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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.


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As Sir Ken Robinson explains in the above video, the American standardized educational system is antiquated and outdated.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.

“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.


Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on July 03, 2014:

Thanks for your comment, sorry for my late reply. You make an interesting (although a bit cynical) point. It's true that a lot of jobs do suck, but at the same time I think it really depends on your personal preferences. Sure, if none us HAD to work we probably wouldn't, but some jobs aren't that bad, and in some cases you are able to do something you really love as your job, which then doesn't really fee like a job at all. But, that isn't too common and most people have to end up settling for something less than their ideal. As for your assessment that 90% of jobs require no college education, I beg to differ. Doctors, engineers, computer scientists, lawyers, accountants, etc etc all need actual training (education). Trade schools, for example, have a good purpose. To me, the real issue here is education vs knowledge or experience. If you are already skilled and experienced at something, should you need to have a piece of paper to prove it? In those cases, yes, maybe college is a waste of time.

Sanxuary on February 22, 2014:

Just like every American Institution it's a complete lie. Its all about money and getting you to buy something. Probably 90 percent of our jobs require no college education. The last thing your employer probably wants is an educated slave. They have practically banned teaching life skills or common sense. The only thing taught is punching tickets and a lie that if you do what you our told that you will be rewarded. Reality usually comes home when you get your bill and learn that all jobs pretty much suck.

Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on July 30, 2013:

Thanks for the comment, Sanxuary. You bring up an interesting point, and I certainly could have focused more on the financial part of schooling, but that would have to be a whole other Hub. Maybe I will write that in the future. Anyway, there does seem to be a divide between ability and education. Just because you have an education, doesn't mean you have real world skills that apply in the field that you received your degree. So, what are you spending your money for? My answer is critical thinking skills, having a set schedule with deadlines and a professor to bounce questions off of. Otherwise, a person could totally self-educate and learn all the stuff you pay for in college for free at the library or on the internet. However, not everyone is disciplined or motivated enough to do so on their own. Some people learn better in a class room environment, especially when class discussions are allowed. It's also true what you said about where all the tuition goes -- a lot less goes to the teachers than people think. They do get better pay in higher level education, but still admin and other staff eat up a good portion of the budget. It's definitely something that needs to be addressed.

Sanxuary on July 28, 2013:

Like everything in America its all about the money and nothing about reality. One false diploma mill making top dollar, eventually cheapens all of them wanting top dollar. At the same time education is becoming a moot point for countless jobs that once boldly claimed having an education was important. Cheap labor and mindless slaves is what they really want in most cases. It is adding up that education is a useless tool that serves no purpose in a job, except for placing us in debt. College is mostly a money machine. Still I think we expect to much and that most schools do well in teaching but perform poorly in managing individual learning. Colleges do poorly in teaching on the other hand because they do not equate my money as having any value in teaching people. When I spend large sums of money I expect to be taught but its very disappointing. Then again all that money is mostly going to someone who never teaches and educators are not profiting by being good teachers.

Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on July 27, 2013:

C.J., you know...what you say is probably true.

Thanks for the commentary and blessings to you as well.

CJ Sledgehammer on July 26, 2013:

Truth be known, "socialization" is highly over-rated. A study conducted by the Smithsonian Institute upon genius concluded that if you want your child to excel in intelligence....limit their time around peers.

Blessings to a fabulous young lady - C.J. Sledgehammer

Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on July 25, 2013:

Thank you. I hear autism is becoming more and more common now, like 1/3 children. I can't imagine the struggles that parents in your situation must go through.

It's true, there are many activities that children can participate in when they are home schooled that will still socialize them, it really is in the hands of the parents.

Thanks for the comment and vote. :)

Michele Travis from U.S.A. Ohio on July 23, 2013:

Hello Sarah,

Home schooling is fine because there are other ways for your children to socialize. My daughter has Autism, and is in a school that is for children with Autism. However, she has what is called "Higher level Autism"

My daughter is also involved in other activities. She is in Girl Scouts, and Puppet Squad at church

Great hub.

Voted up.

Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on April 18, 2013:

@ CJ - You are hilarious!!! I'm laughing so hard right now my eyes are watering. You've officially flustered me (not that that is hard to do). I'm sorry I was really busy yesterday and didn't have a chance to work on my hub. I will have it published either by tonight or tomorrow, I promise. Man, maybe I need this kind of pressure all the time to get me writing lol. You are the best, CJ. You make me feel encouraged, I think I don't write as often as I would like because I'm overly critical of myself. Everyone needs a boost of confidence now and again...so thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on April 18, 2013:

@Vladimir Uhri - Why would I want to remove your comment? I am open to hearing all opinions on here, I think what you said is interesting and it's something I didn't know. I was just wanting clarification, because I wasn't sure what you meant. In order to solve our education problem here in America, I do believe part of the solution is to look at other educational systems that are more successful around the world and try their approach.

