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I'm speaking to what I know.
And, honestly I think that this is the way that secondary education is designed in the US.
You use the term "functionally illiterate," but I think that we have to be very careful here. If that phrase is to have any meaning, it has to be connected to some sort of expectation of what students should know. And, the expectation seems to be a very basic level of knowledge.
Part of the problem is that I think there is a tendency to want to have a very broad (in subject terms), but not very deep education at the secondary level. If you really want to know what the standard are for high school education, look here.
This is one state, but is probably pretty typical. Even this is misleading, because students think know that all they really have to do is memorize. Most high school tests are multiple choice, and that form doesn't give itself to asking questions that actually answer whether a student understands material.
And, in the end. Students just don't care, because it's not like there are consequences for being a defiant little bastard and just refusing to do any sort of homework. If schools try to enforce standards, wealthy parents will just revolt.
It may be that this is the problem. Schools aren't expected to enforce standards, and there's pushback if they try to do so. So students grow up in an environment where there are few, if any, expectations.
The very idea of public education, that the State should be determining what your children learn is somehow suspect. So you get charters, etc.... Which promise to improve the situation, but make it worse.
And now I am being entirely jaded.
And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
ACT WorkKeys includes twelve workplace skill assessments:
Applied Mathematics - applying mathematical reasoning to work-related problems
Applied Technology - understanding technical principles as they apply to the workplace
Business Writing - composing clear, well-developed messages relating to on-the-job situations
Listening - being able to listen to and understand work-related messages
Locating Information - using information from sources such as diagrams, floor plans, tables, forms, graphs, and charts
Workplace Observation - paying attention to details in instructions and demonstrations
Reading for Information - comprehending work-related reading materials such as memos, bulletins, policy manuals, and governmental regulations
Teamwork - choosing behavior that furthers workplace relationships and accomplishes work tasks
Writing - measures the skills individuals use when they write messages that relay workplace information between people
Performance - related to attitudes toward work and the person's tendency to engage in unsafe work behaviors
Talent - includes dependability, assertiveness, and emotional stability
Fit - how interests and values correspond to a particular career
Power Point is a tool for presenting all of the desired understandings, not a substitute for knowing how to organize one's thoughts. Without the former Power Point just becomes another meaningless computer skill.
"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
It actually is an acquired skill, and one that, like concision and intelligibility, is not well respected in academia. Presumably because it is believed that there is a tradeoff between precision and concision and between correctness and intelligibility. Which is not as false as some consultants would have you believe... but not as true as some professors hold either.
Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.
Giving everybody a college education is not a realistic goal. You need to divide those who can realistically go to college from those who cannot and school them in a different way.
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