I recently completed a group semester project on the flaws of the U.S. education system, and unlike most group projects, I actually learned a lot with this one. For example, the first public school ever in the United States was the Boston Latin School, established in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston in 1635. That was 141 years BEFORE the United States declared independence.
It was established by a Puritan settler, who wanted to prepare boys for university (it was a boys-only school. Go figure.) It focused on college preparation, the humanities and of course, Latin. The school is still in existence today, although its location has moved around a lot and it is now co-educational.
Since then, obviously, a lot has changed in the American education system. Here are just a few of the numerous things wrong with our system.
1. Standardized testing has become the focus of primary education.
Many states have come to measure student success by forcing them to take standardized tests, sometimes several times a year. Many students experience test-taking anxiety, probably because of everything that rides on how students perform on exams, whether that be what level classes they are placed in for the following school year, or what colleges they get into. Also, many students are simply not good at taking tests. Some students, although smart, run out of time and don't even get to finish the exam.
2. A huge focus on memorization, rather than learning.
A lot of schooling, at least in elementary through high school, comes down to memorization rather than actual learning. There were many times I stayed up late at night memorizing facts, vocabulary or formulas for a quiz the following day that would eventually prepare me for a standardized test. I can't even say that I still remember that information because I don't.
School is no longer about learning, and it's hurting the morale of students and value of actually finishing and doing well in high school.
3. The technology access gap is unfair.
As technology use is increasing in classrooms, it doesn't take into account that 5 million students in the US do not have access to high-speed Internet at home. This means they are unable to complete online homework assignments in a timely manner at home, but they're still expected to be able to because their peers can.
Usually, they have to stay after school to work in the computer labs or are forced to fall behind their classmates because they don't have the proper means to do the homework they're supposed to.
4. Schools usually fail to take into account different learning styles.
While some college professors, at least in my experience, will survey you at the beginning of the semester to ask about how you learn best, primary school teachers usually don't have the room to do this. I am no education expert, but I believe primary school teachers have to follow stricter guidelines for teaching style and curriculum.
Every child is different, and the reason that so many kids don't do well in middle and high school is that they're forced to learn in a way that doesn't fit how they actually retain information the best. If we want to raise graduation rates, we need to change the way we teach.
5. All students are expected to learn at the same pace.
Because everyone has different learning styles, everyone learns at a different pace. Because school expects everyone to follow the same pace, some kids get ahead and end up becoming bored and disinterested. Some kids also fall behind and get confused. There is really no way to win in the current method we have in place.
6. School fails to teach "real life" skills.
While some schools offer personal finance classes, not every school does. Not every state requires high school students to take a course in personal finance to graduate, so many high school graduates enter the "real world" without any course instruction on real-life skills such as budgeting, taking out a loan/mortgage, how to buy a car, how to cook and clean etc.
7. School forces students to follow rules without room for creativity.
There are so many rules students have to follow when they are at school. Some are necessary, but some are to the point of ridiculousness. Rather than letting kids be kids and learning at their own pace, some schools are more controlling of students than others, planning out every minute of the day and constantly telling them what they can and cannot do.
8. Teachers aren't paid enough.
I believe teachers are not nearly as compensated as they should be for everything they do. Research shows there is a correlation between higher paid teachers and what is considered better education per state. If we pay our teachers more, we'll reap the rewards of higher test scores and more enthusiastic children.
I could go on about every little thing that is wrong with the U.S. education system, but we would be here all day. These are just a few of the overarching problems we came across while researching for this project. It really got me thinking about how ineffective the school system actually is, and whether it can be changed at this point.