Five essential skills that American education provides - ForumDaily
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Five essential skills that American education provides

Any education gives not only knowledge, but also skills, which are then used in work and everyday life. About this blog for VOA writes Tatyana Vorozhko.

Фото: Depositphotos

For example, studying at the Faculty of History of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev helped me develop short-term memory: after memorizing entire books for the exam, now when I, as a journalist, cover this or that event, I need to very quickly collect information, remember it and tell it without hesitation. live broadcast. I also learned to look at any phenomenon - social, cultural, or political - in a historical context, and I fell in love with reading history books.

In the US, I studied in graduate school or on the master's program (graduate degree) in the Department of Journalism at Ohio University. But the skills discussed below are not specific to journalists. They are universal, you acquire them thanks to the American and Western education systems in general. Some of these skills have begun to be emphasized in modern Ukrainian schools, but they were absent in Soviet schools, and most adults do not possess them or possess them poorly. By the way, they are not common in other countries of the non-Western world - we, foreign students, were sent to special additional classes so that we could master them at an accelerated pace. However, I believe that today everyone needs these skills to be a full-fledged member of a modern, global society.

Proper understanding of the text and writing easy-to-understand texts

In American schools, they do not measure with a stopwatch how many words a first-grader reads per minute. The main thing is understanding the text. Even the subject in the lower grades is called that - Reading and comprehension (reading and understanding). Under the text there will be questions that require the child to answer, who is the main character, what he did and, most importantly, why. And already from the second grade, children are asked to write a summary of the works (summary).

We, foreign students, were required to write such short notes during special additional lessons. Interestingly, this was not a problem for me and other students from Eastern Europe. But for students from Asian countries, this task was real torture. “How can I highlight the main thing in the text?” they didn’t understand. “If there was something superfluous there, the author would not have written it!”

Schoolchildren and students are taught to read and understand scientific articles, primarily sociology and statistics. What is statistical sampling? How does a statistical average differ from a weighted average? How to distinguish high-quality research from low-quality research? (Hint - look at the methodology). And we had to endlessly write abstracts of scientific articles.

By the way, the Soviet “what did the author want to say with his work?” I consider it a harmful exercise. Schoolchildren were thus taught to look for socio-political subtext, which may or may not have been there - that is, to think for the author. It is better to consider what the author managed to say with his work.

In the USA they also teach how to write texts that are as clear as possible. From the very first paragraph—preferably from the first sentence—it should be clear to the reader what the text is about. One thought - one sentence. One argument - one paragraph, where the argument is presented in the first sentence and supported in the rest. In a journalistic article, everything is important - who, what, when, where, why and how (the 5 W + H principle - who, what, when, where, why, and) - at first.

The clear structure of the text makes it easier to understand and saves time. American teachers explained to us that it is not necessary to read scientific articles in their entirety—only the first sentences in each paragraph are allowed. As a last resort, it is enough to read the annotation. You can also look at the entire newspaper and carefully read 3-6 articles to keep abreast of the main events.

Of course, not all of these principles apply to fiction and poetry.


“The first thing they will teach you at an American university,” a former graduate told us, recipients of scholarships to study in the United States, at orientation in Kyiv, “is to give speeches, anywhere and on any topic.”

And it is true. American students begin their presentations from the second grade. And this is not a translation of the chapter from the textbook, but a self-prepared text that I myself would like to listen to carefully.

I never had any problems with public speaking - in the extended day group in the first grade, the teacher put me at the blackboard so that I could entertain my classmates with fairy tales that I made up on the spot, but I still learned some additional techniques at the American university. For example, pose a question to the audience at the beginning of a speech or tell a story. Say right away what the purpose of the speech is and what the audience will learn as a result. Every 7-10 minutes is a joke. Look first at one listener, then at another. Many books have been written on this topic, and if there is anything to say, the technique is not difficult to master, but it is important not to neglect it.

