“The larger cause of failure is almost unmentionable: shrunken student motivation,” wrote Samuelson. “Students, after all, have to do the work. If they aren’t motivated, even capable teachers may fail. Motivation comes from many sources: curiosity and ambition; parental expectations; the desire to get into a ‘good’ college; inspiring or intimidating teachers; peer pressure. The unstated assumption of much school ‘reform’ is that if students aren’t motivated, it’s mainly the fault of schools and teachers.” Wrong, he said. “Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don’t like school, don’t work hard and don’t do well. In a 2008 survey of public high school teachers, 21 percent judged student absenteeism a serious problem; 29 percent cited ‘student apathy.’ ” . . . In a flat world where everyone has access to everything, values matter more than ever. Right now the Hindus and Confucians have more Protestant ethics than we do, and as long as that is the case we’ll be No. 11!Leaving aside Friedman's latent racism (the brown and the yellow people are coming to conquer us, oooh, scary!), I take issue with this journalist's desire to dump on the younger generation. Unlike Friedman, I happen to see students in my classroms and my office every single day of the week. Based on my experience with today's students in Canada and different schools in the US, I can say that the kids I teach are simply fantastic. They are extremely hard-working, curious, motivated, smart, kind, and a lot more open-minded than their parents. Un fortunately, our education system often has no idea how to tap into this great potential. This is the real cause of the apathy Friedman and Samuelson refer to. Blaming the students is easy, while addressing the true ills of the system is a lot harder. This would require a lot of hard work, that same hard work that Friedman believes his generation can provide in spades.
As I said before, when a person starts explaining how the current generations of youngsters are a lot worse than the previous ones, this is the surest mark of intellectual and spiritual old age for me, irrespective of the person's chronological age. There are innumerable problems in the American education system but blaming the students for being spoilt and lazy is not a way to address these issues. Every day after leaving the classroom, I feel very glad that our future is in the hands of these great kids. If we fail to put this potential to its best use, that's our fault, not the students'.