Longworth Makes the Case for Reform

Jim Longworth is a Triad-area columnist for YES! Weekly. He also hosts the weekly show “Triad Today” on ABC-45/MY-48. And in last week’s column, he made the case for not only reform in our public schools, but how we as Americans need to look at ourselves first before we can better serve our youth. Actually, in my opinion, he made a good case for better social studies education in our schools.

See this excerpt from his most recent column:

Recently Miss Teen South Carolina Lauren Caitlin Upton became the poster girl for the dumbing down of America when she uttered an incoherent response to a simple question. Asked why one-fifth of Americans cannot identify the United States on a world map, Upton replied, “I personally believe that some, uh, US Americans are unable to do because some, uh, people in our nation don’t have maps, and I believe that our education such as in South Africa and in the Iraq and everywhere such as, and I believe that they should, our education over here in the US should help the US, should help South Africa, and should help Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for our children.”

Wow. How sad. But look at Longworth’s supporting evidence:

And it is no coincidence that on the same day that Lauren’s gaffe made headlines, so did a report on how SAT scores have declined nationwide. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a big fan of SATs as an indicator of someone’s true abilities or potential, but the report did remind me of just how much we as a nation have lowered the bar of expectations for our young people. It is a disturbing phenomena that has been growing for decades, and one that has manifested itself in a myriad of arenas.

He’s right. And please digest, if you will, this last excerpt:

Then began the politically correct, feel-good era where every kid is a winner and no one is a failure. Ask folks in High Point how that turned out. “American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino revealed that she graduated high school without being taught to read. And last year another Guilford County high school student told the news media that she didn’t know who Columbus was. Youth will be served.

Higher education lowered its bar as well. I taught for a few semesters at UNCG. My students came from all disciplines – music, psychology, science – and only about 20 percent of them could write or verbalize a coherent paragraph. As far as I know, they all went on to graduate. Youth will be served.

Go into a typical classroom, and it’s like a Jay Leno “Jaywalking” episode. Our children don’t know who our nationally-elected leaders are, and many of them do not who the governor of North Carolina is. This, to me, is indicative of the argument that we need to step up Social Studies, Government and Civics in our schools.

I’ve been watching over the last day, with interest, about Guilford County Schools’ attempt to bring Mandarin Chinese to our schools (see FOX-8 story here; see News 14 Carolina story here). That’s a noble gesture, and I do not discredit this attempt to bring a world-class education to our students. But please realize that we need to ensure our students can somehow/some way read and write English first, and considering our state writing test scores, that’s not happening.

So this does not surprise me at all that this young lady made a gaffe or two on live TV. The question is what can we as Americans, as taxpayers, as supporters of public education…what can we do about it?

E.C. 🙂

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