Public education in our country has always been intended to ensure that our nation’s children learn necessary skills and concepts for use in the marketplace. It was designed to teach children fundamental concepts, and different methods of learning to ensure that each child was able to be successful into adulthood. The pursuit of knowledge remains the goal, however red tape put in place by a struggling education system is proving to challenge this fundamental right.
As the public education system has developed, we have seen a great shift in the way students are taught as well as in the ways they learn. There is great debate about the effectiveness of the education provided to our children, and what ramifications that may have on the future.
Then Versus Now
If you’re a parent to a school aged child you are astounded by all of the differences in your child’s education when compared to yours. Not all of these differences are negative. Look at the abundance of information right at your child’s fingertips, all thanks to Google. Or, what about the speed at which we can produce typed documents because of improvements in computer technology. Children even have access to electronic books. These technologies were in their earliest stages of development during our school aged years, and now they’re providing great opportunities for our children.
But, what has been sacrificed in order for teachers to have the time teach about this new technology and other mandated subjects? Remember having to learn how to write an entire paper in cursive? Cursive is a thing of the past, and elementary aged students are only being taught how to sign their name-not learn the entire alphabet in cursive. How about having to find books in the library, or search through encyclopedias for information? Students are no longer learning the importance of research and quality references, rather selecting sources like Wikipedia. While these elements may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, they represent a pretty big issue with the current educational system.
The Fundamental Flaw of the Current System
While experts argue the many flaws of the current educational system, there is one fundamental flaw. We are treating students like lab rats. Teachers are bogged down with too many students in one classroom which restricts their ability to connect with each student. They connect only with the particularly bright or problematic students, leaving the mediocre students to find their own way. In turn, public education requirements have dictated new methods of teaching, regardless of the way a child’s brain works. We are no longer treating children as individuals and working to meet their educational needs independently. Rather, all of the students are grouped together, taught the same exact way, and then tested on their understanding of the material; similar to the methods of research conducted on lab rats.
The current system values a school and the educators within it based on test scores and outcomes. While outcomes are valuable, because they help us determine what is working and what isn’t, standardized testing isn’t the optimal method of testing students because it’s standardized. Children are people, not lab rats and tests that are “standardized” don’t capture the true capabilities and talent of our students.
Why We Must Do Better
“Powerful learning is based on the premise that the educational approach that we create for ‘gifted’ children works well for all children.”—Carl Glickman. “Gifted” children programs provide a curriculum specific to children with higher levels of intelligence. These programs are smaller, much more personal and foster the special talents and capabilities of the “gifted” children. Now, why aren’t we teaching all students with the same concepts? After all, all children are gifted in their own way.
Our children represent our future. In order for future civilizations to flourish, we must foster learning and empower our children to succeed into the future. The current education system focuses so much on standardized testing and outcomes that we even have seen standardized teaching take the forefront in many states. Each child is unique in their capabilities, talents and how they learn. Applying a standardized method of teaching will not foster a child’s individual potential; rather those traits will be squashed by a failing system.
We must do better because the future of our country depends on it and the minds of our children depend on it. We need to take the emphasis off of standardization and return back to an educational system that looks at children individually, helping them learn in the method that is best for them. Rather than a culture of testing, we must instead focus on a culture of learning. Remember that education is really the pursuit of knowledge. Let’s help our kids pursue knowledge, not strap them down with standardized tests that evaluate their ability to learn from standardized curriculums.