Is American Exceptionalism – the concept – a good or bad thing? Do we assume because we are American that we are better? I hope not. I did grow up believing that we were the best country in the world, the richest and most powerful. I have visited other countries, and although I appreciated many things about other cultures and what those countries had to offer, I gained a deep love and appreciation for what out country does for its citizens. Many may not appreciate these freedoms and the high standard of living that we maintain (for most, not all**) here in the United States. I will refrain from discussing those in our country who, by claiming to endorse freedom, design to take away the freedom of others. I believe that the true American spirit will win out.
So, what is American Exceptionalism? Or do we want to think of it as America as exceptional, idealizing hard work, innovation and accomplishment? Many of late want to infer superiority of different types: military, capitalism, democracy. My intention of discussing it is not to create a political discussion. It relates to how we view and implement education. America is not better, but I do believe we created a standard of excellence over many years, leading the world in creativity, innovation and education, and that tradition must continue.
I always believed we have the best education system in the world. Public education for all. Of course, recently, the facts have jarred — we are nowhere near the top five in education in the world. It was really shocking to me and disappointing. My passion became to change this fact. We need to foster education in math and science, STEM learning for all. Who would not want to do this? I think having my own children and witnessing what their education was like — what it takes to make it better as parent — was the turning point for me. I know that there are schools that are doing a great job. I really don’t believe either of my children benefitted from this outstanding education. I believe I was always talking, asking, and really trying not to be too pushy, but probably looked at by some as one of “those” parents. You must advocate for your child’s education-if not you, then whom?
My daughter went through the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in high school, and that program was finally challenging for her, and I think about as good as it got at the time. There are high schools now who embrace STEM education, math, science and the arts. This way is the only credible one to me. Standard teaching in math and science that is not conceptual, is instead fact-based, just won’t do.
Many schools take an alternative route, apply for innovation status which allows them to do things “differently,” but do they do it? Or does it take so long to implement and re-educate the teachers about how to teach that it is ineffective?
To me, it is simple. We are the country that put a man on the moon, and now a supersized rover on Mars bound to glean science unlike anything or anyone else. Keep your eye on the target–it is excellence, hard work and innovation. Anything is possible. Dream big and know that the dreams can become reality.
**It is true that many American children live in poverty, more than ever. Not denying this fact, I aim to improve education starting with early intervention to help these, and all children. Early intervention and education in general, is the best answer to poverty. If the US can triumph by sincerely educating everyone, we will be truly “exceptional.”