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The spirit of patriotism is prevalent in American culture and is an important part of our country. We have always considered ourselves to be a great and accomplished society that sets an example for others. Our country seems to have an underlying tone of arrogance in which we magnify the U.S.’s accomplishments to the point where Americans have a disillusioned outlook on our country. The fact is that our country is not as great as we perceive it to be. We are not always the good example of how societies should be and we aren’t the awesome superpower that we once were. Therefore, the United States is not the admirable country its citizens perceive it as because our education system is failing our citizens and American citizens try and even fail to achieve mediocrity and don’t strive for anything beyond it.
The American education system has been failing Americans for a long time. The 2010 PISA or Program for International Student Assessment reports “The performance of the United States was mediocre, and although notching gains in all three subjects, the country scored near the international average in reading literacy and scientific literacy and below average in mathematical literacy” (Loveless). American students demonstrate average or below average skills compared to the rest of the world. They don’t seem to value education or try to apply their education to the real world. “Conversely, to be thought of as well-spoken and articulate is rapidly being frowned upon and thought of as elitist and snobbish” (Fegan). Many Americans seem intimidated by people who are more intelligent in their speech and choice of words possibly because they themselves cannot speak as intellectually. They usually prefer to be in a setting where the most unsophisticated language is spoken. “Indeed there is a swelling pride in somehow being perceived as “simple” or “plain” that has become appealing in a perverse sort of way” (Fegan). Many Americans enjoy being simple minded and don’t want to try to expand their knowledge. “...of the 4 million students who enter high school each year, one million will drop out before graduation. That’s 7,000 every school day -- one dropout every 26 seconds” (Whitaker). This shows how Americans aren’t willing to learn and instead quit and drop out of school. This inhibits them in the education system because the schools are adjusted to make it easier so then maybe more students will stay in school whereas other countries promote a higher level of education. Americans are then at a disadvantage to some other international students, despite some meager reforms by states in the U.S.
There are many Americans who strive to and often succeed at achieving mediocrity and nothing more. Despite growing up with the ideals of the American dream, not many people seem to be motivated to do something great with their lives. We look up to people who have achieved the American dream of fame, glory, and riches and dream of having something similar, yet no one thinks about what these people had to go through to accomplish what they have. Very few Americans take their inspiration and dreams and turn it into a reality. Even if they have a goal that is very realistic, many Americans fail to even fulfill that goal. Part of the problem is that Americans do not have their priorities straight. Americans like “first, spending significant time and outsized effort on things that don’t really matter… and second, spending minimal time and half-hearted effort on things that do” (Hagelin). An example of this would be students getting lower grades in school because their priority is surfing the Internet, hanging out with friends, and spending hours trying to achieve a high score on a video game. School is pushed to the side to the point where education isn’t the priority for the American people anymore.
“After decades of erasing the last luminous wisps of a once awe-inspiring excellence, today, it's perfected the art of imagining, designing, mega-financing, and mass-producing... whose side effects may include ...depression and dumbification” (Haque). Americans have created a society that expects nothing more than mediocrity yet dreams of something great. Many Americans seem to be under the impression that we are “awe-inspiring” when in reality our industry has created an image of perfection that we have come to associate with the U.S. In reality, our own creations of technology and industry have lowered our expectations for quality in products and it has spilled over into lowering our expectations for life. Mediocrity is not only tolerated, it is glorified.
“In corporate America you have the person who provides absolutely no value, but brown-noses themselves into promotion after promotion. Mediocrity rewarded. Politicians who accomplish nothing for their communities, or the greater good, get reelected. Again, mediocrity rewarded. Kids who compete in sporting events, yet everyone gets a trophy, even those that were dead last. Rewarded” (Rove).
Our children have gotten the idea that everyone is rewarded for everything that they do and when these children grow up they expect that same immediate rewarding. They don’t get an accomplished feeling for doing things that don’t provide an immediate benefit to themselves. This translates into Americans being short-sighted and not realizing that everything they do will eventually have an effect on their lives in some way eventually. It causes us to become lazy and makes it the norm to not try our hardest at something that will not provide an instant reward. In education, many students refuse to even try to do school work and complain when they get low grades. They don’t realize that to achieve something above mediocrity, they have to work for it. The 2010 PISA results show “myths of international assessments are debunked—the first, that the United States once led the world on international tests of achievement. It never has.” (Loveless). This is proof that mediocrity has been deeply embedded in American culture for quite some time. In order to change the American education system, we must first alter the American culture.
Mediocrity has become embedded into American society because of our failing education system and Americans’ failure to strive for anything other than mediocrity which shows that America is not the great country its citizens perceive it to be. Americans have become lazy, simple minded, and don’t care about what really matters. People in this country get wrapped up in small conflicts that in the end have no value while the important parts of life get ignored. They can’t shift their focus to anything of importance in their life. Americans don’t try to achieve something great and the few that do are practically worshipped. They spend too much time glorifying someone else instead of trying to accomplish something themselves. As Americans, we seem to have forgotten that, as long as you work hard, you can accomplish and achieve many things in life. We clearly haven’t forgotten to dream big, but apparently we’ve forgotten that we have to work hard to achieve it.
Fegan, Peter. “Dumbing It Down: The Pursuit of Intellectual Mediocrity in America.” Addicting Info. N.p., 29 Oct. 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. <http://www.addictinginfo.org/?2011/?10/?29/? dumbing-it-down-the-pursuit-of-intellectual-mediocrity-in-america/>.
Hagelin, Rebecca. “Go for Greatness, Not Mediocrity.” Conservative Crusader. N.p., 13 July 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <http://www.conservativecrusader.com/?articles/?go-for-greatness-not-mediocrity>.
Haque, Umair. “America: Excelling at Mediocrity.” HBR Blog Network. N.p., 28 Oct. 2011. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://blogs.hbr.org/?haque/?2011/?10/?america_excelling_at_mediocrit.html>.
Loveless, Tom. “The 2010 Brown Center Report on American Education.” Brookings. N.p., 7 Feb. 2011. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <http://www.brookings.edu/?reports/?2011/?0207_education_loveless.aspx>.
Rove, Karl. “The Mediocrity Principle.” Mediocrity.us. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://mediocrity.us/?the-mediocrity-principle>.
Whitaker, Bill. "High School Dropouts Costly for American Economy." CBS News.
N.p., 28 May 2010. Web. 4 Dec. 2011. <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/