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Bryan Cranston
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Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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Study: U.S. Adults Possess Only Average Skills

American adults - who, on paper, are among the best-educated people of their generation anywhere in the world - are in reality merely average.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a global coalition, has released a comprehensive study that tested proficiency in practical skills among people ages 16 to 65. 


While the highest-skilled adults in the U.S. were on par with best performing countries such as Japan and Finland, overall the U.S. lagged behind the international average in math, reading and problem-solving. 

These troubling results prompted the following reaction from Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. He told The New York Times:

If we’re so dumb, why are we so rich?

At least the U.S. is rich for now. That advantage is slipping, Carnevale points out, in today's global economy. 

It is not much of a revelation that students in the U.S. are falling behind in math and problem-solving. Sadly, we have known that for some time. What is most alarming about this study is that American adults - who, as the Times points out "on paper, are among the best-educated people of their generation anywhere in the world," are in reality merely average. And as we know from Thomas Friedman and others who have made this point, average won't cut it anymore.

To solve this problem, we obviously need to address the inadequacies of both the K-12 system as well as college, where students are graduating without the real-life skills that will give them a competitive edge in the global job market. 

And yet, education cannot not end with college, as the skills you learn in your early 20s will not be the same ones you need to use 10 or 20 or 30 years later. The responsibility of committing to lifelong learning certainly falls on individuals if they hope to get ahead. But the responsibility falls on companies as well. In fact, if businesses do not make the investment in the professional development of their employees, they will lose the best ones (and, perversely, keep the worst ones). 

In the video below, Big Think co-founder and CEO Victoria Brown explains why Big Think developed its signature product, Big Think Edge, to help companies meet this need.  

Watch here:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Find out more about Big Think Edge here

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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4 ways to promote neurogenesis in your brain

How can we promote the creation of new neurons - and why is it so important?

We can promote the development of new neurons well into adulthood - and here's why we should.

Image by vrx on Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth.
  • After birth, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain: the olfactory bulb (which is responsible for our sense of smell) and the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory, spatial navigation, and emotional processing).
  • Research from the 1960s proves creating new neurons as adults is possible, and modern-day research explains how (and why) we should promote new neuron growth.
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Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

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