I encounter many a leftist who talks about education and its “problems.” Of course, hearing that often entails having to listen to their solutions, from more money to more teachers.
The problems and solutions are always simple: more of some commodity (usually cash) is needed in schools and, thus, more resources are thrown haphazardly at the problem, in hopes of fixing it.
Of course many of these liberals likely haven’t attended a school in decades.
It has not been so many years that I have forgotten my own school days, and I recall knowing, even back then that something was seriously wrong.
In my high school, there were three “tiers” of classes: Applied, Academic and Honors.
According to the catalogue, applied courses were the basic, grade-level requirement courses, designed for lower achieving students. The academic courses were considered the “college” track, and were more challenging and designed to prepare students for higher education. Honors courses were for the highest achieving students.
I opted for the academic courses, except in history. Generally speaking, they were challenging enough, their ease often more dependent on how rigorously the teacher drove the students than the overall course content. The problem seemed to lie in the honors and applied levels.
I was qualified throughout high school to sign up for honors classes, but I never did. There were many reasons to, chief among them that I was never quite sufficiently challenged in academic courses and most of my friends were brilliant enough to be in honors.
But then I would see the workloads of my friends. In English alone, they would read books on a near weekly basis and write at least one, if not more, papers as well. The focus seemed to be on quantity of work rather than quality of work.
Instead of studying topics in an in-depth fashion, like I became accustomed to at my university, the high school courses simply seemed to do more and more work. The focus seemed to be in the wrong place. Rather than challenging the honors students with content beyond grade level, they simply received grade-level assignments in greater amounts.
On the flip side, applied courses were nowhere near grade level. Elective courses frequently gave me the opportunity to interact with applied students, and when I observed their school work, something was seriously wrong. One student I knew would often do his homework in our Java class and he seemed to be doing exercises or reading books barely fit for a middle schooler, let alone juniors and seniors in high school.
Even more disturbing, in any given semester applied classes were nearly half of the courses offered in each subject.
In other words, half of each graduating class was learning below grade level.
This sub-par course problem even extends into college. Well over a third of my time in college (and thus, money) went into “general education” courses. These courses ranged from statistics and biology to physical education. I went to college to learn about english and history, not to learn about subjects I neither cared for nor needed.
And in many of those general-ed courses the professors were perfectly content to curve grades based on the highest score, despite the fact that it skewed both how the outside world perceived the class, and how students perceived their own performance.
Is more money the solution to the highlighted education problems? Or is the solution instead examining how education is approached in this country?
Rather than stressing the idea of students passing, perhaps we should focus on them learning.
School should be a place where students appreciate being challenged, instead of seeking the easiest path to graduation. It should be where students discover their true talents, no matter if those aptitudes are academic, a trade or nothing at all.
We must banish this idea that college is for everyone. It is not.
College, likewise, should be about immersing the students in their preferred field, with a handful of optional courses. I don’t need a remedial math class when I want to learn about the english language or the Ming Dynasty: such remedial courses are a waste of time and money.
The problem with education in America is NOT money: it is how today’s students are conditioned to view their education so causally and devalue its worth.