Monday, February 22, 2010

Speech to the National Governors Association

As I was listening to President Obama's speech today to the National Governors Association, the following caught my attention. President Obama said:

Unfortunately, we continue to lag in several critical areas. Our eighth grade students are ninth in the world in math, and 11th in science. In response to assessments like these, some states have upped their game - I want to point to Massachusetts as an example, where eighth graders now tie for first in science around the world. Some unfortunately - some states have actually done the opposite — and between 2005 and 2007, under No Child Left Behind, 11 states actually lowered their standards in math.

That may make those states look better relative to other states, but it’s not going to help our students keep up with their global competitors. When I visited South Korea last year - and I’ve told this story before - I had lunch with President Lee and I asked him, what’s your biggest education challenge? And he said, my biggest issue, my toughest fight is that Korean parents are too demanding. They want their kids to learn English in first grade, and so I’ve had to ship in a whole bunch of foreign speaking teachers to meet the demand. They want their students learning everything - math, science, foreign languages - all as soon as possible. They want their kids to excel because they understand that whichever country out-educates the other is going to out-compete us in the future. So that’s what we’re up against. That’s what’s at stake — nothing less than our primacy in the world.

As he finished the rest of his speech, I kept thinking about how many times I, and the teachers I worked with, said similar things to our students. Some of the students took what we said to heart and worked hard to learn what they needed to learn.

However, there were some who simply didn't care. They acted as if we were lying to them. And when it came time for testing, they made designs on their answer sheets. Their parents didn't seem all that concerned, either. I would constantly hear comments like, "I was never good at math, either." I feel that until these students and their parents truly understand how important a good education is, it's going to be very difficult for them to ever compete locally, let alone globally.

I hope that the re-designed Elementary and Secondary Education Act will help all students and all parents understand how important education is, not just for the student and his or her future, but for the future of our country.

A fact sheet is available at:

Text of speech:

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