North Chicago Chamber of Commerce
MESSAGE FROM THE CHAMBER: FOCUS ON EDUCATION & LEADERSHIP
SPEECH PRESENTED AT THE FEBRUARY 2012 FORECAST NORTH CHICAGO BREAKFAST My name is Marvin Bembry and I serve as President of the North Chicago Chamber of Commerce. To all of our guests today on the dais and in the audience, I thank you for coming. Ladies and gentlemen, today I want to sound the alarm and assert that the system of education is broken. Usually when I make this address, I try to be upbeat and provide a positive tone. But today my message is a little bit different.
If you were to go to the doctor and were suffering with cancer, you would not want the doctor
to prescribe a Band-Aid. You would want the doctor to give you the facts and prescribe a regiment that would hopefully get rid of the cancer.
So today I want to give a public voice to conversations that have been going on in public and in private for a long time. I want to talk to
you today about the education system or perhaps better stated the mis-education system. I will start with some broad facts about the American education system, and then transition to talk about the system that exists here in
North Chicago where I am privileged to have been selected to serve as the President of its Chamber. But then I want to explore the potential and opportunities for change. I do not seek to just be provocative, but rather to bring you information and a challenge that hopefully galvanize you to action. Within this room of influential leaders there is the capability and I hope the will, to not just create incremental change but radical and transformational change in North Chicago.
The future of our country is inextricably linked to the education of our youth. James Anderson said: "Appropriately, it was Thomas Jefferson who first articulated the inseparable relationships between popular education and a free society. If a nation expected to be ignorant and free, he argued, it expected the impossible" (Anderson, 1988, introduction). Students in the United States are continuing to trail behind their peers in a pack of higher performing nations, according to results from a key international assessment.
Scores from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment show 15-year-old students in the U.S. performing about
average in reading and science, and below average in math. Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math. Those scores are all higher than those from 2003 and 2006, but far behind the highest scoring countries, including South Korea, Finland and Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China and Canada. "This is an absolute wake-up call for America," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press. "The results are extraordinarily challenging to us and we have to deal with the brutal truth. We have to get much more serious about investing in education."
The PISA exam is one of a handful of tests that compare educational levels across nations, and is considered to be the most comprehensive. The test focuses on how well students are able to apply their knowledge in math, reading and science to real-life situations. Some 470,000 students took the test in 2009 in 65 countries and educational systems, from poor, underdeveloped nations to the most wealthy. Student performance on international assessments is considered especially relevant as today's high school graduates enter a global job market, where highly skilled workers are in increasing demand. Between 1995 and 2008, for example, the United States slipped from ranking second in college graduation rates to 13th, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Paris-based organization that develops and administers the PISA exam. Of 34 OECD countries, only 8 have a lower high school graduation rate.
Responding to the grim figures, President Barrack Obama has set a goal for the U.S. to have the highest proportion of students graduating
from college in 2020. "We live in a globally competitive knowledge based economy, and our children today are at a competitive disadvantage with children
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