Could Embracing the US Education System Be the Answer to Reform?

Were you shocked when you watched Steve Jobs’ Standford commencement speech and learned he was adopted by  working-class parents, dropped out of college, and still became one of the most successful and influential men of today? In the article “When Will We Learn” by Fareed Zakaria in this month’s Time magazine, Zakaria notes that although Jobs’ accomplishments are outstanding, the times were different when Jobs graduated in 1972 and dropping out then isn’t what it is today.

California schools, where Jobs attended school, were considered the finest in the country with great funding and equally great teachers. Look ahead to 2011, and Californian students are ranking at the bottom of the country and the U.S. is ranking 26th in the world among other education systems.

For however much our education system has changed, some things, points out Zakaria, remain the same.

First, an education is still “the fastest way up the socioeconomic ladder.” College grads have an unemployment rate of 4%, compared to high school dropouts living with a 14% unemployment rate. Keeping students in school and lowering our 25% dropout rate will better ensure these students that they have a place to rise to in this economy.

Secondly, maybe we’re looking too far and in too many places for the answer to education reform. There are so many ideas for education reforms in America it’s dizzying. Scrap the one we have and base our new system off Asia’s model? Get better teachers? Make better students? Integrate technology or ban it? Embrace America’s educational strengths? Maybe.

Zakaria was in the Asian educational system until he came to the U.S. for college. He says he learned an impressive base knowledge and was taught how to study hard and fast. However, when he got to college, he realized he wasn’t given the skills to think critically and therefore solve college-level problems. He suggests that instead of looking to something completely different than our American system, we should fix the educational system:


“by emphasizing the basics — like hard work — again but also by renewing its distinctly American character. We will succeed not by becoming more Asian but by becoming, as the writer James Fallows put it once, ‘more like us.'”

Teaching students skills in emotional intelligence encourages them to think critically, practice empathy, embrace teamwork, and get prepared for the unknown in school, life, and career. When we arm students with the skills they need to succeed socially and emotionally they are better prepared to learn and thrive in an academic environment. Smart students practice emotional intelligence.



“When Will We Learn,” by Fareed Zakaria. November 14, 2011. Time magazine.

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