by Peary Perry
have just returned from another trip to Germany and the Netherlands.
This time, I did not want to drive myself through the countryside,
so I choose to take a train. Let me tell you, those folks know how
to do it. The trains are clean, fast and most of all on time. If yours
is scheduled to leave at 12:02, then you had better be on the platform
waiting with your luggage because the train will leave at 12:02. Not,
12:03, the train will leave at 12:02.
When you are trying to get to smaller towns, you get stuck in various
stages of commuter traffic. On one run I noticed that students got
on (where the school was located) and rode several miles to get to
where ever they lived. I asked them about it and they told me in very
good English that they rode the train both to and from school each
These were ordinary looking kids, clean cut for the most part, joking
and having fun, but serious about their studies and eager to talk.
It was evident that they were interested in obtaining a good education
so that their lives would be better and they would have more opportunities
as an adult.
First off, I was impressed that these kids spoke English. I do not
speak German or any foreign language, so they are out in front on
that score. Secondly, they did not seem to think school or learning
was a bore and should be avoided at all costs. Quite the contrary,
they thought an education was necessary for their future. They did
not suffer from any visible forms of low self esteem. In fact these
kids looked really good.
Now contrast this with our system in the states. At this time we have
approximately 30 million illiterate citizens in this country. This
is roughly 10% of our total population. You know a large number of
them passed through our school system. My question is, how did they
graduate if they could not read or write? These people cannot read
a prescription, an employment application, or the instructions on
how to safely use any of our everyday appliances without causing serious
bodily harm to themselves. I was thinking about this being dangerous
this past weekend when I was trying to fix my gas barbeque grill.
I can imagine what might happen if you could not read how to properly
install the propane tank and get the burners to operate correctly.
This is a disaster waiting to happen.
No, what we have done to a lot of our young folks in this country
is to make education a four letter word. We have bent over backwards
to save the child from some form of emotional scarring that we created
educational cripples. We have been telling our kids that itís ok to
believe two and two are five, if that makes you feel good about yourself.
I can tell you that those kids on the train knew that two and two
added up toÖ..and it wasnít five.
No, we have been focused on promoting our kids through the system
so they donít have any sense of learning deficiencies and then turning
them out into a world that does not tolerate stupidity. I am saddened
by the Ďman on the streetí interviews which late night talk show host
seem to think are funny. I think it is tragic that a large segment
of our society cannot identify the leaders of this country or what
the pressing political and economic issues affecting all of us are
in todayís world. It isnít funny, itís very sad.
By not placing an emphasis on the importance of an education, we are
falling further and further behind kids in other parts of the world.
Trying to eliminate competition in school games by not keeping score
is no way to prepare our youngsters for the rigors of the modern day
business world. Not requiring someone to learn the course before being
promoted to the next grade is no way to turn out a quality product
that is qualified to compete in the world market. Fifty years ago,
you might have been able to get by...living in a small town where
it didnít matter if you could read or write, but with todayís global
economy you need to read, write and do math or youíll be stuck with
a job vocabulary that includes phrases such as Ö ďYou want to supersize
Our national do-gooders who cry out that the government should and
will protect all of our innocent children from the ravages of a competitive
society should get out of their ivory towers and look around the world.
They arenít going to like the view.
But then I donít expect them to change anything, this is their idea
in the first place. The dumbing down of America, start to love it,
because it will be with us for a long, long time.
Letters From North America
July 3, 2008 column
Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers
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