America Skips School by Benjamin R. Barber

In his essay titled “America Skips School,” writer Benjamin R. Barber discusses the major defects in the education system in the US. He raises questions about adult literacy in America because he considers that a large number of American adults are not even literates. ”The education crisis is kind of violence on television: the worse it gets the more inert we become and the more of it we require to rekindle our attention” (Barber, 215). The author rightly maintains that the main cause for poor education in America is because the people here are not much concerned about education and they do not have any botheration about their children either and states that they usually give importance to leisure activities than education. In addition, Barber postulates a theory that teachers have a responsibility towards students to build up their careers and at the same time they have a duty to mold the nation to a better level. Besides, the author correctly attributes that “We’ve heard it all many times before: 130,000 children bring guns along with their pencils and books to school each morning” (Barber, para.2).

Barber points out a major flaw in American society when he points out that Americans were not at all bothered about giving proper education to their children. He also states that American children are trying to learn more things from the outside world than they do in their classrooms and he believes that it is due to this reason that crime rates among young children have increased. His opinion is supported by today’s dreadful reality that it mainly occurs in schools than in colleges and the young children in this modern era nurture a notion that they have nothing to do with genuine knowledge and they are living in a dream world where they yearn to become successful in extracurricular activities. Another issue that the author raises is that rather than achieving a better academic background, Americans focus on other activities and it is because of this reason one can see that at present much of the people earn money through other activities like performing arts and also through resorting to heinous crimes like selling drugs. Another surprising fact remains that “American children are in school only about 180 days a year, as against 240 days or more for children in Europe or Japan.” (Barber, para.3).

The author opines that if the education system increases the number of school days it will benefit the child more, and the services of the teachers can be utilized at an optimum level. “When the society undoes each workday what the school tries to do each school day, schooling can’t make much of a difference” (Barber, para.11).

There is also an apprehension that different government that ruled the country has not been utilizing a better part of public funds for educational needs. Barber further feels that if the authorities grant a better salary for the teachers, they will focus their concern towards the welfare of the students and will work harder for better education of the students. It is from the schools children have to achieve standards and then only succeed in college. It is the role of the teachers to make students aware that education is a must not only for their own benefit but also it benefits for their country also.

Another feature that can be seen in America is that students lack even the basic education from their schools and that is why while reaching in colleges they do not have an average standard as compared to the students in other countries. Therefore, Barber holds the view that America as a great nation should extend all necessary facilities for the betterment of education, and along with other events will also become successful.

There is a general notion that most people in America are deficient in education and that Americans are not giving any importance to education.

Usually, in foreign countries, one can see that the people like to have more freedom. Most Americans live a liberal life with hardly anyone interfering. The parents or teachers never compel the students to go to school. Here the students are not bothered about their future and do not know the value of education, yet some are going to school it is only by the force of their parents. Many children possess a criminal mentality and some of them, while going to school, carry guns along with their books and pens. There are instances where children have been sentenced for murder and theft. In the prison environment, in most cases, the criminal tendencies aggravate rather than abate due to lack of literacy and they are not aware of values and morals. “The richest school districts (school financing is local, not federal) spend twice as much per student as poorer ones do. The poorer ones seem almost beyond help” (Barber, para.3). Another feature of American society is that the rich people are better in the matter of education and the member of students from rich families that are going to school is at least twice as much as students from a poor families. Most of the children from poor families are not going to school because they like to be more independent, lazy. It is astonishing that some of them are suffering from various venereal diseases. Besides, most of the students in schools and colleges are addicted to drugs and alcohol which make them do wrong things. As the author states the students are spending most of their time in front of the TV. They are learning more from it but we cannot say that watching TV is a bad habit except only when they watch too much violence or sex. Instead, preference should be given to programs that aid or complement education. There are various programs providing knowledge to the students and teachers and parents should encourage students to watch these. Children tend to believe that whatever they see on TV is correct and also, some children imitate the dangerous scenes they watch in films or advertisements. “They are society-smart rather than school-smart, and what they read so acutely are the social signals emanating from the world in which they will have to make a living.” (Barber, para.7). Another salient feature note in American is that while the students are poor in their studies they are doing quite well in all other activities. This validates the view that the students are intelligent but they are not interested in education. It transpires that the American educational system is disintegrating, and it is the responsibility of every parent and teacher to make the children aware of the significance of education. Besides, the authorities concerned should provide necessary facilities to the poor students for better education in order to make them good citizens. “Others turn on the kids themselves, so that at the same moment as we are transferring our responsibilities to the shoulders of the next generation, we are blaming them for our own generation’s most conspicuous failures” (Barber, para.6). Education is essential for everyone because if a person is not educated he or she cannot become a responsible citizen. So, the author, through this essay, says that the children have to look outside the world and focus on their studies and learn the best things from their environment, along with what they receive from their classroom. They should learn to observe so they can learn the lessons about life very well.


Barber, Benjamin R. “America Skips School”. Para.2

Barber, Benjamin R. “America Skips School”. Para.3

Barber, Benjamin R. “America Skips School”. Para.6

Barber, Benjamin R. “America Skips School”. Para.7

Barber, Benjamin R. America Skips School: Why We Talk So Much about Education and Do So Little. Harper’s Magazine 287. 1722 (1993): 39 (8). Para.11.

Barber, Benjamin R. A Passion for Democracy: American Essays: America Skips School. Princeton University Press. 2000. 215.

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