Within the public school sector, it would seem that education has become based more upon educators and administrators proving their necessity to the system than it is about improving the educational level of children and preparing them for adulthood.
Our founding fathers who supported the idea of a public school system did so to encourage a literate populace that would be able to participate in democracy and defend America from tyranny. True, these are the initial objectives of revolutionaries, but the concept is still sound. We need a country of literate and intelligent people who can make logical and responsible decisions in regards to politics, business, commerce, religion, global, community and personal matters.
Public school, with these objectives, should be utilized by the community to train children and adolescents on how to become capable of reading, comprehension, analytical decision-making and application, as well as global and community awareness. Issues of religion and personal choices are in somewhat of a gray area, especially living in a country that allows freedom of speech, expression, and religion. Nevertheless, public schools should be able to teach basic values of reciprocity needed to be involved in such a vast and diverse populace. Additionally, parents and families are equally responsible for training their children in certain societal matters, such as religion and personal choices.
Instead, our public school system has become overwhelmed with bureaucracy and legislation in an attempt to equalize the educational playing field by standardizing what “must” be taught at every age level. Although this concept may have been created with good intentions, such standardization is failing to produce a higher majority of motivated young adults who care about their community or the world around them.
Educators may have once been the defenders of students and their students’ right to receive a higher quality of education in their formative K-12 years, but now educators are being punished for breaking protocol and for students who are not succeeding. Teachers are put on probation for failing to produce lesson plans that consistently meet state standards. Also, since testing scores determine whether some school districts will receive federal and state funding, teachers are being reprimanded by administrators for having students that are failing to meet the mark.
Additionally, teachers are expected to participate in additional hours of work related to teaching, but they do not receive monetary compensation for this time. Unpaid time spent before and after school, and on the weekends, are when teachers are expected to create lesson plans, fill out administrative paperwork, grade papers and documentation, and participate in administrative committees. Most of these tasks should be considered part and parcel of the job, and yet the compensation is being denied to educators.
Returning back to the main discussion, our children in public school are not receiving the educational support they need. Teachers have little to motivate them to take the extra initiative, but there still are many good teachers who put forth the effort. Even still, trying to find time to teach additional topics that are needed for adulthood, and that don’t take time away from the supposed “standards” is difficult for most teachers. Oversized classrooms, lack of administrative support, and an absence in support and reinforcement from the students’ home lives all further contribute to the problem of our public school system going down the drain.
We as a society have become accustomed to treating public school like a federally granted right instead of a privilege; and in some cases, parents and caregivers treat education and school like free babysitting. Education and the ideals implied within an educated populace are decreasing in value because the majority of society has forgotten that rights were initially won with bloodshed. Although people would possibly become aggressive if someone tried to take away certain rights, continually using and defending the rights they currently possess does not seem to be a top priority for most Americans.
This is the societal message we are teaching to our children through the current public school system. Students know that all they need to do is sit in the classroom, go through the motions, memorize facts to pass multiple-choice tests, and then receive a diploma. Even with poor grades, fewer children are being held back anymore. Nowadays, the high school diploma is slowly proving to be a piece of paper that proves nothing more than your child was as complacent in school as most adults are in the real world.
School and education should go beyond this rigid standardization format that, although created with good intentions, comes off as nothing more than a political attempt to appear supportive of education.
From grades K-8, ages 5-13, I understand the need for a method of standardization to guarantee all citizens are given the opportunity for training to become literate and have the ability to make cognitive and analytical decisions. The rigid format of our current school system is predominantly memorization based teaching, and is not the method I would support. Also, I don’t think students should advance forward if they have not earned the grades to do so. A different course of action would be needed, as well as a different method of testing that was based on the students’ merit and motivation; additionally, such a method would not punish educators for problematic students that are beyond the educators’ control. Granted, I do believe there needs to be some sort of system of checks and balance for educators, but basing it solely off of the abilities of students is not the way to go. Utilizing a reward system of moving forward grade wise and a penalty system of being held back during these formative years for students would be the initial training needed before a large educational change in format for grades 9-12.
Once students move on to grades 9-12, classes and learning programs should be treated more like a privilege as such programs are moving students toward becoming adults who will go out into the real world. As much as we are training students to become adults who are business minded, we should also be training students in this age group to be aware of their community and the world at large. I would personally promote mandatory community service projects throughout the year that students must attend to continue with their education. Furthermore, educational and vocational seminars should also be mandatory to help students at a young age focus on the skills they will need for adulthood.
On paper, this plan is very streamlined, and in a blog it should be. Essentially it would involve several non-profit organizations working in tandem with businesses inside and out of the community, and all parties involved collectively collaborating and participating in this program of a higher level of education with real world application. Parents and families would have to be involved, and essentially be held responsible for their children participating in these programs for a certain amount of hours per year, or per month, if they want their student to receive the privilege of such an education. Furthermore, if parents or families are not willing to support their student doing this, or students simply refuse to adhere to such an involved program, they should have full rights to refuse the program and allow the child to drop out of the education program and go out into the real world and attempt to find a job. Perhaps that’s moderately callous, but students dropping out of high school is already happening in our current system because students lack motivation and do not understand how the current school curricula will help them in the real world.
Such a massive program would have to start small, and a lot of factors in our current education system would have to be altered. Though I understand this program, or something similar to it, would receive a lot of rejection due to fear of great change, I believe the benefits of really preparing our students to become adults who are both globally and locally aware, and also who would be pursuing a vocation and/or further education through universities are worth the collective effort needed for such social and political change.