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January 12, 2014

Common education should not be compared to football

Ada — In a recent column in The Oklahoman, Paul Risser, former chancellor of Oklahoma’s higher education system, compared common education in Oklahoma to football. Perhaps he may be forgiven for doing so based on his immediate background in higher education, but his sports analogy does not hold up under closer examination at the non-collegiate level, particularly as it relates to whether or not our students compete well against those in other countries.

 The problem is this: other countries treat education as if it were a football contest. In effect, they “cut” players who don’t show signs of being able to help the team’s chances - by relegating them to a trade. Common education American style works feverishly to keep every student on the field. If a football coach took that attitude, he wouldn’t be coaching very long. In order to keep his job, he knows he can only allow the best talent he has play in the game.

For that reason, it is wildly misleading to compare American students to those overseas.

In Education at Risser’s level, students who don’t measure up are dismissed every semester. Common education does not have that option.

Risser insists Common Core, the latest national standards, does not tell teachers what to teach. Perhaps not, but it has the effect of ratcheting up the pressure on everyone involved due to incessant testing and, for all intents and purposes, works to turn students into fact-regurgitating machines.

There is a reason China doesn’t have a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs, or thousands of other innovative entrepreneurs America has produced. It is because the Chinese, and other similar countries, approach education in a way that almost mirrors Common Core. The result is millions of students who are fact-regurgitating machines with scant ability to create.

Risser is right when he says part of Oklahoma’s issue is a high poverty rate compared to other American states. But it is beyond Common Core’s capacity to improve on this important determinant.

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