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The United States of America—a country with the most dominant economic and military presence in the world (US News). We are best known for our diverse culture and people, a pretense of justice and equality, and the overwhelming success promised by the “American Dream”. However, what they fail to tell you is that the probability of achieving such an ambitious goal is defined by your education, and the American Education System fails to promote this goal. How can a “perfect” country fail so miserably to prepare 8-12th grade students for college, life outside of school, and their eventual career paths? A collection of reasons pours into this issue–varying from the cookie-cutter education provided, the monotonous cycle of daily schooling that invokes mental instability, and the lack of academic specialization. Those are only issues building up within a school or classroom, but they extend to the innerworkings of the entire system. The pathetic wage offered to teachers and how the US Government’s actions effect schools are also contributing factors to this mess of an education system. This is a call to demolish a broken system, as it will only get worse if we continue to try to fix it. Will you answer it?
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At the center of standardized education is Common Core, a “state led effort” enacted in 2009 that would define what a child should know in each grade across all states (Core Standards). Not only is it bad on its own—Valerie Strauss on the Washington Post commenting that “[there] are gaps between some Core standards and what college instructors consider important for students to succeed”—but they also conform students into thinking the same way and not providing a chance for students who cannot learn the same way. Doctor Randy Green—a psychologist—stated the following in his article Cookie-Cutter Education: Enlightenment or Indoctrination?: “A general assumption of Common Core Standards is that one or another of the traditional core subjects covers everything a kid needs to know. But what of the unexplored intellectual terrain lying between and beyond? Where is the room for creativity, innovation and discovery?” There is not any room for creative or innovative minds in this system. Everything you learn is dictated by a set of standards that don’t even entirely cover what you need to know, not to mention that these standards don’t make room for any artistic disciplines and therefore limiting what students can develop in. Doctor Green eventually goes on to comment that “[what] you know (left-brain) becomes much more important than what you can do (right-brain)”, and he’s right! Students are just regurgitating information being preached to them without applying it—just memorizing how to do it on a problem. Stuart Wolpert—a writer for UCLA Newsroom—explains in his article Why so many U.S. students aren’t learning math, that we teach subjects like math as “disconnected facts and as a series of steps or procedures — do this, and this and this — without connecting procedures with concepts, and without thinking or problem-solving” (Wolpert). Students are endlessly learning new concepts are tested on what the standards want us to know, but then immediately forget them once a new chapter begins. This system where everyone learns the same subjects in the same way is not benefitting anyone, so why are we still using it?
One in five. According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals, “one in five children and adolescents will face a significant mental health condition during their school years” (NASSP). These “significant mental health [conditions]” don’t just refer to anxiety or ADHD—although both valid—but also autism, depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and many more. These mental health issues are significant hurdles in a child’s academic performance, and there’s a huge clue to how greatly it affects students. According to the Association for Children’s Mental Health article on the negative impact of school on kids, “only 40 percent of students with emotional, behavioral and mental health disorders graduate from high school, compared to the national average of 76 percent”, and that’s not it. They also state that “Over 50% of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities ages 14 and older, drop out of high school”. What are schools doing to assist students in overcoming such roadblocks? Counselors. Now you might think that counselors are the best way to handle mental health counseling, but it is not as effective as you might think. KEPR reports that counselors are being stretched thin at Chiawana High School in Pasco, Washington (KEPR). With the size of their student body being over 2,700 students, it can be difficult to reach those who are severely struggling (KEPR). So why are so many teenagers so mental unstable? Rave Mobile Safety points out that contributing factors could include concerns about school safety with the rise of gun violence, lack of mental health educators or other counseling options, the stress of school, and more. No matter the cause, school is still the epicenter of teens being mentally unstable.
