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THE EXTENT OF U.S. IGNORANCE IS MIND-BOGGLING

In the new high-tech global economy, knowledge workers have become the "new currency." They are people in a high-performance workplace who must assimilate increasing amounts of new knowledge, possess personal thinking/application/problem solving abilities, and handle high workloads with extremely variable content.

This requires a high-performance/quality-assured educational system for the development of human capital (knowledge workers) to implement new ideas and innovations more quickly in generating and utilizing technological advances.

To a greater degree than ever before, our educational system is the key to raising productivity, increasing competitiveness and enhancing long-term economic growth. The following facts, from "The Twilight of American Culture" by Dr. Morris Berman, a social critic and professor at Johns Hopkins, (W.W. Norton and Co., 2000), represent some of the fallout from two decades of educational reform experiments in meeting the need for knowledge workers:

Only 10 percent of applicants for mail-clerk jobs in Chicago were able to meet the minimum literacy, according to the Wall Street Journal (March 31, 1989).

Motorola Corp. reported that 80 percent of all applicants screened nationally failed a test of 7th grade English and 5th grade math.

42 percent of American adults could not locate Japan on a world map, as reported on National Public Radio (NPR) on March 22, 1997, and another survey reported on NPR revealed that 15 percent couldn't locate the United States.

58 percent of American high school seniors could not understand a newspaper editorial in any newspaper in a 1996 Roper survey.

Of the 158 countries in the United Nations, the United States ranks 49th in literacy. Approximately 120 million adults are illiterate or read at no better than a fifth-grade level; 60 percent of the adult population has never read a book of any kind; and only 6 percent reads as much as one book a year.

60 percent of the 22,000 high school students surveyed by the U.S. Department of Education in 1995 had no idea how the United States came into existence, and 50 percent were unaware of the Cold War. In another study of 17-year-olds, only 12 percent could arrange six common fractions in order of size.

Only 41 percent of American teenagers could name the three branches of government, but 59 percent could name the Three Stooges in a 1998 National Constitution Center survey; only 2 percent could name the chief justice of the Supreme Court; and 26 percent were unable to identify the vice president.

50 percent of 17-year-olds could not express 9/1 00 as a percentage, and nearly 50 percent couldn't place the Civil War in the correct half century, according to a National Assessment of Education Progress report in the early 1990s.

The College Board, which administers the SAT exam to high school seniors applying to college, discovered that the average verbal score had dropped from 478 in 1963 to 424 in 1995 (this is on a scale from 200 to 800); it "re-entered" the scoring so that 424 became 500, and 730 became 800 (a perfect score).

56 percent of American adults in a 1995 National Science Foundation survey said that electrons were larger than atoms; 63 percent of the polled stated that the earliest human beings lived at the same time as the dinosaurs (a chronological error of more than 60 million years); 53 percent said that the Earth revolves around the sun in either a day or a month (only 47 percent knew the correct answer is one year); and 91 percent were unable to state what a molecule is.

21 percent of more than 2,000 adults in a random telephone survey conducted by Northern Illinois University believed that the sun revolved around the Earth, with an additional 7 percent saying that they did not know which revolved around which.

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