What makes us so confident in America? Why, in a country where education is a hierarchy and we struggle (and arguably fail) to keep up with the rest of the world, do we still claim to be the best and the brightest? What makes us feel so superior and special? How do we foster this mentality in the way we teach our children?
Thinking about Diane Ravitch’s Death and Life of the Great American School System and reflecting upon a recent David Brooks Op-Ed piece from the New York Times titled “The Modesty Manifesto,” these are the questions that come to mind. In America, it seems that we develop a “feel good” approach to education at times. We emphasize scores and rankings, but we continue to make them easier and easier to achieve. As Brooks points out, “Over the past few decades, for example, the number of hours college students spend studying has steadily declined. Meanwhile, the average G.P.A. has steadily risen…some argue that today’s child-rearing and educational techniques have produced praise addicts” (NY Times, 3/12/11). Are we raising a generation of over-indulged students who overestimate their intelligence and see themselves as too “special” and “exceptional” in an individualistic society? How can we counter this in the education by encouraging a more citizen-driven curriculum–one focused on collaboration and holistic success rather than individual?