I have yet to find a single person who can claim, with a straight face, that they genuinely loved school. Finding someone who didn’t have an outright terrible time in school is harder than passing up free spins. Finding someone who genuinely enjoyed one or more of their classes is harder. And finding someone who loved school entirely is almost impossible.
And as someone who’s currently going to college to get a stem degree, let me tell ya- I can’t wait to bust this pop stand. The idea of staying a minute longer than I have to makes me nauseous, and the idea of joining academia as a professor or researcher seems like hell. But that’s my bias, and I’m not trying to speak down on those who do take up that profession.
The point I’m trying to make is that nearly everyone agrees that school sucks, yet not many people have put forward ideas on how to actually fix it. The only one that seems to consistently get thrown around is “more money”, which is a strategy that has proven time and time again to not work. Your money might as well be thrown into a boiling tar pit. So let’s identify the biggest problems plaguing our educational system and how a new system could be devised to account for these issues.
Bullying, too large of classrooms, bad teachers, student choice.
Mo money, mo problems
Let’s clear the air on this one first: More money in a school does not equate to higher rates of student success. The most well-funded schools do not consistently produce better-educated students.
Part of the problem is in how money is allocated. A lot of the time, schools blow their budgets on an insane amount of useless junk. Like smartboards- remember those pieces of junk? A projector on a good ol’ fashioned whiteboard would do the exact same thing, with half the hassle, a fraction of the price, and zero calibration errors.
Oh, and never mind the cost of bloated bureaucracies, with bizarre admin-to-student ratios in places like New York City. That’s the same city that also has to pay for teachers they can’t fire- and we’ll be getting back to that point soon enough.
The student loan crisis has also proven that simply signing checks for students to pay for college doesn’t help anyone in the long run, except for the fat cats running the educational institutions. I mean, when the government agreed to back any loans regardless of whether or not students could ever be expected to pay them back, it’s no wonder that college and university prices have skyrocketed.
The government’s basically signing blank checks, and students are leaving Uni with the realization that they’ll now be paying off tens- if not hundreds- of thousands of dollars of debt for God-knows how long.
I have found that standardized testing does little to aid in the education of students if nothing at all. That is when these tests aren’t actively impeding learning, of course.
From a top-down, bureaucratic standpoint, Standardized Tests make complete sense. It’s easy to ensure that all schools are meeting satisfactory educational standards when everyone has to teach the same material. In addition, when a centralized body like the government is responsible for grading all these tests, having every test be identical makes the job a hell of a lot easier.
Or, when they’re feeling particularly lazy, the tests could be made for scantrons, which just have to get run through a machine, and voila! Instant grading. (Yet somehow, it still took me months to get my results back… hmph).
The problem lies in the assumption that it’s good to have everybody take the exact same test that’s then checked by a single, organized body. The government, with its thousands of experts on economics and politicing, can’t even stay within budget half the time, and we’re supposed to expect that they know how to teach children sums?
Jokes aside, I have yet to see proof that the government knows what is best. The idea that they are somehow objective arbiters of what material a child should be taught is laughable. In the United States, we’re seeing this difference in opinion play out in the push-back against CRT in schools. Just look at the Virginian election, which was turned red this year because of this very issue.
However, this entire argument can be further reduced. Why do we teach children the way we do, in the first place? We load a bunch of students into a single classroom and have them learn, by rote, various pieces of trivia that they may or (more likely) may not use later in life.
This model of education is called “The Factory Model” because the idea was to prepare students for a job on the assembly line. Everyone has to sit quietly, waiting for orders, as mundane task after mundane task gets hurdled at them.
Then, in order to ensure that the students pass these exams, the teachers teach exactly the material needed to pass these tests, so the students only end up learning how to beat the tests, rather than absorbing the material the test is meant to be checking.
The entire education system is built around standardizing education for not-so-standard students to prepare them for a job that no longer exists.
I, personally, was very lucky to have only encountered one bully in my entire educational experience. I was also capable of standing up to him. I say this not to toot my own horn but emphasize that this is not the typical experience for most students.