@Lady E - Thank you for stopping by! You bring up a good point and I love to have a teacher's perspective. I also think it's very important to have good teachers that love their jobs and are passionate about teaching, and having a good work environment is definitely a part of that. I still remember my 6th grade teacher, she was one of the best teachers I ever had. So yes, some are able to rise above despite the limitations the school system puts on them. I think parents need to educate themselves about the choices when choosing how to educate their children - there is no right or wrong answer, since I've seen success stories from all places (private school, home school, public school) and well as failures from all those places. Every child is different, and in certain environments/conditions some will thrive while others will not. We should conform school to meet their learning needs, instead of making them conform to learning a specific way. Choices.

CJ Sledgehammer on April 18, 2013:

Dear Sarah:

Just so you know, I am launching a grass-roots movement to put social, economic and political pressure upon you to write more Hubs. I have already been in touch with my Congressman and both of my Senators and they are looking into it.

I truly think you are letting, not only your country down, but the world as well, because blessed cherubs like you, don't come around very often.

Please know that I am sorry it has come to this. I told you awhile back that you weren't doing enough to satisfy my "Sarah-Christina fix" and I believed you were just "teasing" me with the amazing and awe-inspiring Hub above. You shouldn't leave people hanging on like this...it just isn't right.

To make amends and bring order back to the universe, you may write a Hub about how guys can find "nice" girls. Should you decide to meet my demands, I shall drop any and all action against you.

Respectfully Submitted - C.J. Sledgehammer

Elena from London, UK on April 17, 2013:

Very interesting read. I think if Teachers are happy (good conditions of work) it will also have a positive impact on their delivery.

Having said that, there are a few passionate Teachers out there who will give so much to give the best to kids, no matter the conditions. I know they are out there but very few.

I am a Teacher. Personally, I would send my child to Private School. Home Schooling is good, but I think being social is very important to kids. They need to interact with others. (I haven't got kids yet).

Rated up.

Vladimir Uhri from HubPages, FB on April 17, 2013:

We had balance marriage here in US for decades at home and spoke positively with our kids. They had plenty love. First kid went to Middle and High school and became rebellious. *** I attended socialistic schools and they taught us socialism under Soviet regime. Then they failed and now failing yet in spite I never seen so many highly educated people with doctorate and Engineers titles as in any other place of the world. Have a beautiful day.

Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on April 16, 2013:

@ Michael-Milec - Thank you so much for your kind words! I am happy you enjoyed it and got something out of it. I'm flattered I don't even know what else to say but thank you and God bless.

@Vladimir Uhri - Thank you, I'm glad you liked it. I'm not sure what you mean exactly by "socialistic approach brought from Europe". Do you mean America borrowed its approach from Europe and that's why it fails, or that it's failing because we haven't used the socialistic approach? How I was using socialization was about how people learn to act with one another in groups. People skills. Many kids learn how to be bullies and misbehave from attending school (from watching other kids).

Vladimir Uhri from HubPages, FB on April 16, 2013:

Very good article, thanks. Voting up.

Socialization to me means socialistic approach brought from Europe of failing system.

Michael-Milec on April 15, 2013:

Hello sarahchristina.

Exceptionally remarkable, incomparable practical hub of much wisdom.

Beyond my vocabulary, to express the powerful message presented in your educational writ.

Meeting you has been heavenly orchestrated via your comment on the same page of S.J. Sledgehammer .

May the blessing of Almighty be with you, so that you'll continually be a blessing to all.

Voting absolutely up, and awesome , useful and beautiful.

Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on March 22, 2013:

Thanks for your commentary! Wow, I wish I had gone to school in Illinois (just kidding). The University of Washington wouldn't close for almost any kind of terrible weather, the city would have to be in flames or have a massive earth quake before they'd cancel. As for the holidays...I remember during certain times of the year getting lots of days off due to different holidays and was surprised by that. The UW only canceled classes for weather 1 time while I was there, when Seattle got a huge snowstorm that stranded several people (even then they didn't decide to cancel until noon--it took me 6 hours to get home!).

