Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thomas Friedman - Still Clueless But Showing Signs of Improvement

In the NY Times, Thomas Friedman quotes from an article by Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson and points to the real cause of our educational problems. The following are my comments concerning the article.

I am glad to see that some individuals have the courage to address the problems in education honestly. As Mr. Friedman quotes from Mr. Samuelson's article (Washington Post), "the larger cause of failure is almost unmentionable", which is "lack of student motivation" to learn! Mr. Samuelson states, it is "not the fault of teachers and schools",and Mr. Friedman suggests the problem stems from our cultural values or lack thereof."Values matter", as Mr. Friedman points out. Until we focus on this and address it throughout the country, education will not improve.

It is not about more money as is evidenced by the amounts of funds poured into education throughout the years and the poor results attained. It is not about bad teachers, unless you honestly believe that there are so many poor educators around the country who don't want to or know how to educate their students.

We must stop playing the education game of being politically correct but traveling on the wrong road of reform and address the cultural issues influencing our students that result in poor performance in school. We must acknowledge the lack of motivation to learn as the focal point of education reform. Standards must be in place in our schools that will ensure student success if adhered to. Our culture (and schools) tolerates too many student behaviors that ensure failure such as high absenteeism,apathy, lack of hard work and application.

It is telling how Mr. Samuelson states the larger cause of educational failure, "lack of student motivation" "is almost unmentionable". Yet, we must be honest and address the issue if educational reform will be successful. Otherwise, we are spinning our wheels in the "Race to the Top".

You can access Mr. Friedman's article at
(include the question mark at the end).

James Calantjis

Student motivation or lack thereof is not a static condition but is affected by classroom and school conditions.

The research clearly shows that motivation and engagement is significantly increased when students are in smaller classes, and disciplinary referrals significantly decreased.

Students are much more involved in classroom discussion when they have sufficient time to participate; and much more on task. They are also able to develop a real relationship with their teachers when they feel like their teachers are able to know them well, and care about their success.

Having a small class size is particularly important for poor and minority students, which is why the excessive (and still increasing) class sizes in NYC are a disgrace and should not be considered morally acceptable by anyone who truly cares about narrowing the achievement gap.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters

I don't agree with a good bit of what he says, but at least he is willing to say that the problem with education in America is NOT just teachers, unions, schools..... He could add to the "quick fix" list, higher test scores will mean students are learning more.

Lisa N.

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