Academic journal article Education

Student Apathy, Lack of Self-Responsibility and False Self-Esteem Are Failing American Schools

Academic journal article Education

Student Apathy, Lack of Self-Responsibility and False Self-Esteem Are Failing American Schools

Article excerpt

For more than a decade, the media and the general public have been criticizing educational institutions for producing mediocre results, and the government has been pouring astronomical amounts of money into education in an attempt to improve student outcomes. The result so far has been sorely disappointing. Student performance has been at a standstill, if not deteriorating. For the 1992-93 school year, total spending on public elementary and secondary schools was 253.4 billion dollars, a 56% increase, in constant dollars, over the 1980-81 school year. With the single exception of Switzerland, America now spends more on education per student (5,971 dollars, on average) than any other country in the world (Tucker & Lauber, 1994). However, in 1991, American 13-year-olds ranked 13th among 14 nations surveyed in math and 12th among 14 in science, rankings that are essentially unchanged in three decades (Will, 1994).

America's public schools are struggling and policy markers have been scrambling for remedies: merit pay, curriculum revision, a longer school day, hoping that a miracle drug or two will cure the problem. To date, the battle for school reform has not been won because Americans, as a society, have failed to identify the real cause of educational failure.

Critics of public educational focus on individual teachers or insufficient funds as the cause for poor student outcomes while at the same time children's academic failures are being justified or excused based on a flawed analysis of the real problem. Many maintain (e.g., Glasser, 1992) that students do not learn to their fullest capability mostly because of the inadequate in-school factors -- unmotivated teachers, indifferent administrators, outdated instructional materials, irrelevant curriculum and lessons, etc. This theory insists that if these conditions improve, children will learn and perform better. This is not an accurate diagnosis of the problem, because if that were true, all groups of children attending American schools should be failing. On the contrary, the fact is that many children are learning successfully despite the alleged in-school obstacles.

It is a well documented fact that Asian-American children are flourishing in the same schools where other students are failing. Even those Asian-American students with disadvantaged backgrounds, such as South East Asian refugee students with limited English proficiency and low socioeconomic condition, frequently contradict expectations and attain high academic achievement in American schools (Capian, Choy, & Whitmore, cited in Peng & Wright, 1993).

How can these Asian-American students learn despite the tremendous language and socio-cultural barriers? Furthermore, why do many American learners fail while these Asian-American students thrive in the same class under the same teacher? Clearly, something beyond school and classroom activities are at work. As Beck (1992) stated, these question may lead to embarrassing answerers, but they must be answered to put this controversial issue into perspective. The author of the present study, through both a review of the literature and cultural comparison, explored the education of Asian-American students and its comparison with children from other ethnic groups in order to ascertain answers to the above-mentioned questions.

Asian-American Students and

their Education

1. Academic attitudes:

What makes Asian-American students effective and competitive learners? In short, Asian-American students' higher appreciation of learning and consequent better classroom behaviors are compelling factors in achieving improved Student performance. Asian-American students, compared with students of other ethnic groups, hold more positive attitudes toward their education and its value. Asian-American Students are more likely to believe that success in life is related to academic achievement (Brand, 1987; Sue and Okazaki, 1990). …

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