Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2 Million Minutes

At today’s brown bag lunch discussion, Inspired staff members watched “2 Million Minutes.” The filmmakers (Robert Compton, Chad Heeter, and Adam Raney) present experiences of six high school students—two each from China, India, and the United States—and display how they spend their 2 million minutes preparing for college. Whether working towards a dream career or financial sustainability, students will eventually be part of a global economy in which these three nations are competing for that most precious of resources—“human capital.”

After the video, staff members jotted the comments posted below and engaged in a lively discussion.

“The educational system isn’t just broken in the U.S., it’s broken on an international level too. Despite less rigorous academic programs in the U.S., people from around the world often come here only to have their degrees disregarded. Unjust immigration policies and insufficient means for determining what a student knows and is capable of mean that the U.S. can maintain its imperial place of power even in fields where it doesn’t excel, while other countries compete for #1 spots in all academic areas. If we’re all competing to be the best though—schools, districts, countries—then someone else will always be on the bottom.”

“Many Indian students ‘escape’ the challenges of Indian schools to study in the U.S. schools. The academics here are less rigorous and come easier yet with more prestige. Why does the level of difficulty not directly correlate with the prestige and notoriety?”

“The greatest difference I saw between the students from each country was their understanding of ‘why.’ The students from China and India seem to have a greater understanding of why they are working so hard and why they need to be the best (economic stability, building upon their parents’ success). I did not get the same sense from the American students. They don’t seem to know why they’re going to school each day and getting an education. Perhaps this is where the American education system needs to start.”

“Whose privilege is it to take risks?”

“Economic drive in the U.S. is not as powerful as in India and China. Americans hope to keep their place in society and do well, as opposed to the real pressure of surviving and avoiding starvation.”

“The same ‘economic opportunism’ that leads students in India and China to see education as the ‘cure for hunger and poverty’ also produces Americans—the Privileged Children of the World.”

“In India—and perhaps China—education was a means to escape poverty. Is education, particularly urban education, designed to sustain poverty? ... institutionalized poverty?”

“It’s very powerful seeing the balance spent studying and doing extra-curricular activities.”

“The U.S. has a lot to learn from these countries in the value they place on education for getting ahead in life and society.”

“How do students of Indian and Chinese immigrants compare in school attitude/beliefs to students born to American-born parents?”

“How much of this video is propaganda?”

“While many, many school systems are failing, there are many succeeding. What can we uncover about these?”

“I feel this video was limited in many ways. The biggest issue I have with it is that it did not present American schools well. There is such a disparity between the low-income schools and schools [privileged] kids. It actually made me cringe. The video left me wanting more information beyond the statistics. It presented a narrow and stereotypical view of each community’s education. The question should not only focus on the privileged kids, but in what we’re not doing for kids at disadvantaged schools and how that ultimately impacts our society, including its educational and economic position in the world.”

“I feel quite strongly that we are asking the wrong questions. There is no agreement on what constitutes an ideal society. Certainly one would not easily find agreement on the current state of India, China, or the United States. We can likely agree that each possesses desirable/good/essential traits. But what do we want to be? And which path should we choose to get there? There is much to explore and no single answer.”

Join the conversation! Leave a comment and learn more about the video at www.2MMinutes.com online.

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