In lower level education, there would be the stormy season in the fall and we'd lose school days due to power outages. Of course, they got made up at the end of the year.

So, I don't know...maybe it's because in Illinois there are lot's of rural areas that are difficult to navigate through during bad weather? I have no idea. Very strange, but interesting.

Laura Brown from Barrie, Ontario, Canada on March 20, 2013:

My only experience with the US education system was the years I lived in the US, Illinois state. What I most remember were all the days school (even university classes) were cancelled due to weather. Being from Ontario, I was really surprised at school being closed so many days for what did not seem extreme weather to me at least.

Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on March 20, 2013:

Thank you, your comment is appreciated. I'm not aware of any official movements or websites, other than:

http://www.improve-education.org/about.html, http://www.unitedway.org/our-work/education/, http://www.stageoflife.com/How_to_Improve_Educatio...

I think the most important way to bring on change is to no longer solely rely on the public education system. I think we should try to give students (of all ages) the tools and teach them how to self learn or connect them to proper resources to supplement their learning. Youtube, for example, has numerous educational videos that explain and teach various academic subjects (sometimes better than at school). Volunteering and funding for alternative schools would also help, I believe. There isn't any one way to contribute, I believe there is multiple approaches. I hope to help by writing hubs/articles that spread awareness and educate people on different subjects (i.e. filling in the educational "gaps" with important info that doesn't typically get taught in school). I've been meaning to write more hubs but life has been busy for me lately; hopefully I will have some more published soon.

Julia Mayfly on March 18, 2013:

Is there anything we can do? Do you know of any official movement or site that is going to do something about it? I completely agree with what you are saying, but I feel like if I don't join something official nothing is going to change. If there isn't anything we should start something.

Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on March 09, 2013:

Thank you for your comment, it's much appreciated. I know education is an issue that's been discussed by many people over time, it's not a new subject by far. But you are right, it's an issue that needs our constant attention. Something needs to be done about our education system. If enough people become aware of the situation and discuss and work together to create solutions, we can make a difference.

Howard Schneider from Parsippany, New Jersey on March 01, 2013:

Exellent Hub, Sarah. Our public education system is at a crisis right now but it is not beyond the point to be saved. Government, teachers, and parents need to get together to find better ways to teach our children. This should be a continual process. All have a stake in this subject because it is our future. I wrote a Hub on this almost 2 years ago with my ideas at that time. Thank you for getting me to think about it again. This issue must have our constant attention.

Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on February 07, 2013:

Thank you for taking the time to read my Hub, and thank you for your input. I am glad you enjoyed the article. Yes, that video was quite a great find. You are welcome!

Barbara from Stepping past clutter on February 07, 2013:

Sarah, this is a fascinating hub. I loved watching the first video- phenomenal illustrations. Wow.

I have had experience with all three educational systems and as great as homeschool may be- I took each of my kids out for a time- it takes the right combo to work.

Much to consider here. Thanks!!!

Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on December 06, 2012:

Thank you for your gracious words and commentary, CJ. You are too kind. Thank you, thank you, thank you. God has gifted me with the ability to write, I hope to do some justice with this gift.

CJ Sledgehammer on December 05, 2012:

Oh, Sarah, this Hub is a triumph. Encore...Encore!!!

You have, not only demonstrated a keen insight into the public education debacle, but you have provided us with practical solutions as well.

Thank you for being so conscientious and for taking a stand for what is good and what is right and for seeing the forest through the trees. This Hub is brilliant, your writing is superb, and your videos are spot on.

May God wrap His arms around you like a warm blanket - C.J. Sledgehammer

Voted up, interesting, useful, beautiful and downright awesome! :0)

Sarah C Nason (author) from Fresno, CA on October 23, 2012:

Thank you for your comment! It's true, college is so expensive, and tuition keeps on rising! I was lucky that I was able to get grants and scholarships to pay my way through. I also transferred from community college to a University which saved a lot of money as well. I agree, we really do need to look at what other countries are doing to try to improve our own education system.

Bobby Isenhower from Crothersville, IN on October 23, 2012:

It is hard in the college system these days on how it is set up. I think there could be a lot of better ways to go about things. One of the richest men in the world Bill Gates dropped out of college. You almost have to have a college degree now of days to get a decent paying job which is sad. I know just as much as the college kid knows about certain jobs if not more than he does. I plan to go back to college next year but I like how in other countries college is free. United States wonders why kids in other countries are smarter well it's because their system is a lot better. good hub :)

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