Why do we keep students in school for twelve, well, sixteen years for grad students, and still cover the same things? “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, Shakespeare is the greatest thing to have been on the face of the Earth, Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, and “x is equal to negative b plus-r-minus the square root of b-squared minus four-a-c, all over two-a.” When are students going to use any of this? They are merely learning facts, not how to use them. Where is the critical thinking and logical analysis? Wait, there is one way this knowledge will be utilized…
Standardized tests! Of course, one can understand the desire to track teacher performance. Students should learn in schools, teachers should make sure of that, so it follows that one ought to measure that, somehow. But when people are killing themselves, and their wallets, over those extra few points on their SATs, ACTs, APs, or—most expensively—IB exams, something is wrong there. Prime example; one city in Japan has their sidewalks “tunnelled.” Alone, that would be simply lovely, protecting people from rain, snow, and whatever else falls out of the sky. Well, that includes human bodies. Yes, human bodies. High-school students are committing suicide over minimally lower test scores that keep them out of desirable universities.
Please bear with this tangential rant…
Gone, should be the days of climbing Ivory towers for a degree that sets you back $150,000 in the name of “prestige.” Harvard might be the most well-known school for this. But don’t worry, its peers that also top those college ranking lists are also known for this. These universities have created a system wherein only students whose parents have a six-figure income can attend. Occasionally, students whose parents’ income(s) put them below poverty are also able to attend these renowned universities. But middle-class families do not even try it because of the excessive cost of post-secondary education. Otherwise, they are “forced” to go to poorly-represented public colleges, for the fear of debt is so prevalent for them. Now that is not to say that public education sucks. It is actually wonderful, when treated by society with the respect it deserves.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with students of high- or low-income families going to college. In fact, this socioeconomic diversity amongst students in highly-regarded universities is indicative of positive shifts in trends in education. However, one grows weary of hearing students aspire to these world-renowned universities, but then say how they must “settle” for something that is just as valid, such as a liberal arts college or public university. That is simply not kosher in my book. More often than not, these same students are in programmes meant to prepare them for university.
And such programmes are indeed quite admirable, except students are breaking down left and right. Even a supportive school faculty cannot fix that. They can only do what they’re allowed to do, teach. No, this is something we need to repair as a society. College should not have to be the be-all, end-all for those interested in finding and making a good life for themselves. Heck, even college students are struggling to keep up with student loans as permanent interns.
This is far from the ideals of education. So do tell, is education supposed to only enlighten us, or prepare us for our futures, our careers, our evolution? Because I really want to know. Another generation is about to burn their money for their education, and deserve at least a bit of both. I want to have hope that all their time is not being spent on trying to force themselves to learn facts that will be of no use to them. That would be not only ineffective for maintaining an “educated” populace, but would disrespect those subjected to the system. As a society, we need to come to terms with what education is supposed to do for us. If nothing else, the generations to come are counting on us to figure this out, and to deal with this properly.
And if we want to talk about using algebra in real life, I know it will be great for trying to figure out how those student loans will be getting paid off. Otherwise, we need to really open up the dialogue about this, because there are very real consequences at stake here.