Listening to a teacher explain the Pythagorean Theorem in a monotonous voice is a guaranteed way to create a classroom full of students daydreaming and twiddling their thumbs. The United States, a nation filled to the brim with educational resources and opportunities for students, must reevaluate the standard teaching methods used in schools. The institutionalized nature of US schools is not only generating an overwhelming sense of apathy and frustration among students, but is also hindering their creativity and ability to excel at their own unique talents. An education reform could produce astounding results.
Problems With the Current System
From a young age, students are taught to sit quietly, listen, raise their hands and only speak when called. School days are strictly split into the common core: math, science, history, reading and writing. Students learn new material, do homework and projects, take tests and repeat. Everybody needs routine in their lives to a certain extent, but once that routine becomes relentlessly mundane, the enthusiasm to learn dissipates.
Standardized testing is also a required component of the education system that causes a lot of controversy. Though it seems to be a thorough and uniform way to test all students, there are unarguable biases. There’s a huge disparity in the quality of education in public schools across the country, specifically ones located in impoverished rural areas. Essentially, the results of standardized tests conclude that the students who had the opportunity to a better education are smarter than the less fortunate ones who didn’t get the same type of learning experience.
Some students simply aren’t good test takers. They could know the material well and have studied for hours but totally blank out when the Scantron is put in front of them. The bottom line is that brilliant students could get tests back with low to mediocre scores and, just because of a number, feel discouraged, unintelligent, and below average.
School has become something that the majority of students dread. They’re bored. They’re stressed. They’re frustrated. They’re uninterested. This mindset prevents them from truly gaining anything substantial from the material being taught. The education system needs to be reformed to bring interest, passion, motivation and creativity back into the classrooms.
A New Approach
A number of schools and teachers across the nation have started testing out more engaging and interactive methods of tackling material. Aaron Sams, a science teacher from Colorado, enforces a backwards type of teaching in his “Flipped Classroom.” Instead of standing in front of his class and delivering information through a lecture, he makes informative videos that students can watch at home in place of homework. This teaching method, “vodcasting,” is growing in popularity and allows teachers to use class time to walk around and help students one on one. Students can complete the written work and problems during class and have the opportunity to get their questions answered on the spot.
Carpe Diem School in Yuma County, Arizona is another big player in the quest to reform education. It’s a blended learning school, which means the school combines face-to-face instruction with technology opportunities. Since technology is inevitable among the youth today, Carpe Diem aims to leverage technological skills in the classroom with what is most important to learn.
Students have an individualized online curriculum to make the educational experience more enriching and empowering. The school day is divided between independent computer work and workshopping with other students and teachers. The workshop time includes projects and learning activities and is predominantly about interaction and discussion instead of lecture.
Each student in Carpe Diem is academically assessed every single day. The teachers sift through data to determine what needs to be modified and which students need extra assistance. They approach the students and do intermediate intervention in order to resolve whatever the problem may be: academic or outside of the classroom. Teachers pride themselves in getting to know the context of students lives as well as their career goals and aspirations. Students describe Carpe Diem as more of a family rather than a school.
Ken Robinson is another notable figure in the fight for education reform. He raises the question of how to educate our children so they have a sense of cultural identity to be a part of the inevitable globalization occurring. A degree doesn’t guarantee a job anymore, so it’s crucial that students aren’t being taught in such a black and white way.
Robinson also stresses that ADHD is a fictitious epidemic. Kids are being medicated for ADHD as often as adults used to get their tonsils out. Children are living in the most intensely stimulated period in the history of earth: they can get limitless information from computers, TVs, iPhones etc. so it’s getting more difficult to stay focused on a teacher writing math problems across the board.
There’s so many messages that are drilled into students’ heads in school: Don’t copy! Don’t look at other people’s work! Do your own assignment! While children need to understand the basic principles of school and how to succeed honestly, sometimes collaboration and teamwork can produce the best possible work. In order for the education system to succeed, Robinson asserts that we must triumph over the concept that there are academic people and non-academic people. Everyone can learn and succeed if the circumstances suit them.
13-year-old Logan LaPlante has gained an insight on education reform beyond his years. He poses the question, “What if we based education on the study and practice of being happy and healthy?” According to Logan, the practice of being happy and healthy entails the following: exercise, diet and nutrition, time in nature, contribution and service, relationships, recreation, relaxation and stress management, and finally, religious and spiritual involvement.
Envision a “hacker.” You probably thought of a tech-savvy geek who spreads computer viruses. Logan sees hackers as innovators, as those who challenge and change the system to make it work differently. Accordingly, he refers to his current educational experience as “hackschooling.” One of Logan’s favorite aspects of his education is the one day a week spent entirely outside. He said he gained a spiritual connection to nature that he never knew existed.
It’s time to reevaluate exactly what values we want future generations to have. There are alternative teaching methods that will highlight skills and passions that may not have surfaced through chemistry or algebra. Society is in a state of perpetual change, and developing our education system in sync with the evolution of the world is absolutely crucial to ensure success and happiness. An education reform should be at the top of America’s agenda.