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Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools

82% of Public HS Students Spend Less Than 1 Hour Per Day on Homework

Horatio Alger Hard Work and “Rags to Riches”

by Bill Korach

The High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) reports that the vast majority of kids spend less than 1 hour per day on homework. In fact 40% spend less than 1 hour PER WEEK on homework. Think about that for a minute. If students have six subjects, they are spending about 10 minutes each per night per subject. It’s hard to believe that any student could learn algebra, chemistry, physics, history or English will such a feeble effort. Many Chinese students on the other hand, spend over 4 hours of time on their homework. In addition, 80% Chinese parents hire tutors for their children. American ranks 25 in science and math among developed nations according to a McKinsey Study. Could it be that the famous “can do” American work ethic, has become the cult of self-esteem before achievement?

Horatio Alger, 19th Century author of over 100 stories about poor boys who made good through hard work “pluck” and a bit of luck captured the American dream. Alger was himself a Harvard educated New Englander who became a Unitarian minister. His themes were always the same “rags to riches” success story that was repeated thousands and millions of times in America. Maybe, America could do with a bit of Horatio Alger today. Maybe parents and schools should demand real educational standards

Here is a delightful sample from Alger that tells of the optimism of the Gilded Age:

“Ragged Dick,” is a striver, anxious to work his way up from boot blacking to something better. Barely literate at first, Dick Hunter finds a counselor his own age, although far better educated. Henry Fosdick (like Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain) is the son of a printer and familiar with the dictionary. Dick tells him, “I don’t want to be ignorant. I want to grow up ‘spectable.” Thus motivated, the ignorant youth learns the values of honesty, integrity, education, and hard work—including work on himself. He picks up rudimentary arithmetic skills. He improves his vocabulary and discovers the value of books. He comes to bathe more frequently, to dress better, to save his money.

Dick needs only one break. It comes when he chances to be at the South Ferry slip when a little boy falls in the water. Without hesitation, Dick plunges in and saves the child from drowning, an instant demonstration of resourcefulness, courage, self-risk—in short, character. The grateful father, a prosperous businessman, interviews the rescuer. Satisfied that well-mannered Dick has the right stuff, he inquires: “How would you like to enter my counting-room as clerk, Richard?”

The next week, en route to a new life, our hero is cheerfully reminded that he can no longer go by his sobriquet. Says Henry Fosdick, “You must drop that name and think of yourself now as—”

“Richard Hunter, Esq.”

“A young gentleman on the way to fame and fortune,” adds his friend.

Alger had it right, personal achievement through hard work trumps victimhood any day.

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