Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Two Million Minutes

That is how long the typical student the world over will spend in their high school careers - two million minutes. Four years in the students life - do the math (assuming you know how.)

It is also the name of a documentary film that asks a simple thought-provoking question that you might think you can answer easily: Can your high school Junior or Senior measure up to the 10th grade proficiency standards of the Third World?

"Two Million Minutes" (website linked by the title of this blog posting) is a breakthrough film from Executive Producer Robert A. Compton, directed by Chad Heeter, written and produced by Adam Raney from Compton's original idea.

In the story line, the priorities and pressures of six students from different parts of the world are examined. There are two from Carmel, Indiana representing typical American students. Neil Ahrendt is an 18-year old senior class president and National Merit Award semi-finalist. Brittany Brechbuhl is a 17-year old who is in the top 3% of her graduating class who wants to become a doctor.

Also in the film are a pair of students from Bangalore, India. Rohit Sridharan is a 17-year old young man who is seeking acceptance into an elite Indian engineering school. Apoora Uppala is a 17-year old girl who aims to become an engineer, which she believes is the safest profession in her home country.

And finally we have two young people from Shanghai, China as well. Hu Xiaoyuan is a 17-year old girl who plays violin, hopes to study biology, and has applied for early admission to Yale University here in the States. Jin Ruizhang is a 17-year old boy who competes in international math tournaments and wants to continue studying advanced math in college.


The film also features commentary from folks such as Cal-Berkely professor and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, physicist and RPI president Shirley Ann Jackson, 12-term congressman and Chairman of the US House Committee on Science and Technology Bart Gordon, Harvard economist Richard Freeman, and a number of others.

How much time have you spent actually supervising your kids homework, study habits, school attendance and performance? How much emphasis do you give in your home to the importance of your child's formal education?

How much have you evaluated the quality and content of the education that they are actually receiving at your neighborhood school, and evaluated any options of choice in schools that you may have available if you find it lacking?

The fact is that students in the United States, world leaders for generations, have fallen behind their counter-parts in many nations, and continue to fall further behind each year.

A wide variety of factors are behind this decline in competitiveness, including poor parental guidance, misplaced priorities of students, and liberal educational objectives. If you don't think that it's important for our children to be able to compete on a global scale in an increasingly shrinking world, then you are selling their future prospects short.

These are things that I never fully appreciated as my girls were growing up: you just sent them to the best school that you could, tried to make sure they behaved themselves and generally did their work, and hoped for the best at that point from the school itself.

That is simply not enough in today's world. It never was, and I realize only now that it is the lazy man's way out. American parents need to begin to re-emphasize formal education, and need to ensure that their children specifically are receiving the highest possible level of education, particularly in the areas of math and science.

If you find that your school doesn't measure up to your increased standards, and you simply cannot afford any other option, then you need to find a way to personally supplement their formal education in these areas.

A good beginning for you would be to visit the website and by eventually seeing the film "Two Million Minutes". If you have young kids for whom its not too late to make a difference, you won't regret it. More importantly, neither will they.

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