Letter: Schools not helping students attain skills

To the editor:

An open letter to the parents of Center Grove schools,

I bring you an urgent message. It is scary, but it is true. Fortunately, we can still do something about it. But we have to act now.

“American high schools are obsolete,” Bill Gates sounded the alarm at the 2005 National Education Summit on High Schools.

Yet, 11 years later, our public high schools have not acted on his warning.

American high schools were designed more than a half century ago for a industry that needed assembly line workers. But now we are in the 21st century, our public high schools were left behind.

The future our children are facing is the fourth industrial revolution. It is the result of the convergence of several key technologies: robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, big data, cloud computing, internet, augmented reality, quantum computing and others. This revolution will usher in a new kind of factory where robots do all the work.

Like the previous industrial revolutions, it will affect every corner of our society, but with a much wider and deeper impact. As President Obama stated in his 2016 economic report, “Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but rather affects any job where work can be automated. “

This new industry does not need human workers. It needs engineers and technicians who can design, program and fix robots. Yet, our high school graduates just don’t have the math skills required. Most American high school graduates only have middle school math skills.

This was OK in the past, but is not so in the future.

The warning signs are clear. During the recession, millions of manufacturing jobs were lost. They did not, and will not, come back.

While many college graduates can not find decent paying jobs, 80,000 scientists and engineers are imported every year from abroad.

This is not just a Center Grove problem. It is a national crisis. We need to change how our children are taught. In the same speech, Mr. Gates warned us, “Until we design them to meet the needs of the 21st century, we will keep limiting — even ruining — the lives of millions of Americans every year.”

I believe Center Grove can make the change. We have the resources to do so. This is the main reason why I am running for school board.

I had worked as an engineer for 20 years, and have taught high school math for the last five. I have the knowledge and skills to work with the school administration and the teachers to make sure that our children will have the right kind of math education to prosper in this new industrial revolution, instead of being swept aside by it.

Please vote for me for your children’s sake. We have to make the change now before it is too late. I can be reached at pingnan.shi@gmail.com and my website is www.educationrefromnow2016.org.

Pingnan Shi, Ph.D.