Millions of students experience bullying every school year, from simple acts of teasing to physical violence. This is a serious problem- but let’s get some facts straight.
First, my classmates and I were taught that one in two of the girls would be a victim of sexual harassment. That’s a flat-out lie, based on a self-reported survey where things like “unwanted compliments” were considered sexual harassment.
Second, while cyber-bullying is undoubtedly a real thing, it’s also one of the easiest forms of bullying to stamp down on. Almost every form of social media lets users report or block accounts, and cell phones and apps let you block numbers from calling or sending texts to you.
The only reason cyber-bullying happens is because it’s allowed to happen by the victim. I’m not victim-blaming; I’m just pointing that there are steps that can be taken to stop cyberbullying almost entirely. If those steps aren’t taken, it’s either because the victim doesn’t know how or the victim perceives the bullies as friends that he doesn’t want to block.
This is when a knowledgeable adult should step in and advise them on internet safety. Parents, don’t let your child bring home the bullying in their pocket. Additionally, keep them the hell away from Twitter, Instagram, and Tik-Tok. There are actually scientific studies about how bad they are for one’s mental health.
Schools also need to stop the “johnny was bad, so everyone gets punished” crap. School ain’t the military. If Timmy defends himself from Johnny (especially if Johnny’s a known trouble-maker), Timmy should be applauded for his strong right-hook.
On the other end of things, one of the main factors that lead to disruptive and violent behavior is a lack of a stable home life. A group in Louisiana formed “Dads on Duty”, who literally patrol the school, making Dad jokes and getting kids to class. Violence in the school plummeted. Why?
Because having a good male role model around is something that can’t be replaced. Not by mothers. Not by teachers. Not by anyone other than a Dad. This holds true globally, for every race, religion, and ethnicity. Paying out more money to single mothers and glorifying single motherhood doesn’t help anybody in the long run.
Encouraging people to hold to the sanctity of marriage will help with bullying far, far more than any amount of in-school therapy sessions. At the end of the day, it’s all about responsibility. Responsibility of the school, the students, and the parents… plural.
And speaking of responsibility and accountability…
Get Rid of Bad Teachers
Nearly everybody has a story about that teacher. You know the one. The teacher every student dreaded. The one whose name is cursed when spoken aloud. The one whose class is dreaded by the students because the teacher is mean, or rude, or simply incompetent. These kinds of teachers make everyone wonder why the hell they ever chose teaching as a profession and who was the moron that allowed them into a classroom.
The answer lies in the Teachers union. Teachers get so many protections that it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them.
In New York, it once took four years and one million dollars to fire a teacher being charged with violent action at Occupy Wall Street protests, in addition to riling up students during an NYPD presentation- and they didn’t even succeed in firing the guy!
You can find dozens of articles with similar stories of teachers behaving inappropriately in or outside of the classroom, and they’re still teaching. Half the time, a really bad teacher merely gets “reassigned” to sit in a room all day, collecting pay (with mandatory raises!) because it’s cheaper than actually trying to fire them.
So to everyone who believes that teachers deserve the same pay as doctors- sod off.
Students deserve to be taught by the best, but if teachers aren’t held accountable for their actions, then what the hell kind of standards are we expecting from our students? I can name on a single hand the teachers that deserve pay raises, which is why I cannot support any blanket support for teachers in general. If we can’t get rid of awful teachers, then the teachers union deserves no quarter.
It’s easy to criticize, but what can actually be done to solve the problem? Well, the first thing to do is to pull the government’s fingers out from the education system. The schools should be encouraged to figure out how and what should be taught, and the parents should have the right to decide which schools they think are going about it best.
Good schools should be allowed to succeed, and bad schools should be allowed to fail. Schools could then offer “School A” diplomas, and colleges and businesses could judge based on that school’s reputation whether or not the diploma is worth anything.
If school A is known for producing smarter students than school B, then a diploma from A should be worth more than one from B- rather than holding all students, everywhere, to an arbitrary standard.
Only then will schools be incentivized to innovate new, novel methods of teaching that could actually stick around in the students’ heads, rather than vanishing five minutes after the exam is over.