“Houston…We Have A Problem.”

That cryptic phrase was the actual message sent by Astronaut, Jack Swigert on April 13, 1970 to NASA Mission Control in Houston, Texas. As you will see here, it was a definitely a problem. The rocket was over 200,000 miles from earth and heading toward the moon when an huge explosion occurred on board. The process by which the rocket was turned around using brilliant engineering tactical skills resulting in a successful return back to planet Earth was miraculous.

The question is: Does America have the brainpower today to meet such challenges?

Now that I have your attention, let’s consider the problem. The immediate problem we have has to do with the lowering of academic standards in our schools (and colleges) over the last 40 years. What kind of preparation do high school students get for college or for life in general, for that matter?

More and more American colleges have incoming freshman that are flat out not prepared for college level work. Even professor’s at the most competitive Ivy League schools see the diminishing writing, reading and critical thinking skills their students have. Why is that?

For an in-depth answer to that question, you can read the insightful, exhaustive and extensive research by Charlotte Iserbyt. Her tome, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America is where to start.

There are a myriad of good solutions to the problem. But like most things, it will need a consensus that there is a problem and an interest in the solutions. A teacher’s ability to teach is obviously important. But teaching a classroom of diverse personalities is not easy.  It takes a special person who has the passion and ability to teach and inspire effectively. As I talk with high school students I learn that their interest in various subjects often depends upon the teacher’s ability to engage and motivate them.  It may not even be a subject they had an interest in before taking the class. Are you a student? Is that true?    

Another challenge that principals and superintendents have is that school systems are required to meet the state and federal rules and regulations of the Departments of Education. Ms Iserbyt does an excellent job of pointing out the problems there.  Do you think that government may have overreached and put both the teachers and students at an extreme disadvantage?

Parents should learn if the curriculum being taught is what the student needs to learn. Is it time to abolish the Federal Department of Education and return education planning to the states, and more importantly the school districts? Can we rely on the states to bring accountability home where it belongs?

Nevertheless, in the final analysis, isn’t learning a life long activity? As Saint Augustine once wrote, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page.” Think about how you can leave the world better than you found it when you arrived.

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