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Why U.S. Achievement and Performance Lags Globally? A Failure to Own The Educational Process

A child’s first teacher is their parents. Among the most developed nations, there is no assumption that any government institution, school or individual should have greater sway over a child’s education than one’s family or oneself. Yet over time, schools have grown in power and influence to the extent that they are largely deemed accountable for all knowledge acquisition. The truth is that the most fundamental components of one’s learning occurs outside any institution. Parents, through an equal combination of language, behavior, explicit instruction and tacit experiences convey the most profound lessons to our children and these values are then effortlessly passed on to the next generation. This intellectual foundation, in turn, sets the stage for what should constitute a collective responsibility to embrace lifelong learning. Early on, children learn to value knowledge acquisition based upon the family’s approach and the overall emphasis placed on reading, speaking, social interactions and critical thinking, reasoning. To the extent that parents can engage, it is never too late (and always preferable), that adults take full control and ultimately own the educational trajectories of their own children. Recently released data (2017), from Pew Research Center’s international math and science assessments analysis indicate that “U.S. students continue to rank behind many other advanced industrial nations”, in fact a companion survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that just 16% rank U.S. K-12 STEM education as the best or above average; 46%, in contrast, said K-12 STEM in the U.S. was below average. The fact that the U.S. is consistently outranked in Science, Mathematics and Reading by countries like Finland, Japan and China is no secret – however, a copious analysis of the reasons the U.S. is left behind is quite sobering.

Educators often lament that children are sent to school within the early childhood education phase, without having had the benefit of the vast knowledge “building blocks” to succeed in life. This initial learning includes much more than merely the A, B, Cs and 1, 2, 3s but comprises the a wide array of knowledge and is observable through a child’s natural curiosity, language acquisition, spatial orientation, and behavioral interactions with both peers and adults. Between the ages of 0-5 (and especially by age 3), before a child is even introduced to formal education, they possess a keen ability to develop an expansive brain capacity and to sustain a wealth of cognitive, social and emotional abilities. Because of the fact that during these pivotal, early childhood years, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second – the brain’s full lifetime capacity develops 90% before a child even reaches age 5. In essence, the brain’s intricate architecture is already largely pre-destined before any one of us has even been exposed to formal learning and behavior patterns taught in school. The importance of the early childhood phase cannot be overstated and this is the primary reason that parents must not relegate the education of their children solely to others. Clearly, every one of us is required to be intimately involved and engaged in the educational process from birth. This aggressive, all-encompassing quest for knowledge must then be sustained throughout life.

One of the more meaningful assumptions about the Educate to Liberate (ETL) ideology, is that every person, at every age and rank in life, has something more to learn. Our model and expressed objective aims to meet the multifaceted needs of all individuals and our clientele ranges from that of PK-12 school-aged children, college and graduate level students, to adults seeking to learn specialized skills, homeschooling parents, educators, institutional professional development needs and corporate/non-profit training modules. In both a surprising and affirming manner, over the course of the past year and a half of our incorporation and international launch, the ETL clients most receptive to our efforts to turn the tide of mis-education and to promote a knowledge-driven platform c/o online learning? None other than that of countless Chinese families, who have an impressive and globally recognized reputation for owning their own educational trajectory and in earning coveted roles of international dominance in nearly every industry for their esteemed record of achievement and business acumen. As an international school without walls, Educate to Liberate has been afforded the coveted opportunity to work directly with parents seeking to supplement their child’s education with English language instruction, and to reinforce any/all of the core subject areas in which their children fail to master in school. To my utter surprise and delight, I have taught students as young as Chinese infants, who learn via a phone, laptop or tablet while sitting on their parents laps to adults (all within a digital platform). I have since learned that China’s educational trajectory mirrors the system here in the U.S. in that primary education begins at age 6, however this is where the similarities come to an abrupt end. Their educational system has earned an impressive reputation and school is admittedly challenging and competitive.

