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Quality highway requires attention and hard work!

By Vasilka Atanasova
On April 20, 2011


 Imagine a highway (I-94). A nice, dark asphalt or concrete road shines under sunny weather, its bleak under gloomy conditions, and it cracks under smashing winds, snow and too much salt. We keep repairing it every summer, or sometimes (in a few years) we decide to execute a full renovation. And this is great, no doubt about it. But when the renovation starts taking too long it turns into a barrier instead of bridge to our moving forward.

So, when too many holes appear on the road, we point to a renovation of the road in its entirety.

Now imagine the education system in America. A seemingly useful and developed system is preparing the American children for the global world. Just like the highway, it's all bright under the right circumstances. However, when the dark and gloomy days of the crashed economy came, the holes in the system appeared. Despite the many instances of patching up every few months, or renovating in a few years, nothing has brought the transformation that would change the grim statistic highlighting America's underprepared youth.

The type of renovation includes millions of dollars poured into thousands of organizations and agencies and hundreds of bills aiming to achieve education reforms. At the end though, instead of a nice hybrid of transparent and efficient system running with the only purpose of educating, we get a mutant of disorganized, disconnected and inefficient education institutions where all divisions blame each other for the failing organism.

So, when we ask ourselves why can't that municipality repair or renovate a highway, or a pothole, faster and more efficiently, we have to think about all the elements involved in this act. Undeniably, there are many factors – political, economical, social, cultural and geographical. Thus, knowing the complexity of this and yet looking at the same instances taking place in other countries we see that it is possible. It is possible to repair a pothole for an hour instead of for a day or a week, and it is possible to build or renovate a highway for a month instead of for a year. The Japanese do it. Yes, they can!

It is possible, but why not in the US?

Japan, along with Germany and some other European countries, have some of the fastest trains in the world and quality highways (not to mention the quantity.) A developed infrastructure is one of the most important components to sustain an economy, and Japanese hold on to that. Japan is one of the biggest economies, it has a quality infrastructure and its students are always among the first in math, and science which draws us to a imply there might be a correlation between these? Like these two things depend on each other. It is not only their collectivistic mind (which plays a big role though), but their education system. The society and the politicians both uphold one idea that everything stems from quality education.

Japan tops the chart in math and science, and it has 99 percent literacy rate. This is because after World War II, Japan reformed their education system according to the French and German systems, and the US actually helped the reform to take place. Now over 90% of the students in Japan graduate regular high school compare to 70% in the States. International studies continue to place American academic achievements far behind many countries, including Japan. Recent study reveals that US is toward the bottom of the chart in math and science! So, we should not pounder our heads why the Japanese can rebuilt a highway in a week, whereas in the States it can take years.

The US helped Japan to improve and build a strong education system, producing some of the most competitive students, but did not develop such at home. The fact is that the Japanese invested tons of money into their education system after WWII in order to catch up with the West, while the USA invested in wars. The USA lamented for power and oil and funneled money there overlooking the staple sustaining one country economically – quality education. Now, we reap the fruits of this deficiency.

The American education system is sluggish. College students here learn stuff that Japanese learned in 9th grade, the American mindset is that the "I" is more important than the thou and them and the politicians are still more interested in what is going on oversea than at home. Buildings and roads across the country are not built to last, but to sustain the circulation of the dollar, which gives our union workers the responsibility of walking around the highway lane, that has already been closed for months, with hands in their packets and cigarettes in their months.

Municipalities, government and businesses don't care about the people having a quality highway. They all care about the circulation of the dollar. The whole herd of politicians running this country care only about the circulating dollar, despite the fact that this dollar is getting more and more depreciated.

This kind of non-sense we don't see in Germany or Japan, therefore the US can't compare to them. Japan got back in the game long time ago, but the US dropped behind and left its citizens to live with a 50 year old American dream that everything is possible, and it doesn't require much to obtain it.

Problems with the education system and illiteracy extend back to the eighties and nineties. This is when the learning gap became obvious. Now, we see this gap extending and reaching to us in 2011. It is everywhere, from gaps to decrepit old buildings and to the constantly appearing potholes.

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