Evan H. Michigan

Education in America

America cannot continue with the outdated system of education, as it will destroy opportunities for our youth generation.

To whom it may concern,

I am a student. A voice that has been lost in the dark abyss we call our education system here in the United States, as we have become stagnant to the world around us. I’ve always believed that what I was learning in school would be a useful product for me to apply in the real world, seeming that there was a sense of purpose to what I was doing. However it has become evident through extensive research the limits our education system has to providing for their students, commonly referred to as our future generation. When it comes to the topic of education, most of us will readily agree that each person needs to become well educated to be a part of society. Where the agreement usually ends, however, is on the question of the methods to accomplish said goal of educating students. Whereas some are convinced that standardized testings and common core curriculum are the path to the future, other maintain that the system is not focusing on the students enough to help them succeed in the real world. Education, in the United States, is not broken rather is an outdated system that needs innovation and creativity at its core to function on a global scale.

It is often said that youth in education is a rigid place, meaning that students should stay students, teachers as teachers, and so on. Throughout my years of activism involving education I have been able to allocate many research projects that focus not only the major surface problems of our system, but also includes the health and well-being of students. With information from over one thousand students about their “worries” in their education, it was clear these students were greatly concerned about their grades, overall GPA, college acceptance, and course selection. These findings challenge the work of earlier researchers, who tended to assume that students were motivated by sheer grit to learn in school. The nights I aimlessly spend studying drab material along with constantly checking my grades in fear that a single percentage will be the stake through my heart. It’s dehumanizing to see that the stress in my life is not concerning to complex situations rather based off of simple application that in the long term will unlikely impact me. Student health, from my own experiences, can destroy someone's life in the blink of an eye at the sight of a red pen. Ultimately, what is at stake here is the future generation of people, experiencing that a life of fear is normal instead of irrational.

It has been common today to dismiss the situation of education, for much pressing issues involving terrorism, the economy, and immigration take center stage in most government inquiries. In their recent work, Most Likely to Succeed, Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith, have offered harsh critiques of the American education system for its inability to change reason with modern day society. Dictating that “despite our enormous investment in education, the majority of our students lack the necessary skills to get a good job, be an informed citizen, or - in some way that defies crisp definition - be a good and happy person” (19), conventional wisdom has it that when there is a problem one’s reaction is to apply methods to solve it. However seen by this statement it is clear the American government has not invested themselves to reasonable applications in order to change education for the better. Although I grant that education is not simply black and white, I still maintain that change is absolutely necessary to provide better opportunities in our youth. An explicit quote from the novel made in the late 1890s by the Committee of Ten says, “the purpose of education is to teach students low-level cognitive skills, train them to perform, repetitive tasks quickly and error free, and eliminate all traces of creativity and innovation” (43). Here many politicians would probably object that major legislation has changed the way education is function. Proponents of education are right to argue that education has changed. But they exaggerate when they claim that our system of education has made leaps and bounds for its conception back in the late 19th century. Nevertheless, both Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith of education will probably suggest otherwise and argue that the a new model is required, one with a purpose, a qualitative system rather than a quantitative one.

At first glance, many educators might say they refute the current way of education. But on close inspection it seems they are contributing to the overall problem. Education advisor, Ken Robinson, led a TED Talk in 2010 showing how most of America has become ignorant to the matter of education. Past generations in the 20th century saw the old model of life “work hard → school → college → job, would guarantee a pretty good outcome”. You would think that this model would change as time goes on, however, this concept map is still instilled in our students everyday. This way of thinking is no guarantee any more to students in our current generation. Robinson continues to describe how the education system we have now was formulated at a different time, when the enlightenment and industrial revolution were underway. Although I grant that the beginning of public education was a revolutionary concept, I still maintain that United States needs to secede from its old ways into more modern times. Of course, many will probably disagree on the ground that our current system of education has produced many successful men and women, on the other hand though how long can that successful turnout rate continue in this day in age?

In discussion of education, one controversial issue has been standardized testing. On the one hand, Republicans argue that it is absolutely necessary to sustain our current accountability system. On the other hand, Democrats see that the testing should focus more on education, not to undermine learning. Others even maintain the standardized testing is not doing enough for the education of our students. My own view is that standardized testing should not be the life line for what education is here in America, countries like that of Finland, have removed this kind of testing, while still achieving the high ranks they do on a larger world scale. Yet is it necessarily true that removal of standardized test will solve all of our problems? Is it always the case, as I have been suggesting, that their is only one right solution? Many people assume that their is only one solution to things, but like my teacher once said to me, “They are many ways you can skin a cat”.

If we are right about the major flaws within the system, the major consequences follow for generations and generations. While they rarely admit as much, people often take for granted that the United States is a place of progressive change. “Impossible,” some will say “You must be reading the research selectively.” Well I have read the research and conducted a few studies of my own, and concluded that same general idea every time, there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Yes sure you can pass a kidney stone on your own, but when you have the ability to have help from more professional people, like that of doctors. As I suggested earlier, defenders of our current system cannot have it both way. Their assertion that the old model is still is still working is contradicted by their claim that it’s preparing the future generation for a more global workplace. I cannot help thinking that when I leave the education system the overall gains won’t be of any value to me. I am student. But that mean my voice is any less important to that of others.