Please welcome our guest blogger, Dr. Johnathan Willner, Professor of Economics, Oklahoma City University

Snow White is nice little fairy tale, fit for the current dilemma in US Education. Many Americans look in the mirror and decide that each of us is the fairest of them all. We are wonderful and perfect people who do what’s right for our kids in education.

The reason our kids are terrible, globally, at math (See: harvard.edu) and almost everything else requiring intellectual development is because of teachers or public education or the school board or government regulation or our neighbor’s kids or hormones (foreign kids don’t have these?) or the other kids in school or or or or. Someone, but certainly not us is to blame, for we are the fairest in all the land. That’s a fairytale. It’s us. We have to change if we want our kids to be well educated. We have to stop being teenagers and be adults. We have to stand up and take responsibility for our errors. We are the problem and that makes us the solution. You’ll notice that the top 5 starting salaries go to various forms of engineers. Then it’s math and back to engineering. Then physics and back to engineering. Getting the drift?

Why do our kids do so poorly in school? A lot of it has to do with the fact that we set a rotten example. We constantly tell our kids that school and education are important and then do everything possible to show them we’re joking.

As parents we are more than willing to take our kids to Disney World during the school year (uh, 8 or 9 months after deducting vacations and breaks) – the crowds are smaller and the cost is lower. So what if the kid misses a few days? A few days here and there don’t matter. They’ll make it up. Yeah, right. We don’t want to spoil the fun so they’ll make it up when they get home. But when they get home they have all these other things we have to do – soccer, football, volunteer, church, etc., etc. And we have to go on vacation or to a wedding and their cousin’s, brother’s wife’s aunt stubbed her toe, so… We’ve got more excuses for our kids not going to school and not reading and not doing homework and not writing than there are fish in the sea. Hmmm. Maybe more.

And then there’s the whole extra-curricular activity set of things to do. Miss school to play soccer, travel to a game as a supporter, band, you name we’re out of school to do it. And all the time we’re driving away from school and out too late to read and do homework we tell the kids with our voices how important it is. Do we really think our kids are that stupid?

Then there’s making sure the kid feels socially acceptable. She flunked a test and feels bad. Let’s go out to dinner and movie. Get our nails done. You’ll feel better. How about this instead? Flunked it? Well, just sit right down, NOW, and start studying because there’s no TV, movie or social life until you can nail every question on the test. How many of you have done the latter? Now what about the former?

We reward failure in our kids. Bombed 11th grade math? Well surely math isn’t that important, after all you did all right without it. Yep, and buggy whip makers did alright until the car.

Does math pay? I don’t know. See what pays in the real world:

And then there’s the whole anti-elitist approach. We, in Oklahoma, demand elite football talent and basketball talent. But intellectual elitism is supposed to be an insult. This our kids understand – we fawn over elite athletes and denigrate elite intellects. We spend vast sums on a few elite athletes and penny-pinch on elite education. This our kids understand. They are watching and learning.

The enemy of education in this country is us. As Pogo remarked, “we have met the enemy and they is us.” We, the people. We who don’t require our kids to learn, but give them excuses not to. We reward failure and give time off when they aren’t succeeding. We demonstrate every day, by our actions that education is not important.

Jonathan Willner, Ph.D.

Professor of Economics

Meinders School of Business

Oklahoma City University

2501 N. Blackwelder

OKC, OK 73106-1493

Office: (405) 208-5133