Extracurricular activities could be the secret to U.S. economic success, writes Mike Petrilli on Education Gadfly.
While it’s lousy at producing academic achievement, as measured by math and science tests, perhaps (the U.S. school system is) great at producing individuals with the skills, attitudes, and habits that drive the economy toward higher levels of growth.
. . . That’s right: our athletic programs, student councils, debate clubs, school newspapers, orchestras, theater troupes, FFAs, and the rest of the panoply of after-school activities might be boosting America’s economic output. While Asian kids are cramming at “exam cram schools” and European youngsters are smoking Gitanes in sidewalk cafÃ©s, our students are engaged in activities that give them the confidence to achieve in myriad ways — a taste of achievement they then carry into the world of work.
While Petrilli suggest the school of tomorrow could be a social center for online learners, Checker Finn wants to keep the focus on raising achievement, building on early signs that math and reading scores are rising.
Yet read closely the inaugural address of Randi Weingarten as president of the American Federation of Teachers, in which she promises to obliterate NCLB and the culture of testing (all the while professing allegiance to “standards” that have no meaning or traction if performance in relation to them isn’t measured). Instead, she seeks a massive new program of federal aid to “community schools…that serve the neediest children by bringing together under one roof all the services and activities they and their families need.” (Dental care, legal assistance, you name it, just about everything except high-level teaching and learning of important skills and content.) . . .
Just as the push for academic excellence could be paying off, educators and political leaders want to ease the pressure and go back to worrying about the “whole child,” Finn laments.