How Do We Fix America's Education System? These Kids Have Some Great Recommendations.

Here's how to get stronger.

Declarations of restoring America's dominance in the world makes for an effective political slogan, but calls for education reform largely go unheeded by policymakers preoccupied with other issues. In recent years, American academia has slid down the global ranking scales, and students have consistently scored lower in subjects like math and reading than their counterparts abroad. 

There are many opinions on just why American students aren't doing as well anymore, including mediocre teachers, poverty, and lack of federal support. But when investigative journalist Amanda Ripley looked at the statistics, none of these reasons really added up. So she took her questions to the experts — the students themselves. 

In a 2012 video from Pop Tech resurfaced by Upworthy last year, Ripley laid out her findings from her surveys of hundreds of American exchange students who studied abroad in public schools. Why, she asked, did they think American academia was falling behind? It boiled down to a few key factors that are still critically relevant today, which she laid out in the video below. 

These findings represent opportunities for positive improvement — and opportunities to invest in education practices that make sense for our students.

1. Elsewhere, school is more of a challenge.

"In the top performing countries in the world, school is just harder," Ripley said. "I don't mean more of it; in fact, American kids do more homework than most kids around the world. It's not about quantity, it's about quality. It's about the rigor...the rigor in how the teachers are selected and trained, the rigor of the content, the rigor of the whole business. School is serious business in these places."

2. Sports are leisure activities.

Sports are a huge part of school life. U.S. colleges frequently offer scholarships to prospective students based on their sporting ability. But hinging sports to education diverts the focus from school, according to Ripley.

"No country is like the U.S. when it comes to the obsession with children playing sports," she said. "We are training these children to revere and become professional athletes. It is a huge distraction from the business of schools."

3. Students truly believe that there's something in it for them.

"This," Ripley said, "might be the most important thing." In other countries, students believe that how they perform in school affects every detail of their future: from the kind of car they'll drive to "how interesting their lives are going to be." 

Whether these students enjoyed school or not was secondary, because they understood that taking education seriously was the first step to having the kind of lives they wanted for themselves. 

Cover image via The White House/ Samantha Appleton.

(H/T: Upworthy)


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