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Education Needs a Makeover
In Prince Ea’s great poem, “I just sued the education system!!!” he says, “…here’s a classroom today and here’s a classroom we used 150 years ago. It’s no shame. In literally over a century, nothing has changed. has changed. Yet you claim to prepare students for the future? But with such evidence, I have to ask: are you preparing students for the future or the past?
If you’ve walked into a public school classroom in the… well, 100 years, then you know how serious the situation is. But let’s go a little further than that. If you’ve walked into a Title I school in the past ten years, you’ll quickly understand why we have thousands and thousands of teachers across the country on the streets demanding better.
I will leave aside teacher salaries and school funds and budgets and focus only on our education system itself – its structure. School in America today is pathetic compared to the immense breakthroughs and improvements we have made in science and technology.
How is it possible that today, in 2018, we can fit an entire computer in our pocket, with access to all the information ever published on the World Wide Web, not to mention enough space for more than 5 000 photos, and the possibility of having a one-on-one conversation with someone on the other side of the world? And YET our classrooms (especially those in low-income areas) still use whiteboards, cramped with over thirty students in a classroom, sitting at collapsing desks, still penless . Who even needs a pencil these days?
As a teacher myself in a public school, I can say that I was really discouraged by the education system and structure. It was so clearly created to reduce minorities and despite all the innovative ideas and the opening of new types of alternative schools (in affluent areas, of course), these schools just keep the pipeline cycle going to prison . As Prince Ea explains in his poem, we are not preparing our youth for a prosperous future.
For example, here are some of the top skills employers are currently looking for (Careers NZ) along with explanations of how we don’t help our students develop these skills.
Top 5 skills sought by employers:
Communication – We require students to raise their hands to speak, speak only when called upon, and only respond to specific questions posed by the teacher. Students rarely have the opportunity to have open conversations with their peers when they must professionally express their opinions, allow others to speak and find an appropriate time to respond, and respectfully disagree. This means that our students hardly ever have their own voice.
Teamwork – Yes, students still occasionally work on group projects, perhaps creating a bulletin board or PowerPoint presentation. However, there is no place in Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to discover your own personality type, learn to work with different personality types, learn to brainstorm ideas together, collaborate and leverage strengths of each team member. In case you’re wondering, we’re still doing old-fashioned quizzes, end-of-chapter tests, standardized state tests, which students can’t achieve with their classmates’ work. What we consider “cheating” is what we later demand they have: the ability to work well with others!
Self-Management – Whether or not you choose to believe claims that the education system was created and implemented specifically to brainwash our young people into thinking and behaving in a way that benefits us (especially young boys of modern Germany to become obedient soldiers), anyone can walk into a school today and see that everything is black and white, set in stone, strictly structured, and the students are very micromanaged. Assigned seats, bells (even tiny bells!), queues, etc. Students don’t learn how to manage their time, make decisions about how they complete tasks, or even simply choose the environment in which they work best.
Thinking Skills – Teachers, and adults in general, are constantly stepping in to solve problems for children from birth to eighteen, then suddenly they’re adults and we just expect them to know how to understand things. Whether it’s resolving conflicts and getting along with peers, finding a solution to a math problem, finishing two assignments on time, coordinating one’s schedule with classmates to complete a group project… we do all these things for students! Or their parents call them and exempt them from solving their own problems (which shows that the school is not the only culprit). It’s normal for our children to have problems, it’s normal for our children to be stressed, it’s normal for our children to fail. It’s how they solve these problems that matters, which is why we need to teach them thinking and problem-solving skills early on.
Resilience – Speaking of failure, where in the CCSS curriculum does it cover how to bounce back from failure? Where in the CCSS curriculum does it cover how to overcome personal obstacles to succeed and create a better future? If you’re over twenty and have had at least one job interview in your life, you must have given an example of when you made a mistake or failed at something and how you got over it. . But when do we teach this?
In a world where the iPhone is updated every six months (or less), where we can order our coffee from our phones before entering the cafe, where we can basically collaborate and create a project with five strangers in five different countries, we absolutely need to improve and update our education system. We need to think longer term. Students do not need to memorize maps, practice alliteration, or recite Shakespeare unless it is directly related to their lives and skills that will help them have a better future. Let’s face it, almost all the facts are readily available on Google. Even maps are accessible on Google (including virtual tours of places like the Taj Mahal and the Amazon rainforest)! What our students need to learn, practice and master are the soft skills that their future employers will demand of them.
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