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Vail Daily Editor Don Rogers: What learning is all about

Don Rogers
Vail, CO, Colorado

So, Finland plays up recess, plays down tests and study time, stuffs an average of 45 kids in a class and … tops the world in assessment scores.

It also trains and pays its teachers very, very well.

Some developing countries, like China, score well, too. But just 44 percent of their kids go to high school, and only 4 percent make it to college.



If you are Chinese, you had better really, really want an education and work for it. You’ll pay tuition for high school – if you can pass the admission test. Then college is free – if you are smart and studious enough to get in.

Curious how in the United States, lowering class size, increasing pay for educators and adding dramatically to the dollars-per-child funding have led our assessment scores – the SAT in particular – to sink since 1970.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



Still, the best of the best globally go to college here. Why is that?

We’re terribly uneducated about … education. We lack perspective.

Our strength is not those silly scores taken by themselves but our ethic that would educate every child – including those who want no part of such – for success. Then we set our hair on fire because our hoi poloi don’t score at the level of another country’s creme de la creme.



If assessment scores are your concern, there’s a simple way to address it: Allow only a third to half the students into high school in the first place. Make college a lot harder to get into, too. Voila. Done. We’ll have great scores on the world stage. Big whoop.

Our way is better as a system. Our weaknesses are more individual.

This is controversial, perhaps, but how is it that students from different cultures as groups vary in academic success in the same schools?

For instance, many Asian cultures that value education come to this country poor and do well in the same classrooms where others flunk.

I understand great teachers make a big difference. But how do we have the same teacher and the same classroom but different expectations from parents and consequent results from their kids?

My mother, retired from a career mostly at an elementary school in East Los Angeles, understood this well enough from direct experience. When Mom is engaged, her child tends to work hard and do well. Doesn’t matter the ethnicity, wealth or much else, really. It’s all about Mom.

Our education issues, I think, have a lot less to do with dollars, class sizes and test scores than our children’s desire to learn.

My simple theory, then, concerns inculcating a passion for learning in our young. That’s Mom, Dad and – yes – their teachers, too.

When do we learn to focus on that?


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