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Changing Education

Today, there is a crisis in America that goes beyond the economy, health care, and national security. It's in our schools.

Every year, 1.2 million students drop out of school in the United States alone. Why? For a majority of these students, school is not relevant. Students follow a methodical pattern in which they are encouraged to memorize information to pass tests and then willfully accept the grade they receive as a compliment or insult to their intelligence. That is not what education is – it cannot be defined as the process of giving and receiving systematic instruction to achieve short-term satisfaction. A test score or a letter on a piece of paper cannot measure a student’s success. Instead, education should be defined as an enlightening experience in which students are able to acquire relevant, unique knowledge through innovative means. The education system of today is not broken; it is outdated. And it’s suppressing millions of students around the country.

Intelligence is more complex than we have been led to believe by formal academic education. Formal academic education shies away from critical thinking as it seeks to teach students through routine memorization of backward-looking knowledge, reinstated as nitty-gritty and delivered through bottled lesson plans with predetermined time constraints. Instead of developing necessary skills and natural talents, school prepares students only for one possible future: college – which is, essentially, more of the same. This traditional cycle of schooling kills creativity and hinders students’ full potential. And it has been going on for years. Teachers, administrators, and students can work together to find relevant, applicable solutions. It’s high time to put learning into education.

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Bob B. December 12, 2012 at 04:35 AM
You're missing the point, sir. Do you understand why we have a grading system? For motivation and a drive. Why else would we nearly run ourselves into the ground for something as abstract as a "point"? An argument can be based on that itself. But that's beside the argumentative point. The definition "education should be defined as an enlightening experience in which students are able to acquire relevant, unique knowledge through innovative means" is pure jargon. What does that mean, "relevant, unique knowledge"? Algebra hasn't changed in 2,000 years. You still have to learn it. The reason we learn math? The reason we analyze the crap out of everything? It's to think. This is something children do not seem to get, at least until college. We are here to prep for college, which you say is more of the same, when really college is the true stepping stone to teach us how to make decisive decisions and think for ourselves. So while I may agree there may be better ways to teach, you can't argue with the material. As a 10th grader, we simply can't see how learning this will actually affect us. So don't bash it quite yet.
Arooj Ahmad December 12, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Bob, you are missing the point. The education system is doing exactly what it was intended to do - create compliant cogs in machines. Relevant, unique knowledge is knowledge that is relative to one's passion and modern times. To address your point of how algebra MUST be learned: why must a journalist learn Algebra? Sure, they may need to know the basics from time to time, but it is completely irrelevant to their profession. Education should be unique to a person's passion. The reason we learn math and analyze everything is "to think"? To think for what? What purpose will learning math and analyzing everything serve if it is of no interest to you? I understand that the basics are essential to remain aware of other subjects, but the times have changed. Algebra may not have changed, but calculators have. One can calculate even the most advanced algebra with a computing device. Why should students have to memorize formulas and equations to simply pass a test? What good does that do? What "decisive decisions" are you referring to when you say that college is a true stepping stone, in the context of education? The material is precisely what must be argued. If we cannot see the effects of our learning, then should we remain blind? If you open your eyes, you should know exactly how your education will affect you.
Sam B. December 14, 2012 at 12:04 AM
How would a student know their true passion without learning all the many subjects? The point to teaching many subjects, such as algebra, is to teach academic discipline as well as to provide opportunities for the students. What I think the man above me meant by "to think", is to own the ability of critical thinking. How would a student know their true passion without learning many different subjects? That student who wants to be a journalist may only want to be a journalist because that is all he or she knows. It could be possible that their true passion is Chemistry but they decided to opt out of the class because of their previous misled decision to be a journalist. I also don't think you should be attempting to change the educational system quite yet as for you still have a long journey ahead of you in school.
Arooj Ahmad December 14, 2012 at 03:13 PM
I agree that a student must be exposed to the basics of all of the subjects at an early age. However, I would argue that real-world applications of those subjects must be exposed to the students so that they are able to develop a passion more quickly than they are able to under the present education system. Once that passion has been established, it is futile for a student to continue to learn that which he/she does not enjoy. Though he/she should be aware of other subjects, he/she should not be forced to learn more of it and delve into more advanced topics. Algebra does involve critical thinking and it does have applications in the real-world, but students should be aware of those applications and how they can use algebra to help them in their unique endeavors. If algebra does not help them, why should they be forced to learn more advanced subtopics of algebra? While I do have a long journey ahead of me, I will not let a test score decide my fate.
Gary December 14, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Arooj, "To address your point of how algebra MUST be learned: why must a journalist learn Algebra?" TRUE STORY (all my other stories are made up crap, but this one... it's true): I went to work in England when I was in my twenties and I worked with about 30 other young English engineers, also in their twenties. In England, students are channeled into career paths earlier in their lives than we are here in the US. So let's see how that worked out. They were discussing the higher standard of living we enjoyed in the US compared to the UK and were attributing it to the size of the US, our natural resources, etc. I spoke up and suggested that the standard of living in the UK was depressed by high import fees designed to protect domestic jobs from external competition. Blank stares. I continue to explain how high import fees on cars might save 30,000 jobs in the UK but would drive up the cost of cars and lower the standard of living for the entire 55 million other Brits, and that if you did this for all goods, you'd all keep your jobs, but your standard of living would continue to drop compared to the external competitive world. Confused looks all around. They didn't understand a word I said because they were engineers, and engineers don't need to know anything about economics do they? Their knowledge base was too small to understand the world around them. That's why journalists should know algebra, and why engineers... like me... should know how to write.