By the way, many even in the States are amazed at the eloquence of schoolchildren who survived the shooting at a Florida school and are now advocating for gun control. That's what they teach them at school! We, in the Ukrainian editorial office of the Voice of America, have noticed many times that Americans who you ask a question on the street may not know the topic, but they will still say something on camera - confidently and in complete sentences. In Ukraine, even experts who speak on a topic that is familiar to them often have difficulty getting to the main idea through the thicket of unnecessary words and sounds.

Fast computer typing

In American universities, a considerable part of libraries are occupied by tables with computers, on which students work on written work. For the first time, opening Word and as I started typing, I suddenly felt that other visitors had stopped their work and were looking at me. What's the matter?! I looked in the mirror - everything was OK with my face. Clothes are also in place. Everything that should be buttoned is buttoned. Suddenly it dawned on me - I was typing with two fingers. All the rest - at the speed of a professional typist.

“You won’t last that long,” my supervisor concluded. She advised me to immediately go to the laboratory, where there were computers with a special program for mastering fast typing. There I found other unhappy foreign students without the correct keyboard layout. I have never learned to type with all ten fingers, but I still do it much faster, and I can do it better in English than in Ukrainian. And this is really important. On average, we had to write 30-40 pages of various written works per week.

In the United States, children are taught to type at school. American journalist Megan Kelly (FOX, NBC) wrote in her memoirs that her mother forced her to take speed typing lessons twice. And, partly, it is this skill that she owes to her career successes - first in law, and then in television.

10-year-old girl Mila Lamah, who temporarily lived with her mother in Washington, turned to Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, during his interaction with the Ukrainian diaspora, with a proposal to introduce in the Ukrainian schools classes of fast printing. The prime minister, it seemed to me, did not understand her.

Absolute taboo on plagiarism and cheating

The easiest way to get kicked out of university or ruin your career in the West is to pass off someone else's thoughts as your own, to cheat, or to cheat in some other way. American students already know this, but we, foreigners, were reminded of this all the time. There are programs for checking scientific texts for plagiarism (by the way, one of the most popular is developed by Ukrainians) and there is nothing worse than being caught plagiarizing. Walking around in pajamas is ok, arguing with teachers is ok, cheating is not.

Much attention in American education is paid to working with sources, their correct designation in the text, as well as paraphrasing skills. Long quotes are not welcome, and when retelling someone else’s thoughts in your own words, you still need to refer to their author.

Even in the third grade, when preparing a presentation about a bulldog, my son had to mention sources. He wrote “the Internet”, which will come down for a nine-year-old child, but then more concrete things will be required.

Now I’m already sitting in the subcortex so that I start to panic, even if someone suddenly reacts to someone else’s article that I posted in my Facebook feed, as if it’s my own.

Фото: Depositphotos

Debating skills - logic and respect for the opponent

In the US, from the earliest grades children are taught to formulate, represent and defend their position. And do it in such a way as not to quarrel with an opponent.

My son's favorite classes at school are Socratic Seminars. Their main principles, as they explained to us at parent meetings, are structure, the use of correct logical techniques and flexibility. Children address each other mr and miss and learn to communicate extremely politely.

They also look at which arguments can be used and which cannot. I assume that “everyone thinks this way” or “it has always been this way” is not an argument. Of course, the formal laws of logic are studied and taught to use at an older age. And most importantly, children are taught not to be afraid to change their point of view if their opponent has better arguments!

Debate in the USA is both part of the educational process and a type of extracurricular activity in the form of debate clubs. At the university, of course, we also had to defend the conclusions of our own research in front of the rest of the course members and professors - competently and without aggression.

The ability to debate in general in the United States, where the legal profession is extremely prestigious and the court is practically a performance, is highly valued. But the ability to avoid debate where it is not needed is also valued. "Let`s agree to disagree" (we agree that our opinions differ) are golden words in the English language.

All these skills instill respect for another person, a different point of view and an intellectual product, and are valued not less, and often even more than material objects.

Of course, not all Americans accurately own all these skills. But a critical mass of people do it quite well, and it gives society the opportunity to analyze and pronounce various phenomena and changes, avoiding or correcting extremes, and also respect for thoughts and ideas contributes to progress.

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