Nadia B. Michigan

Education Reform

Our education system does not promote healthy lifestyles in teenagers. The time for change is NOW

Dear Future President,

What a young child is taught, and how they are taught, creates habits and subconscious reasoning which develop them throughout their life. The American education system impacts the root of American children’s future beliefs, and it desperately needs to be reformed. The structure and effectiveness of the system are poor as a whole when compared to systems in the highest educational ranking countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom. In addition, America’s global ranking in the quantity and quality of education proved by a high school diploma has dropped significantly in the past 3 decades. In many countries such as Canada and the UK, attending school is mandatory until 16- the equivalent of half an American high school education- and contains more demanding educational programs. However, many European countries teach to a higher standard than U.S schools, and execute more strategical preparation for the professional workforce. This is evident through the majority of top European schools scoring well above average on the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment. There are many minute details to an education system which can greatly impact the effectiveness and quality of a child’s education, many of which (in America) are not up to par with other high ranking countries.

First, the mental health in students should be taken into heavier consideration when constructing an educational philosophy. The majority of students, pediatricians, and therapists will agree that schools- whether it be elementary, middle, or high school- begin the day too early, often around 7:30am. It has been proven through multiple studies that there is a prominent sleep deprivation epidemic in American teenagers. This is partly created through the “teaching to the test” idea. Many students are more concerned about receiving a passing grade than understanding a topic and furthering their knowledge of the concept. This results in a type of “cram” studying for the grade, which encompasses staying up late to study, and waking up early to attend school. . This cycle is detrimental to long term acquisition of knowledge, as information is not fully comprehended by the student, and is soon forgotten as the teacher moves on to the next task. The reoccurrence of minimal sleep affects the brain’s ability to function effectively, with a plethora of side effects such as inattentiveness, impulsiveness, and irritability. Does that sound like the common student we would want struggling in our classrooms daily? Does that sound like the common student we see in classrooms across the United States? The University of Utah Health Care found that, “Over 90 percent of American high school students are chronically sleep deprived” (2014). As high schoolers are the next generation coming into the professional workforce, their mental health habits are extremely important to learn while still young. As responsibilities also begin to pile up for these young adults, the additional sleep deprivation has been proven to increase depression and cultivate high stress responses in the body.

Secondly, I’ve come to learn that many students do not know enough about essential adult responsibilities such as paying bills, insurance, or managing finances. The American curriculum should thoroughly teach these topics that are very crucial for a stable adulthood. By changing our educational philosophy, we can not only improve general mental health in students, but through required teaching of financial subjects, create a foundation for future success in balancing relationships and professional life.

Lastly, there needs to be a concerted effort to change the prominent negative emotion of students towards school. The Department of Education needs to implement a different pedagogical philosophy- one geared towards healthier lifestyle and mental habits for the youth. There should be an emphasis on appreciation for our culture, global involvement, and higher academic standards. In order to provide a challenging and inviting environment that promotes positive attitudes towards school, there needs to be a change in the structure of our education program as well as the attitudes of our educators. Young students are undeniably molded by their environment; the habits, attitudes, and perspectives that are found within them. If we want to improve our health, productivity, and overall lifestyles, the change begins with the youth- and where they spend the majority of their time during their developing years, at school. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Nadia Berman