School is a large part of any child’s life. If you continue your education beyond high school, it can become a large part of your adult life, as well. Most of our lives are spent in schools, absorbing information that unmistakably shapes how we see the world and participate in it. For educators, the education system is their entire career.
By this fact alone, it is imperative that the education system in this country is critically examined on a continual basis.
As a student who has only ever attended American public education schools for my entire life thus far, I understand that education in this country has undergone its fair share of changes and debates. Still, even after decades of changes, it still leaves something to be desired.
While I do not present you with an exhaustive list, I still provide you with three issues, in no particular order, that I believe are time-sensitive and needed to improve the system as a whole.
One area that needs urgent addressing is how we view and use standardized testing and the scores that come with these exams.
Exam scores can either be an important indicator of a student’s understanding of course concepts or provide statistics when considering academic performance. That is all they should be.
But, the education system in the U.S. has taken the idea of testing and turned it into a toxic concept. Midterms and finals are now worth unrealistic percentages of final grades, and the amount of importance they hold in college admissions is unacceptable. The weight put on a single exam score is not only unrealistic but also unhealthy.
It seems that classrooms have turned into places where students study to pass rather than learn and absorb material. At times, the burden placed upon a single exam score outweighs the motivation to truly learn the course material.
Therefore, a good test score may not be as indicative of a brilliant mind as educators would like to assume. Rather, it is an example of strong memorization skills or output of sheer determination and not comprehensive understanding.
All of this only works to create unhealthy and unrealistic assumptions that students lives revolve around their grades. Some students begin to believe that their worth and intelligence can simply be summed up into a number. And on top of it all, they still do not retain any information taught in the classroom.
Another critical issue relates to how we teach U.S. history — especially about imperialism.
I remember sitting in my 10th grade U.S. history class and being asked to list the pros of imperialism. Being taught that Winston Churchill — the same man who called my ancestors monkeys, filthy and too dumb to govern themselves — was an inspirational hero.
In my opinion, we were basically being taught that the U.S. did no wrong in its history and that every bad situation we found ourselves in in the past was due to the ill-consciousness of other countries. I would have believed imperialism was good, that Churchill was a hero and that the U.S. has always done great things if I relied solely on my school education and no outside sources.
The U.S. as a country has a highly controversial past, but the way schools teach it to impressionable students relieves the U.S. of accountability for its actions by teaching only a filtered view of history. Obviously, this is a very one-sided view.
I do not advocate for the defamation of the U.S.' name in our history classrooms — I merely suggest that American schools must get into the habit of teaching history objectively rather than in a way that always paints the U.S. as either a hero or a victim. Teaching this way allows students to critically think about the actions of their own country and learn from them.
Finally, we must also think about how we treat teachers, and in doing so, we must show teachers and school staff the respect they deserve and pay them more.
In my high school, it was very common for a history teacher to also be the school’s track coach. Or a physical education teacher to also be the health teacher. For me, as for many other students, this was normal — except for the fact that it should not be.
Very simply put, teachers should not have to pick up a second job just to support themselves and their families. Teachers should not have to pay for educational materials out of their own pockets. Teachers should not be forced to go on strike because they do not get paid for all of the work they do.
All around the country, school districts are falling victim to shortages of teachers and support staff due to low pay that results in burnout and poor working conditions.
Given that teachers educate multiple generations of students that will eventually be who the entire world depends on one day, they have quite an important (and stressful) job. Denying them the pay they deserve, forcing them to choose between going on strike or teaching their students and pushing them to the point of burnout is unfair to both teachers and students.
As a country, we must focus on rectifying existing issues with our education system, if we are to avoid failing future generations of students and teachers not just in their studies and careers, but also in their everyday lives.
Rujuta Sawant is a Rutgers Business School sophomore majoring in business analytics and information technology and minoring in political science. Her column, "Sincerely Rue," typically runs on alternate Mondays.
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