Hard America

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HedgeFundGuy at Mahalanobis makes some comments about Hard America/Soft America. Actually, he refers to why we produce mediocre 18 year olds and highly productive 30 year olds. What happens in those intervening years? This reminds of some comments I ran across years ago on a website of an Indian student attending a U.S. institution as a graduate student. He was slightly perturbed that his fellow American students were just interest in what was going to be on the test and not more intellectually curious. I think this goes a long way in explaning why people in this country become enourmously productive.

People in this country are interested in learning only what they need to get the job done and not necessarily in peripheral knowledge. How often have I heard a comment from a kid that math isn't needed? A lot. I was once trapped next to a teacher on a flight to London who wanted to explain to me that it was more important that a student feel good than about actually learning. It was an 11 hour flight so I was polite, my reaction would have been much different otherwise. I worked with many people who simply couldn't do basic fractions. I think to a certain extent, education people or as Barone calls it, Soft America is fairly ignorant of what is needed in a competitive economy. Lord knows they do all they can to prevent competitive forces from entering the education field.

The point I'm getting at is that kids are ignorant of what skills are needed. So, we have the ignorant teaching the ignorant. It isn't enough to say that you get out of an education what you put into it if you don't know what you should know and neither does your teacher. We need a system that transmits market signals to kids at a younger age, higher standards will go a long way since kids will learn only what they need to pass a class.

3 Comments

Actually, he refers to why we produce mediocre 18 year olds and highly productive 30 year olds. What happens in those intervening years?

Rather than invoking the magical qualities of "Hard America" to make diamonds out of coal, I'd be more comfortable with an explanation like "the mediocre and the productive are two different groups, high school dropouts vs Harvard," or "our education system must not be so bad after all," or "this shows that education doesn't matter (http://www.spiked- online.com/Printable/0000000CA640.htm) for economic growth."

(dumb spam filter killed my link)

Yes, you can catch me some days making that point and there is something our system passes through to kids that seems to be quite unique in this world. It is that we produce more lateral thinkers. At the same time, it seems that we can be even more productive as a society if our math departments were more rigorous. However, the question had to do with why they do become so productive and I just offered a quick observation possibly why.

There is a lot of human wastage as a result of the US' incompetent tax supported educational system. Unfortunately, the incompetent educational system is inside a "locked box" which cannot be touched by any reform minded individual. It is what it is and so it will remain. Well, there will be pay raises, of course.

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This page contains a single entry by Bob published on July 9, 2005 4:18 PM.

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