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Why the Education System Has Failed to Succeed

Sarah has a bachelor's in creative writing and journalism from the University of Washington.

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What Has Caused the Failure of the Education System?

The education system in America is failing to properly educate the youth. When compared internationally, American students test lower than average compared to students from other countries. And despite the fact that more students go to college now than ever, there is no longer a guarantee that their college degree will get them a job (unlike how they teach people in school that the only way to get a good job is to go to college).

In fact, many entry-level jobs require a person to have some work experience in their field before they hire them. But if a person can’t get hired with just a college degree, how are they supposed to get any job experience? Many college-educated adults fall into this pitfall and either end up unemployed or employed in a field completely unrelated to their degree. In addition, with so many people with college degrees, there is now that much more competition in the job market. So, is there a solution? Before that question can be answered, first, one needs to take a good solid look at how this all got started.

As Sir Ken Robinson explains in the above video, the American standardized educational system is antiquated and outdated. It was originally designed to train the general population to be busy little worker bees during the Industrial Revolution.

Despite the fact that it’s been a few hundred years since the public education model was put in place, it has changed very little. After all the advancements that have been made in science and technology, why hasn’t there been more advancement in the public educational system? The answer to that question is debatable and complex, but there are certain contributing factors that can’t be denied.

Although there are alternatives to public education such as private or alternative schools, only parents with lots of money to spare can afford to send their children to those types of institutions—and if they can afford it, sometimes it ends up being a waste of money.

Private Schools Don’t Guarantee a Better Education

A study conducted by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) that was published in 2007 indicated that there is not much of an achievement gap amongst students in public high schools vs. students attending private high schools. When conducting the study, they took into account several factors, including family background and socioeconomic status.

Students from low-income, urban areas performed as well as students from private schools when they had parents that were involved in their education. In fact, the only cases that students in private schools outperformed their public school counterparts were in regards to SAT scores. However, there is one of two reasons why that is: either private schools are better at teaching test-taking skills, or the students that are admitted into private schools have higher IQs.

Additionally, public school students were generally just as likely to continue on to college as private school students were. Also, a student's motivation and ones that performed well before high school kept performing well later on. The study found, more than anything else, that parental involvement (such as having high educational expectations, discussing schoolwork, being involved in the school, etc.) has much more to do with students’ academic achievements than the type of school they attend.

More simply put: More money does not equal better education. Better access to outside resources and tutors? Yes. But the type of institution itself doesn’t seem to matter. The only other alternative, if parents are unsatisfied with public or private schools, is to homeschool their children.

A mother home schooling her daughter

A mother home schooling her daughter

To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool: That Is the Question

Based on statistics, children who are homeschooled score higher on aptitude tests than their public school counterparts by a considerable margin. However, results vary depending on how involved and dedicated the parents are in regard to self-educating their children.

Additionally, many people argue that homeschooled children do not receive proper socialization compared to children who attend public institutions—although I haven’t found any evidence that supports that claim. In fact, according to an online article by Naomi de la Torre titled Are Homeschooled Kids Really Lacking In Socialization, it is a myth that homeschooled children are less socialized.

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“Homeschooling affords children many wonderful opportunities to socialize without all the negative de-socializing experiences that children in traditional schools often encounter. Media coverage of bullying, teasing, gangs, cliques, violence, physical and emotional abuse in public schools is abundant."

Even if you weren’t bullied or teased in school (I personally was), it’s very likely that you had a friend or knew someone that was. I remember attending 1st grade and being shocked and appalled by other children’s behavior—they were being mean for no reason, using profanity, flipping each other off, and being generally obnoxious. I didn’t feel like I was at a learning institution; it was more like a zoo with wild animals packed in a small space being forced to learn things that the teacher scrawled on a black chalkboard.

Then, after elementary school, there is junior high or middle school, where the negative social behavior continues to intensify and is then multiplied by raging hormones. Next, there is high school, and for many (but not all), high school graduation, then college.

Therefore, I think it is fair to say that home school is a proper alternative for those who don’t care for such “socialization.” Not only that, but lower-level education (other than prep schools, which again, are expensive and not an option for everyone) doesn’t even come close to properly preparing students for college.

My College Experience and the Disillusionment That Followed

Since I’ve always loved learning, college seemed to be the perfect place for a young individual such as myself to thrive and excel. In the beginning, I did indeed do that—in part because I chose to attend community college to get a general two-year degree and then transfer to a four-year university.

I was smart enough to observe ahead of time that I didn’t want to be in a huge lecture hall with 800 students (which is the fate for those who choose to go straight to a four-year college after graduating high school) and that smaller classes meant a higher quality education. It also allowed me to bypass the stress of taking the SAT.

Despite the fact that I did learn a good deal of new information, expanded my world view, and enhanced my critical thinking skills, I couldn’t help but feel that I had missed out on a lot of opportunities because I was forced to learn at such a fast pace. By the time I graduated, I was mentally exhausted and burned out. When it comes down to it, at the university level of education, it’s more about money and time than it is about quality education.

It felt very much like being part of a cattle call, where they were trying to move the “herd” of students on as quickly as possible in order to make room for the next “herd” of students. It is no wonder that many people graduate with college degrees yet still feel completely clueless and unprepared—because after a whirlwind education roller coaster ride like that, anyone would feel a bit dazed and stunned afterward. So, in the end, college is no better than the lower level education system—because it fails to yield productive, learned citizens—an advanced version of memorizing and spewing back information to get a good grade and take home a shiny degree.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea—like the video above mentions, I’m not saying college doesn't work for some people. Having a college degree is better than not having a degree at all. For some, the system matches their learning style, and they excel. The point is, not everyone learns the same way or at the same pace. Certain teaching styles work better for some people than others, and this is where the education system fails; it refuses to recognize the variations in an individual’s cognitive abilities.

I remember a few of my professors at the community college level expressing their regrets that they even had to give tests or grades at all. They explained that tests only measure a student’s memorization ability, not their reasoning, critical thinking skills, or intelligence. However, they had no choice because the school system restricted them from evaluating students in alternative ways, like grading a student based on their personal progress instead of basing it on a number value placed on an assignment or test. They even said that if they could change the system, they would. If professors even admit that the education system is flawed in its design, I ask the question again—why haven’t things changed?

What can we do to fix the education system? Think about it.

What can we do to fix the education system? Think about it.

In truth, the American education system is working fine—according to its original design. The rich and elite need worker ants to help run the country, and if everyone was equally or properly educated, they would have to share the wealth and power they’ve worked so hard to monopolize. People also need to realize they have options as far as educating their children.

For example, in some states, children aren’t required to attend school until the age of 12. However, that is no longer an option once a parent agrees to enroll their child into a public school (i.e., Kindergarten, first grade, etc.). Then it becomes mandatory, and parents face incarceration and other penalties if they refuse to send their child to school.

Although I agree with George Carlin, I’m not quite as cynical. I don’t accept that there is nothing we can do about it. I believe that if enough people “wake up” and realize what is really going on, they can band together and make a change. The educational system in this country needs to go back into the hands of the people, and no longer be “standardized” or government controlled. Additionally, employers need to make entry-level jobs more readily available for incoming college graduates and provide them with opportunities to work for their companies without having much real-world experience.

Otherwise, George Carlin is right, and nothing will ever change.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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