處於危險中的國家

處於危險中的國家
A Nation at Risk

    我國社會的教育基礎目前正被一股平庸的浪潮所侵蝕,它威脅著我們國家和民族的未來。


    七十年代末八十年代初,一次又一次研究成果表明,美國學生在數學、理科和其他學科領域的測驗成績令人遺憾。1983年教育優化全國委員會發表一篇題為《處於危險中的國家》的報告,引起公眾對教育問題前所未有的關注。在羅納德‧雷根總統的倡議下,由教育部長特雷爾‧貝爾任命的該委員會用文件證明了學業水準下降的現狀和提高教學質量的必要性。該委員會的調查結果在全國電視上播出,在報紙和新聞刊物上登出。該委員會的報告促使許多州的立法機關和當地學校校董會採取措施改進學校工作。


    我們的國家處在危險中。我們在商業、工業、科學和技術革新方面一度毫無爭議的領先地位正被世界各地的競爭者所超越。此報告僅僅涉及與這一問題有關的許多原因和方面中的一個,但它關係到美國的繁榮、安全和禮儀。我們向美國人民報告:我們有理由為我們的大中小學歷史上已經取得的成績及對美國和美國人民的福利作出的貢獻感到自豪,但另一方面我國社會的教育基礎目前正被一股平庸的浪潮所侵蝕,它威脅著我們國家和民族的未來。上一代人當時所難以想像的事現已開始發生──別的國家正趕上和超過我們國家的教育成就。

    倘若一股懷有敵意的外國力量試圖將今天存在著的平庸的教育實績強加在美國身上,我們會把這視作戰爭行動。而事實上,我們卻已允許這種狀況發生在我們自己身上。我們甚至對蘇聯衛星上天的挑戰感到無力而浪費了學生們的成就,更嚴重的是,我們已拆除了使這些成就成為可能的基本支撐體系。我們實際上已做出了輕率的、單方面的教育裁軍行動。

    我們的社會及其教育機構似乎忘記了學校教育的基本目的,忘記了達到這些目的所必需的高期望值和刻苦努力。此報告力圖導致對我們的教育體制實行根本性的改革,力圖恢復國家在全國範圍內對高質量的大中小學所承擔的義務。

    既然我們常對我國的中小學和大學提出大量自相矛盾的要求,再考慮我們已放棄了對各級學校承擔的義務便不會感到驚訝。我們的學校常被請求去解決家庭和其他單位不願或不能解決的個人、社會和政治問題。我們應瞭解,對中小學和大學的這種要求常常迫使學校既付出財力又付出教育方面的代價。……

    歷史對遊手好閒者不會大發慈悲。有一度沒人擔心美國的命運,只是因為我國資源豐富,人民具有永不衰竭的熱情,因為我們相對而言可免遭那些文明古國層出不窮的問題的攪擾。但那個時代早已一去不復返。世界不啻一個地球村。我們的四周住著決心堅定,訓練有素,動力強勁的競爭者。我們不但以產品而且以從實驗室和街區專題討論會產生的想法與他們爭奪國際地位和市場。美國在世界的地位過去只靠寥寥數名經特殊培訓的人才便可以高枕無憂。如今這種情況不復存在。

    危險不僅在於日本人比美國人生產汽車的工效更高,日本人在發展和出口方面得到政府補貼。危險不僅在於南朝鮮人最近建起了世界上生產效率最高的鋼廠,或是一度稱雄世界的美國機床現在正被德國貨取代。危險還在於,這些發展趨勢標誌著訓練有素的人才在全球的重新分配。正如早些時候的特效新藥、化肥和牛仔褲,如今知識、學問、資訊和技術情報同樣蓬蓬勃勃地傳遍世界。只要我們欲保持和發展在世界市場上尚存的微弱競爭優勢,我們就應為改革我們的教育體制而奮鬥,這是為了全體人民──年輕人和老年人,富人和窮人,多數人和少數人──的利益。在我們正跨入的"資訊時代"中,知識是取得成功必不可少的投資。

    我們關切的問題遠遠超過工業和商業的範疇。它包括將我們的社會組織緊密結合在一起的知識、道德和精神力量。美國人民必須明白,我們社會中那些不具備這一新時代必不可少的技術水平和文化教育水平的人,將不僅被剝奪高效工作帶來的報償,而且將被剝奪完全參與我們國家生活的機會。共用高水準的教育對一個自由民主的社會,對培養一種共同的文化是必要的,在一個以多元論和個人自由而自豪的國家中更是如此。

