Everything goes up must come down. It is natural cycle and US K-12 system may be going through that phase. It may be very difficult to prevent. First generation immigrants are more motivated for education, work and career. But, second, third and newer generation kids gets most thing without much effort. They buildsup complacency and this drives to this type of situation.
I agree with most of what Ms. Burns says. Our K-12 education system is broken. Anyone who put his/her kids through it in the past ~15 years can testify to it. First, a Ms. Burns correctly states, there is no requirement (or any reward really) in our schools anymore for achievement. Everybody is being praised just for being there. The teachers are too afraid to scold kids for not performing or push them in any way to do better, and the bloated and typically overpaid administrative staff fully supports this rush to mediocrity. Second, it is not "cool" to be a good student in our schools. This is partially due to the idiotic "culture" promoted by our TV media and partly due to the teachers total apathy toward the academic success of their students. Of course the drive to study and succeed should first and foremost come from home, from the parents. But, without support and reward for achievement in our schools only the kids who are lucky enough to have "tiger moms" will succeed. And, they represent a very small minority.
@Frank Elroy: while it is true that the economy is still struggling and unemployment is high I do not know any good engineers in Silicon Valley (where I live) who is unemployed, and I know a lot of engineers. It is not enough to have a degree, in engineering or in something else. You have to be good at what you are doing. That is the only "insurance" one can have. And that is connected to the inadequacy and failings of our school system: it does not infuse the need and desire of lifelong learning and the importance of hard work and achievement into the children.
I fully agree with you. But even for those who know exactly what they want to do, go after it and succeed academically in school, the career prospects for young Americans are terrible these days. Nobody wants to train a fresh-out anymore.
Among engineering grads, the numbers I have seen are that 60% of graduates will get a job (some kind of job) right out of college. Another 30% will go back to grad school and 10% will go straight to unemployment.
Even among those 60%, not all of them are getting engineering jobs, and among the 30% who go onto grad school, some percentage make that choice largely because they couldn't get an engineering job.
If it's that bad for engineering grads, imagine how much worse it is for those with less employable majors.
As a parent for sure we have to guide our kids in career planning before investing in a college degree. Sure they have passion for various opportunities, but in all due respect, most young people are still vague post leaving High School vs. a career path. The best thing is early in the game is to nudge them slightly towards looking down the road a bit. Probably not the easiest task, but some one has got to do it!
I agree with her criticisms of the cultural & economic issues in which a financial engineering position on Wall Street is much more highly valued than a real engineering job in which something of value is produced, or in which sports stars can earn more in a few months than our best and brightest will earn in their lifetimes.
But the problem is not our supposedly "broken" K-12 education system.
Each year, our K-12 school system sends tens of thousands of new college students into our first-rate university system each year, and that university system produces large numbers of highly intelligent, well-educated new graduates. Many of them can't find jobs in their chosen fields, or in any field -- jobs worthy of the huge investment of time, money and energy that they and others (teachers, parents, etc.) have made to bring them to that level.
The problem isn't the K-12 education system, or the university system, or personal shortcomings like a sense of entitlement.
The real problem is a political-economic climate in which our best & brightest young people, after having worked hard all their lives to get educated, earn top grades, graduate with what they were told was a 'useful' degree (engineering, one of the sciences, business, etc.), find themselves working as a barista at Starbucks -- a job for which they were qualified before they even finished high school.
It's a cultural thing. However, culture can be changed. The 60s Space Program is an example of something that actually made science and engineering "cool" for lots of kids. If you take the view that the moon landings were mostly a cold war propaganda tool, it was a great success. The technology spinoffs were icing on the cake.
Being an engineer... perhaps you should look at real facts. Look up the figures on total taxation as a percent of GDP over the past century.
We have an undesirably complicated tax system for sure and one with market distorting subsidies... but compared with our own past or compared with other developed countries, it would be hard for anyone to make a legitimate (facts based) claim that taxes are high right now.