Thought Stimulated By The 30th Anniversary of the Release of the Report "A Nation At Risk"
Apparently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is in the midst of a program whose stated purpose is to enhance the quality of teaching in the United States. One of the implications of their program is that insufficient teaching at a high quality level is an important component of the failure of US K-12 schools to excel relative to the rest of the "advanced countries", such as South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Germany, etc.
I believe that this Gates program, while very well intentioned, displays a lack of understanding of America's education problems; it also risks putting far too much blame on teachers for our education system failures.
Central causes of US education problems, not addressed by the Gates Foundation, include a lack of respect for knowledge within the general American culture, math curricula that are "a mile wide and an inch deep" (from which teachers are expected to plan their lessons), an aversion to the kind of repetitive practice (derisively referred to as "rote drill" ) that is essential to the mastery of any academic skill, excessive emphasis on "self esteem", and lack of emphasis on the importance of fulfilling commitments.
If educational and/or political leaders want to do something other than give lip service to "educational excellence", then a committee of American, Japanese, Chinese, German, and Korean, and Singaporean education specialists should be formed with the task of diagnosing America's education problems and suggesting steps to make improvements. We Americans are, I believe, far too close to the problem to see it clearly by ourselves.