and programming.  It doesn't come natural to memorize the periodic table or grind out calc equations.  But it's what we need to do to prepare for success.  And so it's not a bad thing for kids to learn at an early age to push through hard stuff, even if it's no fun and a little stressful. 
“The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything,” Rendell profoundly added. “If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium. They would have walked, and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.”

Read more at: http://nesn.com/2010/12/pennsylvania-governor-edward-rendell-calls-americans-wusses-says-chinese-would-do-calculus-on-way-to/
“The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything,” Rendell profoundly added. “If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium. They would have walked, and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.”

Read more at: http://nesn.com/2010/12/pennsylvania-governor-edward-rendell-calls-americans-wusses-says-chinese-would-do-calculus-on-way-to/
“The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything,” Rendell profoundly added. “If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium. They would have walked, and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.”

Read more at: http://nesn.com/2010/12/pennsylvania-governor-edward-rendell-calls-americans-wusses-says-chinese-would-do-calculus-on-way-to/
“The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything,” Rendell profoundly added. “If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium. They would have walked, and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.”

Read more at: http://nesn.com/2010/12/pennsylvania-governor-edward-rendell-calls-americans-wusses-says-chinese-would-do-calculus-on-way-to/
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