CHECK THIS LOGIC –We are tied** for most medals in the Olympics, but 25th in Math in the world.


I know I sound like a real grump about this. I know it is about money. The dollar talks VERY LOUD. I just have to say something. Have to.

The Olympics are a world event where all men/women come together to meet across all diversities to compete on a totally human level. I believe that having an event such as the Olympics to take down the walls of prejudice and differences is a great thing. The text of  Beethoven’s famous Ninth Symphony says it all in this short excerpt from the total text:

                                                                                                                                          

 “…Alle Menschen werden Brüder, All men will be brothers…”

         

So what is my beef? The Olympics foster the spirit of fair play, excellence, making dreams come true, working hard to achieve….All of those things I say all the time. I believe in these values. Clearly the United States shows its American exceptionalism on the world stage at these events. So, we know the US has hard workers who understand the time and discipline necessary to achieve at high or the highest levels. I think if excellence can happen here, why can’t we reform our education system for the benefit of all?

Of course the education system is not a commercial enterprise and there are only a few, perhaps the textbook and testing companies and developers, who stand to make the big bucks on education. I include Apple, Pearson, Saxon et al in this group. The Olympics is all about money and I don’t know if in the long run it becomes a trade-off. Huge dollars are spent, but also money is made. Jobs are created. Endorsers and manufacturers of sports equipment profit and a few of the elite of the elite athletes. It seems to me it is not different from any performing art. Those who are in the top 2 or 3 % make the big bucks, the rest struggle for their art. I found this article to explain the situation of the glamour or lack of glamour in being an Olympic athlete explained in this article HERE. I understand  this situation and believe that dreams and passion drive many.

The opening ceremony cost 42 million US dollars. That sum does not include the many volunteers and the famous people that took a mere honorarium to appear. It really made me think. I liked the opening ceremony, but was that spectacle worth 42 million dollars? I don’t know how much it spins back into the economy, so criticizing what is spent is unfair. All I could think of is what that money would do for poverty, education, those who have been hit by the recession so hard, those who need assistance to stay in their homes, those without needed health care….

The Olympics has become big business attracting commercial enterprises of all types. This can be good for the economy in terms of jobs, manufacturing etc. I can’t help thinking that perhaps some of it has gone too far taking away the noble cause and turning it into total material wealth. When they show the home of a soon to be gold medal athlete who has a closet bigger than my whole bedroom adorned with bejeweled watches in excess, I do not feel good about this person. I had to remind myself that he has worked hard, and it is not his fault that these endorsers pursue him to pay homage to the almighty dollar. I guess I would be better not knowing. I can’t get that image out of my head and it has ruined this event as the pursuit of excellence for  me.

Throwing more money at education is not necessarily the answer to the educational woes of the US, but I think everyone would agree that the cuts have not helped, not at all. We don’t have teachers who are ready to teach STEM subjects to elementary children and even those that qualify to teach higher level classes in math and science.  To spite all of this, the US still turns out many who excel. The graduate schools here are the best in the world, and that is why so many foreign students flock here to get their education. Some return home for jobs and some take jobs here. That is why so many teachers in science and math at the university level are not native english speakers. Not commenting, just putting it out there for you to think about.

The Olympics are a tradition and a positive one. Everyone looks forward to it. Countries demonstrate their pride and compete with honor. All good. I can’t help wondering if we could focus more on the original intent and less on the spectacle. What do you think?

What should we be teaching our children? Is it that if you work hard and excel you will be able to be on national, perhaps international TV, displaying your collection of gold and diamond watches, or that a job worth doing is worth doing well and excellence is a noble and valuable pursuit. Developing talent is your obligation. Can we value our humanity or does it really have to be just about money?

**This may change. This was the situation when writing.

Categories: effort, extrinsic reward, intrinsic reward, Life Long Learners, mastery, math, Mathematics eduction, Olympics 2012, Uncategorized

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