2 Million Minutes

2 million minutes

It is estimated that students spend 2 million minutes in high school. A new documentary titled Two million minutes A Global Examination by Brocken Pencil discusses how American students cannot compete with students from other countries who are more skilled in technology, math and sciences. It is argued that American students spend most of their 2 million minutes watching TV shows and playing video games while their peers in China and India enroll in after school and weekend classes.

The comparison between American students with those from other countries has always existed. Recently, I’ve read a number of articles analyzing: Are we better than they? How can they be better than us? Are our students partying too much, spending too much time lifting weights and practicing to be the best football players or cheerleaders? Are Homecoming Queens spending too much time campaigning to win pageants? Is there such a thing as too much study? How to motivate our students to take the books more hours per week? What are the scores for literacy levels in the USA? Well, this new documentary discusses how our students are falling behind and how it will affect our economy. Interesting debate, I say. I cannot wait to watch the documentary. Here is a preview.

From the filmmakers:

 The documentary features experts ranging from a former U.S. Secretary of Labor to Harvard economists analyzing how “Statistics for American high school students give rise to concern for our student’s education in math and science. Less than 40 percent of U.S. students take a science course more rigorous than general biology, and a mere 18 percent take advanced classes in physics, chemistry or biology. Only 45 percent of U.S. students take math coursework beyond two years of algebra and one year of geometry. And 50 percent of all college freshmen require remedial coursework.”

 “Meanwhile, both India and China have made dramatic leaps in educating their middle classes – each comparable in size to the entire U.S. population. Compared to the U.S., China now produces eight times more scientists and engineers, while India puts out up to three times as many as the U.S. Additionally, given the affordability of their wages, China and India are now preferred destinations for increasing numbers of multinational high-tech corporations.” 

An article from the U.S. News and World Report says that the documentary follows six students through their senior year of high school in the United States, India, and China. Brittany Brechbuhl is a 17-year-old who’s in the top 3 percent of her graduating class at Carmel High School in Indiana. She aspires to become a doctor but also wants to join a sorority and “party.” Neil Ahrendt, 18, is another talented Carmel student who is the senior class president and former quarterback of the football team. These American teenagers’ attitudes toward academics differ sharply from those of their peers in India and China, who seem more motivated and focused. Take, for example, 17-year-old Apoorva Uppala, who attends Saturday tutoring sessions to prepare for her university entrance exams. She wants to become an engineer, which she calls “the safest” profession in India. In Shanghai, Jin Ruizhang, 17, preps for international math tournaments. He is already the top math student at his school and hopes to get into a prestigious university offering an advanced math program. Even though it has not been released to general audiences yet, the film has drawn criticism from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University and others who say it fans anxiety without enough evidence to support its claims. Walt Gardner, a former lecturer at the University of California-Los Angeles who taught in public schools for 28 years, says neither China nor India has participated in international assessments. “How do we know how well Chinese and Indian students would perform?” he asks. 

As I see it, the goal of the film is to create awareness of the importance of education to secure the best possible future for our students and country. How to do this? An action plan and a proposal to review the USA education system are in order. Many specialists interviewed for the documentary offer advice on these two-  Is someone listening out there?      

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