The education system in America is broken according to “Lives on the Boundary”, by Mike Rose. Rose gives examples of how and why education should be equal for everyone. The first part of the book I found it very difficult to find a theory out of the things that Rose wrote because the majority of the first 67 pages were about how he grew up and the low socioeconomic world that he had the trudge through to get where he is now. But then when I look at the statistics from the beginning, I see that yes, our nation is not proficient in many subjects, but we are also growing in mass amounts with college and high school graduates when compared to other countries and even ourselves in the 1800’s. “In 1890, 6.7 percent of American’s fourteen to seventeen year olds were attending high school; by 1978 that number had risen to 94.1 percent.” (Rose, pg 6) For a country that has a “failing” education system, that number seems to have grown, making me believe the opposite. Yes, I agree that our education system is not perfect, but it is not as terrible as many believe it to be. For those students who have now will to learn, we as teachers can not force them and when people say let’s look to the past for the answer, there was never an answer for why our schools are not working. There has never been a solution, only a problem that has been reworded and restated in so many different ways that when reading a book this about the failing of the education system seems to be redundant.
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When Mike Rose was growing up he had only a few books available to him so he began to buy comic books because he loved the heroes and the action. After comic books he moved to other items like the instructions to his chemistry set and science fiction novels. He wrote very little in his schooling until his last year of high school where a teacher helped him find an interest in doing so. “My first enthusiasm about writing came because I wanted a teacher to like me.” (Rose pg 102) Although he did become a good reader, with help from his comic books and chemistry set instructions, he did not score well on English tests. It can be assumed that Rose only liked to learn or read about the concrete things in life; basically he was only educated by what entertained him and tuned out the things he did not understand. He even states in his book that this was a method he commonly used, but it proved to be harmful for him and his education in the long run.
Rose goes on to explain the struggles of immigrants in this country and their need to learn English to improve their own lifestyles. Not only are we all categorized as “black, red, yellow and white,” but we have to understand what those categorizations mean, especially when we are trying to understand the world of education. We all hope that racism does not exist amongst teachers and professors, but we can not say anything for the parents or siblings. The education system can not control the time a student is out of the classroom. As Rose points out, whether we like it or not, race can and sometimes does play a factor into education. Rose says “a failed education is social more than intellectual in origin. We as educators must realize that a traumatizing experience may have a very negative effect on a student’s education. Losing a parent or a sibling can cause a student to regress or stand still in their education, unable to move forward. After such an experience, we should try to work with the students to help them regain the ability to learn and comprehend things, instead of just tuning out. The only solution I could really see Rose proposing is trying to keep the children engaged with each other as well as the teacher. This may have a positive effect so the child does not grow up to be the shy wall flower that is underprepared.
Rose goes on to argue that great classic novels should be taught and the students should be able to learn from them by choice, not just because they have to regurgitate something later on for an exam or a paper. It would even be a good idea “to revise these messages and redress past wrongs would involve more than adding some new books to the existing cannon.” (Rose p. 107) In this quote, Rose is saying that education needs to be changed so that education is available to all, this can help the underprepared students to have a fair chance at advancing in their education. Also, by bring in great, classic novels, this can help students to become more cultured and well versed in literature. If teachers are trying to keep students engaged by bringing in books by Snookie and Lady Gaga, that is when I will agree that our education system is failing miserably because students need literature, not pop-culture trash. The more we try to “cater to their needs” with literature, the more of a decline will be apparent and the underprepared will then grossly outnumber the prepared.
The narrative of this book offers the theory deeply buried within the authors own personal story. I think that I struggled reading a novel be such a narrative voice when I was trying to find a theory. When you as the reader get to move with him through his school experiences, being the underprepared and then into his own classrooms, you can see the growth that is possible. Many people believe it is not probable for the underprepared to succeed. That is where I believe the theory comes into plan. I began to see a theory emerge within Rose’s own experiences. Throughout the book, he is talking about how the “underprepared” are being stuck on a continued path of underachieving or even failure because no one seems to give them a real chance or the tools required to achieve success. For a good portion of the book, I felt like I was reading another article for class; the problem is brought up and addressed, in several different ways, but we never find a solid solutions. The only solution that educators have been using is to put all of the remedial or underprepared together so they don’t hold anyone else back, but they also never get the opportunity to learn. Rose makes the good argument that tests or exams should not just be a regurgitation of information that the teacher gave, but failed to give more than one or two examples.
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To engage students, we as educators must be able to do more than just lecture for an hour and expect them to be paying attention. “Teaching, I was coming to understand, was a kind of romanceâ€¦You wooed kids with these things, invented a relationship of sorts, the terms of connection being a narrative, the historical event.(Rose pg 102) I think this quote embodies everything that a teacher needs to do to engage students to help them want to learn. By creating a “romance” with learning, the students can feel excited and happy about learning. The students can feel giddy about buying a book or even solving the math equation, it all depends on how the teachers choose to engage them.
All in all, Rose makes some very convincing arguments about the decline of the education system, but like many of the authors we have read, he only offers a few ideas to fix the problem. His idea of creating a kind of romance with education to engage the students is a good idea, but a lot of teachers may argue that it will meet with to much resistance. As many of us have witnessed or even experienced, standing at the front of the classroom and just lecturing does not engage many students and with today’s generation, they will probably be on Facebook or Twitter while you are giving your lecture. So how do we engage the students of this generation? Do we turn to technology to help us run a classroom or do we stick with the old lecture and hope that students are paying attention? I believe there has to be a compromise between lecture, some form of group work and technology. By allowing group work, like Rose does in some of his classes, the students can learn from each other and help to expand their own ways of thinking. By still using some lecture, as Rose does as well, you as the teacher still get your say in, hopefully in a creative way that the students enjoy listening to and learning from. And with technology, the students in this generation get to use what they are familiar with to help them, and some students even find enjoyment when the teacher needs help with the new projector or smartboards. Rose brings up many problems and offers just a few good solutions but I believe the problem of education and the underprepared has been around for a very long time and it will take more than a book or a few ideas to fix it.
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