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Those Millions of Poorly Educated Americans – What Do They Do?
What did they do? Those millions of ill-educated Americans who, as preteens and later as teenagers over the past forty years, took far less seriously the twelve years of public education they were given free of six to eighteen years old, who finally casually walked through the early stages of earning degrees without having learned the fundamental academic skills that properly accompany earning a real high school diploma? And what do they continue to do now, as it continues inexorably, as countless unprepared young men and women receive these degrees and sadly discover, years later, that lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic who fell on their rebellious minds and deaf ears as they languished unattended in classrooms where teachers strained to present their prepared lesson plans, could have allowed them to pursue higher education in order to obtain rewarding and better paid jobs? I see them all the time, almost always in American cities, these abject and unemployable unemployed, these wandering people who walk the streets with desperate and sorry looks in their eyes, who are unable to get a job because they are not properly educated, because they cannot compete in labor markets with the men and women who have taken public education seriously and acquired these fundamental academic skills well enough to gain access to education and post-secondary education. Yet it goes far beyond the formal classroom, to secluded Christmas caroling at the public library and study of books at home, where an individual can use these basic essential academic skills to burn midnight oil while selectively researching and delving into topics and disciplines. of personal interest for the sake of intellectual improvement.
The age group of individuals mentioned above, to which I am referring, comprises adult men and women between the ages of 19 and 35, who have not attained, in 12 years, the ability to read, write and make mathematics on, at least, a 9th grade level. These countless men and women across all fifty states go from dead ends to dead ends barely earning minimum wage, never able to achieve a continuum of successful gainful employment. Perhaps these former teenagers did not have parents who regularly encouraged and helped them to conscientiously acquire the basics of learning in elementary school, middle school and high school. Currently, between 75 and 80 percent of all children in American public schools do not have such parents, those who are actively involved in their children’s elementary and secondary education, who regularly help and encourage them at home to understand and complete homework and absorb subject matter concepts to make learning fun. And I believe the reason is the perpetuation of a vicious cycle of learning dysfunction that has a viciously generational effect. For most illiterate mothers and fathers, whose parents took little interest in their upbringing, usually have problems caring for parents.
Yet there is another relevant reason for the shocking slowdown in American learning over the past 40 years, and it is systemic in nature. Previously, a thorough basic education, including learning to read comprehensively, to write with grammatical skills and clarity, and to solve basic mathematical problems, was the substrate of an advanced education and was basically a good end in itself. That is to say, when a person learned to read, he then read voraciously in order to learn. A person did not, from 1900 to 1970, go to school to get a job, but rather to get a thorough basic education; and with an education through good work was later acquired. At the time, most engaged students were seriously studying Latin, World History, Western Civilization, English Literature, Basic and Advanced Mathematics, Physical and Biological Sciences, and Geography in public school, so that advanced studies in foreign languages, political history and philosophy, world politics development, creative writing, advanced theoretical mathematics, physics and microbiology, and advanced cartography could be pursued later at the college/university level . If it is the other way around, and students who did poorly in public high school seek post-secondary education in order to obtain specific jobs, say as computer programmers, students who are not not equipped academically to acquire good rounded liberal college educations will only be channeled into courses and subjects, at junior colleges or universities, which will prepare them only to perform specific work, not to continue learning throughout of life through diverse reading and conceptual thinking.
Thank God for private and parochial elementary and secondary schools, and, perhaps, public loving and charter secondary schools across the country, which cater to the small minority of preteen and teenage children who are shaped by their parents to love learning. But thank God more for those parents who take seriously their essential work as nurturers of their children’s development, who regularly devote priority time to their children, helping them to become wise and intuitive, while sacrificing their personal time for the greater good of learning. They are the parents of the children who will become the Leonardo Da Vinci, the Thomas Edison, the Jonas Salks, the Louis Pasteur, the Mark Twains and the Michel de Montaigns of the future. These children will grow into the adults who continuously draw on this fundamentally deepened substrate of knowledge they acquired from their parents and in the classroom before the age of 10, in order to pursue an eclectic personal reading to continually learn and internalize topics. more and more convoluted. Material.
I fondly remember a profound statement made by a distinguished academic, Dr. Stephen R. Lefevre, my mentor while studying political science for my graduate degree at the University of Texas at Tyler. While reminiscing one day in the early 1990s on his graduate school experiences at the University of California, Riverside, where he earned his doctorate, he said, “I was quite humbled when I walked across the stage to be hooded as a Doctor of Philosophy and suddenly realize there was so much more to learn, in so many related disciplines, than I had known.” Stephen Lefevre remains a living tribute to lifelong personal education and to the advancement of knowledge, as he used his acquired intuition and basic academic skills, acquired early in his life, to reach far beyond the university classroom to the still-continuing academy of the deadly learning. in order to enrich the lives of others, like me. But what do they do? Those countless young people who suddenly become adults and discover that they have wasted the most important years of their lives, when they could have acquired , free of charge for them, the essential rudiments of learning, the 3 Rs (“R”reading, w”R”iting and a”R”ithmetics), the basic academic skills that would have prepared them to study for a rewarding profession and, in most cases, lucrative. Well, either they realize the need to remedy and compensate for what they failed to achieve in their early years, and do so at their own expense, or they unfortunately stagnate in ignorance, socially and financially, for the rest of their lives, refusing to step in and take responsibility for their actions and, perhaps, those of their parents. As I learned from my own dear mother, fulfillment in any particular avenue of life involves accepting a premise that it’s all about “mind over matter”. Simply put, you can’t afford to “pay attention” to what it takes to do it, and no matter how long or hard it takes to get there. It’s ultimately getting there that really matters.
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