Nathaniel December 14, 2012 at 11:45 PM
How do you have any proof that Education kills creativity? Is it based on your personal opinions and experiences? What if you're just a high school student blaming the educational system for your bad grades = extreme bias? Compared with other countries, the United States already promotes creativity and critical thinking skills... EVEN IF THE UNITED STATES EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM PROMOTES " routine memorization of backward-looking knowledge, reinstated as nitty-gritty and delivered through bottled lesson plans with predetermined time constraints", this system ENCOURAGES HARD WORK. Meaning that diligence, discipline, and work ethic is valued over natural intelligence and genius. Standardized testing, memorization, grades, etc. are determined primarily by how hard one works. Work hard, get A. THIS IS THE WAY THINGS SHOULD BE. The system you're seeking, Arooj, is a system that values natural intelligence and genius. However, if America was full of geniuses that didn't do a stitch of work, things fall apart. The REASON why China and Chinese people are more successful than Americans is because they place VALUE diligence and hardwork. This is the reason why China is so successful right now. Creativity and natural intelligence can't get anyone nowhere because there is so much new information to be learned, especially in this day and age. If you want to specialize in any area, you need to first know how to work for it.
Nathaniel December 14, 2012 at 11:56 PM
"school prepares students only for one possible future: college – which is, essentially, more of the same. This traditional cycle of schooling kills creativity and hinders students’ full potential" Again, how do you know that our educational system KILLS CREATIVITY? does your nose say so? again, as a 10th grader, it is to early for you to decide whether knowledge in said area is useful or not. Furthermore,requiring high schoolers to learn other "irrelevant topics" has multiple purposes. 1. It allows Students to experience what careers/majors they want to pursue in the future. Some people don't know what they want to do when they grow up or whether a certain major is interesting or not. 2. It trains work ethic. No matter how hard a class is, working hard can easily get you an A. Trust me, I've been through this educational system, and I can say for sure that I wasn't naturally talented intellectually, but I still managed to pull off straight A's. This is one of the MAJOR reasons why colleges value standardized testing and GPA so much. 3. "A test score or a letter on a piece of paper cannot measure a student’s success." -true. BUT IT CAN MEASURE HOW HARD ONE WORKED. No matter what major you plan on pursuing, you need to work hard at some point. It also tests how much hard work benefits you. If you failed a test, it means that you didn't work hard enough, or didn't pay attention in class. Both are vital skills for success.
Nathaniel December 15, 2012 at 12:12 AM
"it cannot be defined as the process of giving and receiving systematic instruction to achieve short-term satisfaction...Instead, education should be defined as an enlightening experience in which students are able to acquire relevant, unique knowledge through innovative means." Last time I checked, our educational system is an Enlightening experience that gives students relevant knowledge through innovative means. I don't know what you mean by Enlightening, but every subject can develop any part of your mental abilities and strengthen it. Math promotes problem solving and creativity. English promotes comprehension, eloquence, and creativity. History expand's one's mind and promotes work ethic/memorization while also being a fun topic to talk about. Science promotes creativity, curiosity..etc. If these mental aspects aren't enlightening, then I don't know what is. 2. Last time I checked, Highschoolers could choose what classes they take. Sure, some classes like math, literature etc are required, but there ARE electives. This freedom/liberty alone allows a student to learn MORE of what information they think is RELEVANT. Furthermore, having a strong foundation across vast subjects prepares students for vast dilemmas.
Nathaniel December 15, 2012 at 12:12 AM
3. Innovative. Our educational system isn't INNOVATIVE? mind you, our educational system has existed for less than 200 years, and compared to ten years ago, we're making progress. Teachers are already encouraged to diversify their teaching methods, and if the don't do that, then it's probably because if you plan to major in that field, then that's all you would be doing. Take chem for an example. People who major in chem do labs. That's why Chem teachers have the students do labs, so that they're prepared and know what chemists do.
Arooj Ahmad December 15, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Gary, that is a very interesting story! Thank you for sharing. I agree that people must be aware and knowledgeable of the other subjects. A journalist should have knowledge of basic algebra as it comes up from time to time in their lives. In fact, they should be exposed to several subjects outside their passion. However, in today's education system, students are forced to progress their knowledge in subjects that they are uninterested in beyond the essentials. Sure, one can take lower math classes if they are not interested in them, but that causes colleges to believe that the person did not apply themselves. On that note, allow me to address Nathaniel's points. Wow Nathaniel, thank you for sharing your thoughts! I am always open to criticism. Education does not kill creativity. School does. My proof comes from my experiences and knowledge of others' experiences. I am currently a high school sophomore enrolled in 3 AP classes and 3 Honors classes with good grades. I have not given up on the system, but rather, I want to reform it. I do not wish to abolish school, as the institution itself is very beneficial, but change must arise from within our schools. I do not advocate a loose system in which self-proclaimed geniuses do not do a "stitch of work". If there was a family tree, hard work and education would be related. But school is a distant cousin. I agree that hard work, diligence, and education are the keys to success. But schools are locks.
Kevin December 17, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Some classes teach you HOW to think. That is a LONG process- and it requires rules & memorization. Most (many?) high school classes are trying to teach a student how to learn, so when you are ready to move on -be it graduation OR before, for some- you have the base to teach yourself. Is it at times constricting? Of course. That's what happens when you have a system that trys to teach EVERYONE. That's the main issue with the US education system. We believe EVERYONE has a chance to learn at a high level. Other countries encourage creativity better, but they only reachout to the highest-achieving students. If you're lower, you go to trade school (or none at all). The merits of THAT system represent a different debate, but our system is the way it is because of our goal- educate every student.

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