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.
For example, studying at the Faculty of History of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev helped me develop short-term memory: after memorizing whole books for the exam, now, as a journalist, I cover an event, I need to very quickly collect information, remember and tell without hesitation in live broadcast. I also learned to look at any phenomenon - social, cultural, or political - in a historical context, and I loved reading history books.
In the US, I studied in graduate school or on the master's program (graduate degree) at the University of Ohio Department of Journalism. But the skills discussed below are not specific to journalists. They are universal, they are acquired thanks to the American and generally Western education system. Some of these skills began to be emphasized in modern Ukrainian schools, but they were absent in Soviet schools, and most adults do not possess them or do not possess them well. 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 in an accelerated mode. However, I believe that today everyone needs these skills in order 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, it is not measured with a stopwatch how many words per minute a first grader reads. 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 at 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 a real torture. “How to highlight the main thing in the text?” - they did not understand. - If there was something superfluous, the author would not have written it! "
Schoolchildren and students are taught to read and understand scientific articles, first of all, sociology and statistics. What is statistical sampling? How does the average differ from the weighted average? How to distinguish qualitative 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 find it harmful exercise. In this way, schoolchildren were taught to look for socio-political subtext, which might or might not be there - that is, think out for the author. It is better to consider what the author was able to say with his work.
In the United States, they also teach to write the most understandable texts. From the very first paragraph - preferably from the first sentence - it should be clear to the reader what this text is about. One thought, one sentence. One argument - one paragraph, where the argument is given in the first sentence, and in the rest it is supported. In a journalistic article, everything is important - who, what, when, where, why and how (principle 5 W + H - who, what, when, where, why, and) - at first.
Clear text structure makes it easier to understand and saves time. American teachers explained to us that it is not necessary to completely read scientific articles - only the first sentences in each paragraph are allowed. As a last resort, it is enough to familiarize yourself with the annotation. You can also look at the entire newspaper, and read carefully - 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 you will be taught at an American university," a former graduate told us, recipients of US scholarships, for orientation in Kiev, "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 after-school group in the first grade, the teacher put me at the blackboard so that I would entertain my classmates with fairy tales that I invented on the spot, but I nevertheless learned some additional techniques at an American university. For example, ask the audience a question or tell a story at the beginning of a presentation. To say right away what is the purpose of the speech and what the audience will learn as a result. Every 7-10 minutes is a joke. Look at one listener, then at another. Many books have been written on this topic, and, if you have something 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 now advocate limiting the circulation of weapons. So they are taught this in school! We, in the Ukrainian editorial office of the Voice of America, have noticed many times that the Americans to whom you ask a question on the street may not know the topic, but they will still say something to the camera - confidently and with complete sentences. In Ukraine, even experts who speak on a topic familiar to them often find it difficult to get 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 starting to type, 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 is OK with the face. Clothes are also in place. All that needs to be buttoned is buttoned up. Suddenly it dawned on me - I was typing with two fingers. All the rest - with the speed of a professional typist.
“You won't last that long,” concluded my supervisor. She advised to immediately go to the laboratory, where there were computers with a special program for mastering fast printing. There, I found other unfortunate foreign students without the correct keyboard expansion. I never learned to type with all ten fingers, but I still do it much faster, and I 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 memoir that her mother made her take quick typing lessons twice. And, in part, it is to this skill that she owes her career success - first in law, and then on 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 the thoughts of others as your own, write off, or otherwise cheat. 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. You can walk in your pajamas, you can argue with the teachers, but you can't cheat.
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 other people'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.
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 class at school is Socratic seminars. Their main principles, as they explained to us in parenting meetings, are structuredness, the use of correct logical techniques and flexibility. Children turn to each other on mr and miss and learn to communicate extremely politely.
They also analyze which arguments can be used and which cannot. I assume that “everyone thinks so” or “it has always been like this” is not an argument. Of course, the formal laws of logic are studied and taught to use them already at an older age. And most importantly, children are taught not to be afraid to change their point of view if the opponent has the best arguments!
Debate in the United States is both part of the educational process and an 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 very much appreciated. But the ability to avoid debate where it is not needed is also appreciated. "Let`s agree to disagree " (we agree that our opinions differ) are the 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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