Article in AZ Republic About Education

I was providing some information to a reporter who was asking about our success despite our schools demographics. I guess he thought it was good to he asked if he could publish it on its own. So here it is

Our misplaced sense of celebrity hurts all
Faridodin ‘‘Fredi’’ Lajvardi
My Turn
Apr. 28, 2008 12:00 AM
Editor’s note: Science teacher Fredi Lajvardi this month coached the Carl Hayden High School robotics team to the top prize in the international robotics championship in Atlanta. A number of his students hail from some of the most economically distressed neighborhoods in Phoenix. They beat 550 teams from 26 countries to win the title.

The public-education system in the United States is not the disaster that much of the public and many government officials contend. As a whole, there is nothing irreparably wrong with education in America.

Why, then, is the current state of education in the United States described as abysmal? It is true that, as a nation, we are falling behind. But the teachers and public education are conveniently and mistakenly blamed.

The real reason students are not reaching their potential is not our schools; it is the larger society and the current culture of our country. That’s quite a charge, right? It’s much easier to blame educators.

We promote the values of American Idol, the NBA, NFL and reality TV. We celebrate celebrities while people who really make huge life-changing contributions to the quality of our lives go unnoticed.

Does anyone know who invented the cell phone? It was one person. How about the portable insulin pump? It was one person. Millions use these devices every day, and they save thousands of peoples lives every day. And yet we don’t know who these people are. Why? Whether Kobe Bryant makes the basket that wins the game will not affect, in any meaningful sense, people’s lives. Yet he is celebrated and revered and compensated financially as if he makes all the difference. Why are the people who bring about real progress and promote the well-being of individuals and society essentially invisible?

Kids are absorbing our culture’s misguided idea of what is praiseworthy. They learn what qualities are valued by the public, and they reach for those qualities. Yet those qualities do not make the world a better place. Author Thomas Freidman says it all: “In China, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. The problem is that in the United States, Britney Spears is Britney Spears.”

I am not saying there is no place for sports and entertainment in our lives. I am saying their role has been blown out of proportion.

An example of how America has slipped into this mind-set of “Sports and Entertainment 24/7” is demonstrated by looking at a typical public high school. On average, two-thirds of the real estate in public schools is dedicated to athletics. That leaves one-third for academics and support facilities.

A student gets one hour of chemistry a day and three to four hours of football practice. A student can miss class to play a game, but how often does a student miss a game to catch up in chemistry class?

Athletic coaches get paid to work with the kids after school, but the calculus teacher or the academic-decathlon coach or the robotics coach does not in most districts. These are just a few of the subtle, yet powerful, messages we give our youths.

The reason our robotics program works is we convince our students through actual experience that science, working as a team, public speaking, all kinds of problem-solving, and dedicating their efforts toward a meaningful goal not only have real value but are exciting! We compete in spite of the misleading messages that saturate the media about what is important and what you should care about. And we win.

Awesome Fredi! Nice Article!

Thanks man! I try to get the kids to write stuff, so I am leading by example. When are you going to write something?

I’m trying. Check out ‘happy hour’ on Fox Business News Network today, April 28th at about 5:20 EDT. A short 1 minute piece should be there at about 5:23 about FIRST Robotics. I just got done with the interview.


I Guess Ill Have to Get on That Thanks Fredi.