Most American students, even those with the greatest native intelligence, perform well below their potential in school. Moreover, their below-par showing continues after they graduate and enter the working world. Too many do poorly in writing, reading and other occupational tasks that require significant intellectual abilities.
In fact, more than 95 percent of college-bound high school seniors lack the necessary reading skills to enable them to succeed in their college, business, and professional lives, according to a recent U.S. Department of Education study. Also, 50 percent of students who enter college never graduate.
Why do so many students have so many academic problems?
Obviously, there are numerous complex socioeconomic factors that play a role in our students' poor performance. But not every such factor demands profound societal or political action to produce beneficial change.
One major cause of our problems is that our students have been conditioned to expect that they must read and study at a slow, boring speed. Yet moving along at a snail's pace isn't at all necessary, and it's almost always counterproductive.
In fact, to maintain a high level of interest and efficiency in study, it's absolutely essential to assimilate information faster. Otherwise, boredom and lower levels of academic performance are almost inevitable.
Let's see why this is so.
The average person (and that includes the average stu dent) reads at a rate of about 250 words per minute. Yet that same "average" person has been estimated to think at an astounding rate of more than 50,000 words per minute!
If this is true—and certainly we all know that we think much, much faster than we read—is it any wonder that many students get frustrated and bored when they read? Their lightning-fast minds are ready to take in incredible amounts of information. But their painfully slow reading thwarts them and leads to mind-wandering.
On a number of occasions, I've heard highly accomplished friends and colleagues complain along these lines:
"If only I could read and absorb information as quickly as I can think. But that's impossible. If I could do that, I'd be superhuman!"
Perhaps this idea of learning at extremely high speeds isn't quite so farfetched or fanciful as you might think. Granted, it may not be possible to read or learn at 50,000-plus words per minute. But how about 3,000?
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