!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Teaching People When They Are Ready to Learn

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Teaching People When They Are Ready to Learn

One of the most insightful newspaper columns I've read recently is Robert J. Samuelson's offering in today's Washington Post.

Samuelson addresses the paradox of consistently low rankings for the US in international comparisons of student achievement, while, at the same time, the country manages to maintain an advanced and flexible economy.

Samuelson's resolution of the paradox is what he calls the US "learning system," which he describes as follows:
It's mostly post-high school and, aside from traditional colleges and universities, includes the following: community colleges; for profit institutes and colleges; adult extension courses; online and computer-based courses; formal and informal job training; self-help books.
One of Samuelson's key points is that some people just aren't ready to learn during their high school years. As they get older and more mature, their motivation rises to the point where they put in the necessary effort to acquire skills and knowledge that equip them to get decent jobs and to advance in careers.

Which brings us to the other key virtue that Samuelson points to, namely that the US learning system is job-oriented.

Samuelson's summary:
The American learning system accommodates people's ambitions and energies — when they emerge — and helps compensate for some of the defects of the school system.1
Of course, Samuelson is not letting school authorities off the hook when it comes to improving under-performing schools. Rather, he is highlighting the way in which the availability of an array of learning resources contributes to developing motivated individuals' talents, maintaining flexibility in the economy, and keeping the US at a high level of economic performance relative to other countries.

1 I myself, representing my alma mater, have attended the inaugurations of new presidents at several local community colleges. I have invariably been impressed by these educators' sense of mission and their commitment to helping their students succeed.