The Crisis in Modern Education

I wanted to share my thoughts with you today concerning the crisis in modern education. I have been a secondary school teacher for 16 years and I have also spent 9 years in the private sector in the field of electronics manufacturing. My background has given me a unique perspective on what needs to be done to prepare students for the workplace and in turn make our country more competitive in international trade.

The entire focus in public education is test scores, and across the country, test scores are generally rising although not at the unrealistic rate required by No Child Left Behind. Teachers are generally getting better at teaching students what's in the standards, but are the standards what students need to know in the modern workplace? Considering the amount of technology young people are surrounded with, you might be shocked to know that students are taught exactly nothing about how that technology works. Even the very basics of modern electronics are totally missing from the secondary school curriculum. Electronics, what makes cell phones, video games, computers, and the Internet work is totally absent from the science and mathematics curriculum. This was brought home to me when I was discussing the electromagnetic spectrum to a class of high school seniors. One of the more knowledgeable students asked "what's that?" It turns out that the electromagnetic spectrum, which makes all modern communications (radio, WI-FI, TV and cell phones) possible, and also a multi-billion dollar public resource, was a total unknown to students who had made it to the final year of secondary education.

To remedy this shocking injustice that the educational system has perpetuated on our youth, I propose the following remedies; a shift in emphasis to the one area of science which deals with electronics-physics. In my secondary school district, only 6% of science students took the physics end-of course-exam last year. If we really want to prepare our students for the modern workplace, ALL students must be exposed to physics.

In the math field, students must learn the type of math that computers use, the surprisingly simple binary math system of ones and zeros. This leads to the study of Boolean algebra and digital logic circuits, the building blocks of all the technologies that we are surrounded with. Rebuilding our manufacturing base, with its higher paying jobs, can be facilitated with an increased emphasis on trigonometry and statistics-the two types of math most used on the factory floor.

Our young people are the future of our country. Giving them the education that will enable them to compete in the modern workplace is crucial to our survival as a nation. I urge you to do all you can to bring about these changes in our educational system. Thank you.

Peter Honan
The Border Education Project