    為了讓國家行使職能,公民們應該能對複雜的問題達成共識,而且常常是在刻不容緩的情形中,在證據自相矛盾或不完整的條件下達成共識。教育有助於形成這種共識,正如托馬斯‧傑斐遜很久以前在他的著名宣言中所指出的:

除了人民自身,我不知道還有什麼可靠的社會終極權力 的受託人。倘若我們認為他們的知識不足以審慎的判斷 行使自己的管理,補救之法不是剝奪他們的決斷權,而 是教會他們如何判斷。

    首先在美洲大陸上作出的這一許諾也處於危險之中:不分種族、階級、經濟地位,人人有權獲得最大限度地發展個人智力和精神力量的機會和工具。這一許諾意味著,只要引導得法,所有的孩子憑藉自己的努力都能有希望做出慎重周到的、有根據的判斷,以確保得到良好的職業,駕馭自己的生活,從而不僅為他們自己的利益,也為社會進步本身服務。


Our nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds American prosperity, security, and civility. We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occurothers are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.

      If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. We have, in effect. been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.

      Our society and its educational institutions seem to have lost sight of the basic purposes of schooling, and of the high expectations and disciplined effort needed to attain them. This report, the result of 18 months of study, seeks to generate reform of our educational system in fundamental ways and to renew the Nation's commitment to schools and colleges of high quality throughout the length and breadth of "our land.

      That we have compromised this commitment is, upon reflection, hardly surprising, given the multitude of often conflicting demands we have placed on our Nation's schools and colleges. They are routinely called on to provide solutions to personal, social, and political problems that the home and other institutions either will not or cannot resolve. We must understand that these demands on our schools and colleges often exact an educational cost as well as a financial one....

      History is not kind to idlers. The time is long past when America's destiny was assured simply by an abundance of national resources and inexhaustible human enthusiasm, and by our relative isolation from the malignant problems of older civilizations. The world is indeed one global village. We live among determined, well-educated, and strongly motivated competitors. We com- pete with them for international standing and markets, not only with products but also with the ideas of our laboratories and neighborhood workshops. America's position in the world may once have been reasonably secure with only a few exceptionally well-trained men and women. It is no longer.

      The risk is not only that the Japanese make automobiles more efficiently than Americans and have government subsidies for development and export. It is not just that the South Koreans recently built the world's most efficient steel mill, or that American machine tools, once the pride of the world, are being displaced by German products. It is also that these developments signify a redistribution of trained capability throughout the globe. Knowledge, learning, information, and skilled intelligence are the new raw materials of international commerce and are today spreading throughout the world as vigorously as miracle drugs, synthetic fertilizers, and blue jeans did earlier. If only to keep and improve on the slim competitive edge we still retain in world markets, we must dedicate ourselves to the reform of our educational system for the benefit of all- old and young alike, affluent and poor. majority and minority. Learning is the indispensable investment required for success in the "information age" we are entering. Our concern, however, goes well beyond matters such as industry and commerce. It also includes the intellectual, moral, and spiritual strengths of our people which knit together the very fabric of our society. The people of the United States need to know that individuals in our society who do not possess the levels of skill, literacy, and training essential to this new era will be effectively disenfranchised, not simply from the material rewards that accompany competent performance, but also from the chance to participate fully in our national life. A high level of shared education is essential to a free, democratic society and to the fostering of a common culture, especially in a country that prides itself on pluralism and individual freedom.

      For our country to function, citizens must be able to reach some common understandings on complex issues, often on short notice and on the basis of conflicting or incomplete evidence. Education helps form these common understandings, a point Thomas Jefferson made long ago in his justly famous dictum:

      I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.

      Part of what is at risk is the promise first made on this continent: All, regardless of race or class or economic status, are entitled to a fair chance and to the tools for developing their individual powers of mind and spirit to the utmost. This promise means that all children by virtue of their own efforts, competently guided, can hope to attain the mature and informed judgment needed to secure gainful employment and to manage their own lives, thereby serving not only their own interests but also the progress of society itself. . . .