Thomas Friedman thinks he’s found why the US places so low in those international education rankings in an article by a Post economic columnist.

A big lack of student motivation.

“The unstated assumption of much school ‘reform’ is that if students aren’t motivated, it’s mainly the fault of schools and teachers.” Wrong, he [Robert Samuelson] said.  “Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don’t like school, don’t work hard and don’t do well. In a 2008 survey of public high school teachers, 21 percent judged student absenteeism a serious problem; 29 percent cited ‘student apathy.’ “

Both Friedman and Samuelson are full of crap!

But at least Friedman stumbles across one primary reason why so many kids aren’t motivated to dance the standardized testing waltz that takes up most of their time in school (even if he doesn’t seem to realize it).

… it is a microcosm of a larger problem we have not faced honestly as we have dug out of this recession: We had a values breakdown – a national epidemic of get-rich-quickism and something-for-nothingism. Wall Street may have been dealing the dope, but our lawmakers encouraged it. And far too many of us were happy to buy the dot-com and subprime crack for quick prosperity highs.

So much of today’s debate between the two parties, notes David Rothkopf, a Carnegie Endowment visiting scholar, “is about assigning blame rather than assuming responsibility. It’s a contest to see who can give away more at precisely the time they should be asking more of the American people.”

Those attitudes are certainly a large part of the problem.

However, the bigger issue when it comes to student motivation in school is that they don’t live in a vacuum and learn much from the actions of the adults Friedman describes.

And what kids have learned from many of those so-called adults over the past two decades is that the only information of value is that which can be multiple-choice tested.

That leadership means going with your gut and accepting the judgement of experts in a particular field only when it fits into your pre-determined belief system.

That debate consists of two manufactured fair-and-balanced sides shouting personal opinions at the top of their lungs.

Hey, American leadership! You want better students?

Clean up your act and provide better role models when it comes to respecting learning and using knowledge.