Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Understanding Education

Without a doubt all of the problems facing the United States and actually the world can be solved through education. Highly educated people bring increased economic development as mentioned in the article below, would solve our health care crisis, bring people out of poverty and create greater understanding between people. While not having the answers, I salute Google in attempting to find technological solutions to this problem I hope that you take a bit of time and read this post below from the official Google Blog.

The Official Google Blog - Insights from Googlers into our products, technology and the Google culture

Sesame Street comes to Google: Improving our education system at the Breakthrough Learning forum

10/27/2009 07:00:00 AM
If you could reinvent the American education system, what would you do? It's a question we think about a lot here at Google. This week we're exploring possibilities with Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age, a forum organized in cooperation with The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and Common Sense Media, with the support of the MacArthur Foundation. This event will bring together 200 of the nation’s thought leaders in science and technology, informal and formal education, entertainment media, research, philanthropy and policy to design a strategy for scaling up effective models of teaching and learning for children, with an emphasis on technology. The forum will showcase new research, proven and promising education innovation models to challenge decision-makers to refresh and reboot American global leadership in education.

There's plenty of evidence that shows that the current educational system in the U.S. needs improvement. Twenty-five years ago, President Reagan's National Commission on Excellence in Education produced "A Nation at Risk," a report which first highlighted that our country's system wasn't meeting the national need for a competitive workforce in the day's global economy. Since then, our education system has gone through great upheaval, from the state-level standards reforms in the 1990s to 2002's No Child Left Behind, which is similarly based on the belief that setting high standards measurable goals will improve individual outcomes in education. Though the intention of these reforms was to close the global achievement gap, they left many teachers and students feeling restricted to teaching and learning "to the test." And we're still seeing disheartening results; the U.S. is currently ranked 25th of OECDcountries in math scores and 24th in science scores according to the PISA 2006 Science Competencies for Tomorrow's World report. And according to McKinsey's Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools report, if the U.S. had in recent years closed the gap between its educational achievement levels and those of higher-performing nations, our GDP in 2008 could have been $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion higher. That's 9 to 16 percent of GDP!

Fortunately, there are people today who are working to change these statistics. One is tonight's keynote speaker, Geoff Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone. The Harlem Children's Zone combines educational, social and medical services with the goal of reaching all of the children in Harlem. Another organization addressing the issue is the MacArthur Foundation, which has created the Digital Media and Learning Project to explore the effects of digital media on young people and its implications for the future of learning and education. And we can't forget Sesame Workshop, which this year celebrates 40 years of educating children with Muppets and media.

There's great hope for American education, as long as we can work toward innovative solutions that not only allow students distinct educational experiences tailored to their interests and abilities, but also drive toward a common goal of assessable success. Students today are technologists too, and embracing that familiarity and bringing it into the classroom will help teachers and students better engage and work together to teach and learn. Most importantly, we need to support our teachers, principals and administrators — the true agents of change who tirelessly and passionately work to connect with each and every student that passes through their classrooms. The Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age forum is one step we're taking to address some of our most pressing national education system issues.

If you're interested in joining us at the forum, we'll be broadcasting live on the web both todayand tomorrow. We welcome your questions and ideas to help us shape our discussions. Go tohttp://www.google.com/events/digitalage/ to participate and learn more.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Death vs. Life

“If some messenger were to come to us with the offer that death should be overthrown, but with the one inseparable condition that birth should also cease; if the existing generation were given the chance to live for ever, but on the clear understanding that never again would there be a child, or a youth, or first love, never again new persons with new hopes, new ideas, new achievements; ourselves for always and never any others-could the answer be in doubt?
-Gates of Repentance

As we read this passage during the Yizkor (Memorial) Service on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day of the year, contemporary thoughts entered my mind. Does the healthcare debate pertain to this quote? Many additional questions germinated from this question. What do we want from health care? How far do we go to keep a person alive? Who should make decisions over life and death? Should the individual, their family, the doctor or doctors, the hospital or the government make those decisions? Should the decision be based on saving life no matter what, or life expectancy, or quality of life, or cost?

For all of the existential questions pertaining to healthcare, the general view seems to be as follows. For general problems of illness or injury healthcare should cover those incidents. When it comes to the life of a child, parent or grandparent, we think that everything possible should be done to keep our loved one alive. When it comes to someone else’s loved one, we do not want to be the person responsible for such decisions.

Those questions require intense discussion. In our national debate, those questions require intense discussion. If we do not find the answers going into this unknown area the unintended consequences will be enormous. In my opinion, cost will become the determining factor and only cost. Medical costs continue to soar way beyond the rate of inflation. That may be understandable occasionally but year after year. When the government took over the care of our senior citizens with Medicare over 40 years ago, the cost of medical care was approximately 6% of the GDP. Today the number is approximately 18%. We are having this debate now because healthcare is already reaching the non-affordable point.

This brings me back to the quote and the need to address the existential questions proposed. Because of medical advances, average life expectancy is approximately 80 years of age and will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. Is our ultimate goal to live forever? If so, our healthcare system costs will continue to explode. Will we come to the point where we can no longer allow people to have children? Are we being so selfish about our lives and those of our family, to say that there should be no one to follow us? I know these are extreme thoughts. I do not think that anyone truly believes that these actions will lead to this conclusion. Like the quote, most people would answer no to what is proposed. But how far do we want the healthcare system to take care of us and our loved ones? Should this not be the starting point of our debate rather than an afterthought?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Random Thoughts

From time to time, ideas just pop into my head. They roll over and over in my brain. Sometimes I find answers and sometimes I do not. By chance, if I put my thoughts down and examine them, maybe I will find greater understanding. These random thoughts are the main reason for having this blog.

Will I use the blog for other issues as well? Probably. Many times I come across articles, papers or videos that I find interesting. I may just post a link to the site or I may copy the article into this blog.

What I am saying is that this blog is about me and for me. If you care to comment, I take the liberty of only posting those comments that I think advance the idea for me. But please feel free to comment. I really do not know where this blog is going. I have not created a plan and do not have a road map to follow. I guess that is why this is random.