Education is one of the most talked about subjects in day to day conversation, but there is a lot that goes unsaid. Did you know the U.S. spends more on education than most other countries, yet we have some of the lowest school graduation rates in the world. The U.S. education system is in a state of distress, and for good reason.
According to the NAEP:
- 2/3rds of 8th graders cannot read proficiently.
- nearly 2/3rds of eighth-graders scored below proficient in Math.
- 75% of students are lacking basic knowledge in history & civics.
- Nearly 3/4th of the population of 12th graders cannot write proficiently
- On average, 1.1 million american students drop out of school every year (EPE,2012).
In the aftermath of WWII the United States had the highest high school graduation rate in the world. Today, we are 22nd out of 27 industrialized nations (OECD,2012). We rank 25th in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading.
I don’t know about y’all, but these numbers hurt me. I am a product of the U.S. education system. These cannot be right can they?
So what can we do? This question has echoed through empty hallways for the past couple decades. Frustrated teachers, faculty, and administration have voiced their concerns, but I believe these concerns have fallen upon deaf ears. Instead what happened was “No Child Left Behind” was introduced to schools. This catchy little statement has turned out to be one of the largest social engineering projects of our lifetime. To briefly sum it up, public schools turned to a test-stressed, achievement based learning curriculum that measured achievement in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math). No Child Left Behind was introduced in 2001. Since that time we have made very little improvement in terms of the U.S. ranking compared to other industrialized nations. Now we have introduced common core, and if you are within 20 miles of a public school I’m sure you have heard how well it is going over.
So what is the answer? Well frankly, I don’t know. But I can tell you what I do know. We, as a society have to better understand what actually motivates people to succeed in life. We have to learn how to get students engaged, not just how to make them sit still. Simply put, there are to many adults who are wondering around lacking any sense of purpose in today’s times. If the U.S. is going to be spending so much on education, I think it is time we take a serious look at what we are getting out of it.
If you take a look into the average classroom in America today you would find the following;
- an atmosphere that encourages passive action
- a strict guide on how not to act, with little thought into promoting positive behavior
- a narrow minded view of academic ability
- an atmosphere where self expression through art and dance is not only discouraged, it is actually punished.
One of the largest blessings of my life is that I have learning disabilities. Yes, I know that sounds backwards but it isn’t. Because I learn differently than most people, I have had to be very creative in how I learn. If I was a student in today’s classroom I am all but certain I would struggle. The fact that children are being taught through common core that there is only one way to solve an equation is mind boggling to me. Since when did we downgrade creativity and start worrying more about uniformity?
I am going to be writing a lot about this topic, so I will close this article with this thought. In the current state of education we are allowing fear to dictate our actions. We are afraid to reconstruct our educational system (that hasn’t changed since WWII) because we are afraid we will fail a generation of children. I would go so far as to say, we are failing them now. In the past 20 years almost all “non-academic” subjects have been lessened or completely removed from academia. I think this is a mistake. This is where we learn, we help others learn by finding what engages them. Its like the saying that everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live it’s whole life thinking it is a failure. We have got to re-think the way we view education. Servicing the masses is clearly not working. I think that if we focused more on helping people find what they love, and what they are good at, we can increase their engagement and promote a much deeper feeling of fulfillment. No I don’t think that this would solve all the problems in education, but I certainly feel it is a good start.
John Max Bolling