Study: U.S. Adults Possess Only Average Skills

Editor’s note: Circa 2002, moving to Key West, FL from Oceanside, California, meant there was only one school to chose from. Key West High School is public, and initially it was a trivial culture shock.

I noticed students did not raise their hands, they referred to teachers hollering, “Miss…” or even just their last name, and over all the teenagers seems to speak to even each other in a friendly, yet demanding manner. I was taken back, did not like it, but tried not to judge because I was the new girl.

Eventually I became a product of my environment. I had transferred with above average grades. I was placed in all honors classes, including: math, science & literature. However over time, I lost my sharpness, as well as my focus. I do not blame anyone else but myself, but I reason that the immaturity levels were higher in Key West than the high school I attended before called Fallbrook High.

Naive and distracted, I fell behind. It started in high school, at approximately age 15. What a prime age, an age while the brain is beginning to develop into a young adult.

I became an immature, demanding and unsure graduate of KWHS. Then it left me unprepared for college. I just wanted to have fun. Hah, the most I remember from high school was how much fun it was. Literally, a high school on a tiny deserted island, imagine the possibilities of enjoyment.

So I connected with party people, sororities, fraternities, surfers, musicians, and found myself obligated to go out. I had a new car, and was one of the only freshman with a brand new car so I was always the driver. Eventually in 2008 I got into a near death alcohol related car accident, after I went to a party I was peer pressured to attend.

Further more, I know that set my life back-including college. But it has allowed me to learn valuable life lessons.

My correlation I am going to make from my experiences to this article is that I must work harder and work more now to get back to above average. I have damage control to take care of, and I need more preparation for my studies.

Everyone goes at their own pace, and the most important lesson is that as long as you do not stop moving…you will get there.

Here is the article:
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a global coalition, has released a comprehensive study that tested proficiency in practical skills among people ages 16 to 65.

While the highest-skilled adults in the U.S. were on par with best performing countries such as Japan and Finland, overall the U.S. lagged behind the international average in math, reading and problem-solving.

These troubling results prompted the following reaction from Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. He told The New York Times:

If we’re so dumb, why are we so rich?

At least the U.S. is rich for now. That advantage is slipping, Carnevale points out, in today’s global economy.

It is not much of a revelation that students in the U.S. are falling behind in math and problem-solving. Sadly, we have known that for some time. What is most alarming about this study is that American adults – who, as the Times points out “on paper, are among the best-educated people of their generation anywhere in the world,” are in reality merely average. And as we know from Thomas Friedman and others who have made this point, average won’t cut it anymore.

To solve this problem, we obviously need to address the inadequacies of both the K-12 system as well as college, where students are graduating without the real-life skills that will give them a competitive edge in the global job market.

And yet, education cannot not end with college, as the skills you learn in your early 20s will not be the same ones you need to use 10 or 20 or 30 years later. The responsibility of committing to lifelong learning certainly falls on individuals if they hope to get ahead. But the responsibility falls on companies as well. In fact, if businesses do not make the investment in the professional development of their employees, they will lose the best ones (and, perversely, keep the worst ones).


Big Think


2 thoughts on “Study: U.S. Adults Possess Only Average Skills

  1. Love it! Thank you for sharing. I, too, feel like I slipped around that age because of peer pressure, but I finally got to be a better student again after a couple years in college 🙂 I was your first friend remember?! I’m proud of you for trying so hard


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