In China, children are only required to fulfill 9 years of education and following the primary level and three years of middle school, students have the option to decide whether or not they would like to continue for 3 more years of senior middle school to complete their secondary education. Despite heavy academic workloads in school, Chinese students are tutored daily in order to maintain the rigor of their peers and classmates. After a long school day beginning as early as 6 am and ending between 4 and 5 pm, Chinese students are tutored in a wide range of core/priority subjects ranging from Math, Literature, English, Chemistry, and Physics. The school day though rigorous, is balanced by a 2-hour lunch/recess/nap break and relatively short holidays, school vacation days. From a negative standpoint, China is believed to be achievement obsessed and as such, education is a luxury (after age 15), meaning that only the affluent can meet the universally high academic requirements which include affording the high cost of one-to-one tutoring. On the contrary, here in the U.S. the public school day is shorter, admittedly less rigorous and the great American pastimes of sports, recreation, social activities and behavior/character education are all universal pre-requisites of the teacher/school institution, rather than appropriately regarded as left to the discretion of one’s parents and family. It is my humble opinion that such an inordinate focus upon outdated and exclusionary standards, curriculum and instruction and perhaps most oppressively, high-stakes, standardized testing, has rendered the U.S. educational system as largely inept and incapable of competing on an international scale. While the largely universal Common Core standards seek to incorporate increased rigor, communication skills, higher-order thinking and problem-solving expertise . . . our children still emerge as comprising an expansive achievement gap and ranking or as woefully unprepared when faced with the reputation of international scholarship.

The solution? Owning our own education, starting at birth and with an equal amount of curiosity, desire, involvement and engagement throughout the remainder of one’s lifetime. From an institutional standpoint, we must de-emphasize the importance of rote memorization and non-essential, albeit flawed American nationalist inspired theories (i.e. the purposeful re-writing of history), in favor of a purposeful and wide-ranging base of knowledge whereby geography, the truth of U.S. history and even biology and algebra are taught from a very young age, and in accordance with student interest. Gone are the days where subjective letter grades and culturally biased, inaccurate and misused tests like the ACT can cease to have relevance and weigh considerably in college admission decisions. Instead, we must embrace the educational ideals of empowering students to embrace their own creativity and natural genius at an early age, implement a more balanced and equitable standards-based grading system while increasingly devaluing the validity of historic college admission tests designed to inordinately favor affluent, White males. Only then will we be poised to acknowledge and reward the inherent genius of Black, brown, red, yellow and white and to close the gaping abyss of the U.S. achievement gap. We can finally begin to bridge the divide of the unique learning style of Black males (and to a lesser degree Black females), in that we are primarily kinesthetic, tactile, musical, visual, creatively inductive and oral learners – a non-conformist style which is otherwise diametrically opposed to the structured, linear, passive, deductive, written, rule-bound, standardized and conformist style of learning which predominates in American schools. While formal education rewards a hierarchal style and approach to knowledge acquisition, all other people of color operate within a communal culture which approaches learning in much the same way. Therefore, we must conclude that for the vast majority of America’s diverse student population, a bevy of unexpected and traumatic experiences of one’s life occurs during the foundational academic (or formative) years, wherein children interact with authority figures (White, female teachers) or other peers who may not be similarly raised or share common, moral beliefs. Parents naively assume that their own contributions to their children’s development has evolved to a marked state of closure and the vast majority of one’s growth and development is then subtly yet wholly transferred to a school system. This is a grave travesty and therein lies a common problem and societal misnomer, from which we must duly cease and desist.

Contrary to popular belief and even more common practice, there is no magic or appropriate age upon which we should cease engagement and interaction with the educational trajectory. If in fact knowledge is power (and indeed it is) . . . then we must own the educational process as a means to overcome the glaring societal and moral disparities of poverty, oppression, and mis-education to accomplish our diverse, lifelong learning goals and to achieve global recognition of unparalleled academic achievement and business success. It bears repeating that while parents are the first teachers, no government institution, school or individual should have greater sway over a child’s education than one’s family or oneself. Rigorous, affordable and lifelong learning is readily accessible c/o the Educate to Liberate LLC technologically savvy and online learning platform.

Please visit or for more information on personalized, differentiated online learning options for lifelong knowledge acquisition, today.

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