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Problems Facing American Education

Researchers studying the schools and the standard of education in the US have found that the American educational system has many weaknesses; among them are the inadequate level of literacy and a poor knowledge of history and literature. One study showed that around 80 percent of high school seniors could not identify Dickens, Dostoevsky, and Ibsen. Other studies indicate that students are weak in mathematics and writing skills.

Many students simply do not study enough. Two-thirds of high school seniors do an hour or less of home-work per night. American teenagers are often distracted by part-time jobs, sports, and other school activities, TV and socializing. Some cannot cope with emotional problems, use of illegal drugs, or simply lack motivation. Clearly, if Americans are to become better educated, one study showed, students must study more, and parents must insist on it. A large number need help in learning English. Many change residences and schools often, and a changing classroom population is difficult to teach. In some classrooms, teachers have difficulty keeping the students’ attention because disrespectful uncooperative students disturb the class.

Certain problems come about as a result of trying to educate everyone together. The pressing problem is how to challenge the person of aboveaverage academic ability while taking care of the average student. The problem is solved in part by differentiated curricula. There is a wide variety of courses offerings in an American high school. Students are allowed to choose a certain number of subjects they study. But in spite of the guidance system some make unsuitable course selections. Until they drop or fail the course, they sometimes slow down the progress of the class. This is especially true of state-supported colleges and universities with a liberal admission policy. The general courses offered in the first two years are often designed to round out the education of the average person rather than for the specialist in a field.

In more specialized fields in the third and fourth years and especially at the graduate level, the problem is less acute because standards are rigorous enough so that students lacking abilities in that field will drop out or never gain admittance.

The problem of racial unbalance in schools exists in all parts of the United States, not just in the South. Despite numerous efforts the problem remains unsolved. The most controversial method has been busing school children from their neighborhoods to schools in more distant neighborhoods in order to achieve a better balance of black and white children in the schools.

Criticism of American education stimulated a reform movement which became particularly active at the end of the 1980s. As a result, 45 of the 50 states raised high school graduation requirements. Efforts have been made to involve parents in school and to improve teaching. College programmes that educate teachers are encouraging academically talented students to go into teaching. School administrators are revising curricula; publishers are creating more challenging and interesting textbooks. Finally, citizens are urging communities and the federal government to provide more tax dollars for education.

Americans deeply believe in education as the best vehicle for individual and social advancement. Even though for most young Americans, formal education does not end with high school graduation; improving the basic school system is one of the nation’s top priorities.

Based on “The American Way”; “All about the USA”; “Yesterday and Today in the USA”