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Pulitzer-Winning Journalist: Focus of U.S. Schools Wrong

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Students who are not bound for college are getting shorted in their high school educations, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith told an audience of about 150 last night at the Graduate School of Education.

Smith, author of the new book Rethinking America, compared U.S. schools to those in Japan and Germany. He noted that although the same percentage of students in all three countries complete college, only America lacks a vocationally-focused high school for the 70 percent of its students who will not attend college.

"The first thing people do when they get in trouble is to ask if we're doing things right," Smith said. "But the far more profound question is are we doing the right things?"

Smith said U.S. education is not doing the right thing because it does not link what is learned in the classroom with real-life experience.

"These are kids that we as college types have not found ways to connect with," Smith said of what he called the "neglected majority."

The problems in education are continued in the American workplace, where workers are not expected to think about ways to improve the products they are producing, Smith said.

For example, Smith said that turnarounds in major companies like Ford occurred when the workers were given a chance to contribute.

"For the first time in my 20 years as a Ford manager, we're using the minds of the people that work here," Smith said a plant manager told him.

When workers contribute new ideas in their workplace and deliver a quality product, Smith said, production gains can be made.

But those gains will be difficult to achieve and America will slip behind in an increasingly com- petitive world market unless American schools supply a different kind of student, he warned.

"If you want to tap the minds of your workers...you've got to have a different kind of person who gets in your plants," he said.

Smith said the higher number of students taking calculus in other countries is an example of the successes that come with an educational system geared more towards the middle student.

Smith emphasized that the U.S. must focus on developing every individual in its society if it expects to remain competitive in today's world.

"The secret is understanding we compete one person at a time," Smith said. "Absolutely every person's got to be the best.

"If you want to tap the minds of your workers...you've got to have a different kind of person who gets in your plants," he said.

Smith said the higher number of students taking calculus in other countries is an example of the successes that come with an educational system geared more towards the middle student.

Smith emphasized that the U.S. must focus on developing every individual in its society if it expects to remain competitive in today's world.

"The secret is understanding we compete one person at a time," Smith said. "Absolutely every person's got to be the best.

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