Success Requires Sustained Effort at Tedious Tasks (What a drag)
All of our present Republican candidates including John Huntsman who was ambassador to China are at a loss to deal effectively with the challenges and manipulations of the Chinese economy and the impact of globalization to our considerable detriment, even Donald Trump. The problem will not be solved by high tariffs or a currency reform to raise the value of the Yuan.We will not recover our ability to deal with the Chinese unless we first face the issue of EDUCATION.
I teach Hebrew at a major university in Florida (one of the biggest in the country). Apart from a tiny minority (15% at most in most classes) of the students who apply themselves to just get past the first hurdle – learning a different alphabet (consisting of 22 letters and approximately 10 vowel signs), the remainder are daunted by what they consider a tedious task that requires some concentrated mental effort.
I learned this as an 8 year old in perhaps a month or two so that I could read and correctly pronounce the words of any vowelled text (modern Hebrew without vowels requires a much greater familiarity with the language and its structure and is best left to much more advanced classes).
Millions of Jews in the past did so and could read Hebrew without any formal education. A majority of the 15% of my students who do apply themselves are enthusiastic first time students (almost all Christians with no previous experience of the language). The other 85% , unless they are already familiar with the alphabet from intensive Bar Mitzvah training and years of private Hebrew instruction) never make any real progress because they are unwilling to spend the time needed in the first 4-5 weeks of the course to learn to read with some facility and so cannot even recognize how words should appear in written form when they hear a word (Hebrew is very phonetic and easy to “spell”).
They have access to audio tapes that are keyed to the text so that they can hear the words correctly pronounced at the same time as they observe the written text. Nevertheless, many of these students tell me this is “too hard” a task for them because it is time consuming. They cannot (won’t spend) the two to three hours a week listening to the audio tapes at home to go through all the letters.
When I tell them that an 8 year old Chinese boy or girl today can read and understand approximately 2,500 different characters so that they can proficiently read at their level in school, they are at a loss and can only explain this as the result of a totally foreign un-American system of a brutal dictatorship enforcing a form of slavery on children and never make the connection that China’s success in the brave new world of globalization depends on this literacy and high standard of education.
This is also the reason that a country like Denmark with very high taxes and wages has a level of unemployment only at one third the U.S. level and does so well.
The frontpage headlines in today’s local paper featured the “outstanding achievement” of the local university’s football team being invited to play in the “Big East” conference. There is no escape from the continued ravages of globalization unless we stop the steady spiral of downward dumbing and make our students aware of the efforts required on their part.
Posted on 12/09/2011 5:17 AM by Norman Berdichevsky
9 Dec 2011
The obvious error here is the assumption that all people are equally capable of sustained intellectual effort. Many people in the US simply are not.
9 Dec 2011
Despite the incessant propaganda claims to the contrary, education, at least in the old-fashioned sense, has nothing to do with the so-called "ability to compete in this globalized marketplace." In all Western or Westernized societies today education will actually hurt, since it means you would be spending too much of your mental energy and time on things outside of your job. Speaking of which, the mental work involved in most well-paying jobs resembles that of solving mechanical puzzles: while it demands a great deal of concentration, it is repetitive, tedious, takes little memory and almost no imagination: it is not the stuff of education, but of specialized training.
9 Dec 2011
Actually, Rolv Petter Amdam in his book 'Management Education and Competitiveness: Europe, Japan and the United States' (Routledge, 1996) comprehensively dismisses the idea that education and competitiveness are somehow independent of each other and not directly feeding off one another. Education, he finds from surveys, especially of managers at all levels, is vital for the competitiveness of companies in the world market place as well as domestically(that is: within their home markets).
As for the idea that not everyone can concentrate to the same degree, that turns out to be correct but, and its a big but, the variation in the ability is within an exceedingly narrow range for those without clinically diagnosable learning difficulties. If one reads M A Albaili's 'Educational Psychology' (Taylor & Francis, 1997) one is drawn to the inescapable conclusion that those students who don't knuckle down and concentrate do so out of laziness rather than lack of ability - it seems that they are too used to having everything pre-chewed into some sort of easily absorbed educational pap that they can digest without effort, which seems to be a mindset that they learned early on in their schooling.
I must, therefore, respectfully disagree with the first two commenters here and agree with Mr. Berdichevsky.
10 Dec 2011
I`m from the UK, and we really have a society where effort is a dirty word. You are supposed to succeed without effort or just fail.
My own interpretation of the reasons behind this is that it keeps the rulers and monied types on top. If, let`s say, you are quite good at music because you had lessons as a child, or speak a bit of French because you holidayed there as a child, the last thing you want is some lower-class type outdoing you through application. And if there was a lot of such people, the level of competion would be horrifying. So denigration is the thing. People who try hard aren`t cool - they are weird!
Another thing to try to do, of course, would be to convince people that quite easy things are very difficult - put them off before they start.
It`s worked very well in the UK - social mobility is low.