A Nation at Risk Essay

A Nation at Risk created the present-day sense that American schools are failing, and generated many education reform efforts since the report was published in ‘83. A Nation at Risk assessed the quality of teaching and learning at the elementary, high school, and college levels and compared American schools with those of “advanced” nations. It reported that America’s educational system was failing to meet the national need for a competitive workforce. An open letter to the American people,” the A Nation at Risk called for elected officials, educators, parents, and students to reform a public school system that was “in urgent need of improvement. ”

The need for improvement was based on numerous statistics listed in the report that the commission said showed the inadequate quality of American education. A Nation at Risk cautioned that America was at “risk” and expressed grave concern that our “once unchallenged pre-eminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. * The Risk; In order for Americans “to keep and improve on the slim competitive edge (we had to) dedicate ourselves to the reform of our educational system for the benefit of” democracy and the progress of society itself. (page 7) * Indicators of the Risk; “For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents. (page 9) * Hope and Frustration; “More and more young people emerge from high school ready neither for college nor for work.

This predicament becomes more acute as the knowledge base continues its rapid expansion, the number of traditional jobs shrinks, and new jobs demand greater sophistication and preparation” (page 10). * Excellence in Education; “We do not believe that a public commitment to excellence in education reform must be made at the expense of a strong public commitment to the equitable treatment of our diverse population. The twin goals of equity and high-quality schooling have profound and practical meaning for our economy and society, and we cannot permit one to yield to the other either in principle or practice.

To do so… would lead to a generalized accommodation to mediocrity in our society on the one hand or the creation of an undemocratic elitism on the other” (page 11). * The Learning Society; A Learning Society “…affords all (its) members the opportunity to stretch their minds to full capacity, from early childhood through adulthood, learning more as the world itself changes” (page 11). * The Tools at Hand; “It is our conviction that the essential raw materials needed to reform our educational system are waiting to be mobilized through effective leadership” (page 12). The Public’s Commitment; “…The safety of the United States depends principally on the wit, skill, and spirit of a self-confident people, today and tomorrow. It is, therefore, essential-especially in a period of long-term decline in educational achievement-for government at all levels to affirm responsibility for nurturing the Nation’s intellectual capacity” (page 14). A Nation at Risk The Imperative for Educational Reform For you, what is the most interesting idea expressed in the reading?

For me, the most interesting idea expressed in the reading is, “If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war” (page 6). A Nation at Risk proclaims that, if an enemy of the United States had forced the below standard and inadequate educational performance taking place in America we would have deployed our troops for combat. This is a tremendously influential statement. Throughout A Nation at Risk there is robust language used.

The report claimed that American students were “plummeting” academically, that schools “suffered” from “uneven” standards, and that teachers were not “prepared”. The report also noted that our economy and national security would “crumble” if something weren’t done. Needless to say, its use of strong language not only caused a stir, both among the general public and in the education policy community, but A Nation at Risk, also provided much of the push for a number of school improvement measures undertaken throughout the United States.

Even though A Nation at Risk has drawn much intense criticism it reinforced the power of the media. At the moment we still hear about the catastrophic state of American public schools. According to “experts”, our kids compare terribly when ranked academically against all others in the world and politicians ask us to take a stand. Are we for, or against, school reform? Ironically enough, however, it’s never a choice between supporting or rejecting an idea. It is a choice between “this” reform or “that” reform.

In other words, school reform isn’t the product of a gradual consensus emerging among educators about how kids learn; it’s a political movement that grew out of one seed planted in 1983. A Nation at Risk launched like a wildfire, because it echoed the get-tough rhetoric of the growing conservative movement, and Republicans controlled its interpretation and uses. Conservatives zeroed in on the notion of failing schools as a national-security crisis and school reform became a charge against a shadowy enemy, a kind of war on mediocrity.


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