Phrases like “I’m never going to use this again” are very commonly used by high school students, and they’re not wrong. What you learn in school is very generalized, and you may very well never use it again in life. According to a survey published on Study Finds by Ben Renner, “[finds that] the average American uses just 37% of what they learned in school in their daily lives”. Even David Perkins—a professor at Harvard—acknowledges the fact that “‘…our minds hold on only to knowledge we have occasion to use in some corner of our lives’” (Harvard Ed.) and that “the achievement gap is a highly important problem that should be taken seriously, in general, he says, ‘achievement’ is about mastering a topic and less about providing lifeworthy content”(Harvard Ed.). Students are forgetting information that they don’t need and schools are forcing them to master content that has no value to them. So how can this be solved? An emphasis on learning a trade rather then a general set of skills. How will this solve the problem? Well according to Allison Schrager’s article How young is too young to begin preparing for a career? on Quartz, other countries are already tracking their students for possible career paths, and the American education system is exceptionally late the party. Whereas in Austria and Germany “students sometimes as young as 10 are tracked for certain careers”, whereas in America “even at the university level students take some form of liberal arts and many don’t identify a major until their junior year” (Schrager). The benefits of tracking student progress aren’t only for those who are exceptional in certain fields, but also those who struggle or are weaker students. This would help teachers easily figure out who was struggling in what and help them. While weaker students are being helped into becoming stronger, the stronger students can be challenged by higher level work. Of course, setting a child on a career path at the age of 10 is a bit absurd, but the idea of starting early rather then later is still there.
If you did not live under a rock during 2018, then you must’ve heard about the numerous strikes teachers were going on to protest the amount of money they were being paid. It was a big deal for a while, and according to Andrew Van Dam in The Washington Post, it was a long time coming. He states that back in the mid 1990s, teachers were paid almost as much as other educated workers, but (as of 2017) were only paid “an average of 18.7 percent less”. This was not supported by the fact that “‘…class sizes had grown larger [and the] working conditions for teachers and the learning conditions for students had declined really radically’” he learns from Julie Green, a historian at the University of Maryland. To add even more on top of that, states were cutting down funds for school rather harshly, resulting in issues beyond teacher pay. So besides just the low pay teachers receive for their service, what else does this cause? Well if you think about the situation at hand and connect the dots, the crisis becomes apparent. If a teacher is not making enough money just by teaching to pay for expensive costs like student loans or general living costs, then they either must find another job and juggle both or quit being a teacher and find a new job. The more this continues, the number of for K-12 teachers decrease and provides a difficult learning environment. This also affects the amount of interest in schooling, creating a lack of interest in the profession all together. What would a school do in order to get teachers? They would start accepting teachers with poor qualifications in order to just give students a teacher, which also gives students a poor education due to poor schooling. Things as simple as the amount of money teachers make is detrimental to the education system as cause and effect play out. Even now, parents “don’t want their kids taking up the profession [because of] low salaries and bad benefits” (Fatherly). The ball is already rolling, and who knows what where it’ll end up. What we do know is that the consequences will not be pleasant.
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The government does not see the education of our future generations as a priority and is actively making decisions that do not benefit students. Take the 2020 census for example. The census is the counting of every person in the US and collecting their demographic data (Litvinov). This data is useful for many things, especially for funding schools across the United States. According to Amanda Litvinov in her article on Education Votes titled “The 2020 census could make or break your public schools”, this data is important because it helps “…[get] the funding they need to serve every child who walks through [the school] doors” (Litvinov). However, with the Trump administration questioning the citizenship of individuals in the census, Terri Ann Lowenthal—the staff director of the House Subcommittee on Census and Population from 1987 to 1994—says it is “understandable that many immigrants [regardless of legal status] are fearful that this administration might circumvent the law and get its hands on census data and use it to harm people, or deport people” (Litvinov). This therefore affects the results of the census, which can severely affect the distribution of funding to schools with low-income families, special education, the National Lunch Program, the Head Start preschool program, and grants for improving teacher quality (Litvinov). The US Government is not making decisions that will help schools and the students that rely on that government funding to get an education.
The US government is failing to provide a stable education system that supports all students. The current U.S. education system is failing in a variety of areas. Instead of catering and shifting to fit a child’s learning style, teens struggle to understand concepts that are taught the same way to every child that walks into a classroom. Children having to cope with serious mental diseases that will affect them throughout their life. Students being taught information they are unlikely to use in their desired career path. Teachers having to protest for a fair pay, when they themselves are the backbone of our society, and the government’s influence over the funding of schools. If we don’t do something now, this system will only break even more, until all we have left is a fragile, useless structure. This is about the future of the US, America, and eventually the world. Change what is ruined, before everything collapses.
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