(Note: The following column was first published in October 2012. Recent research by the Duckworth Lab at the University of Pennsylvania supports the idea that one’s grit and self-control are critical to success in school and life.)
We hear a lot about the poor state of the nation’s education system. Some public schools are in turmoil, especially in states where public unions are allowed and teachers have gone on strike over budget cuts (Georgia doesn’t allow unions for public employees.)
At the center of this issue is the fact that despite having thrown a tremendous amount of money at education over the last three decades, the quality of some schools remains questionable. That’s especially true in poor areas — inner cities and impoverished rural communities. In those areas, the high school dropout rate remains high and results on standardized testing are at the bottom.
The result of those problems has been a variety of reform movements, from efforts to promote school vouchers, to the current trend of state sponsored charter schools.
This struggle over education comes at a time when the nation’s economic system is going through a transition. At one time, there were a variety of jobs available for the under-educated — manual labor in mills and factories, or in agriculture.
But many of those jobs have been sent overseas or have been automated. The result has been that at a time when the nation needs a better-educated workforce to operate advanced equipment, it has fewer quality applicants because so many lack the basic skills.
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