How to Fix our Education System: A Teen’s Perspective

From a student’s perspective, I find the American education system to be not only poorly funded but also poorly thought out. I might be partially biased because I live in California, a state known for its poor education system, yet I don’t believe it’s far from the truth. To clarify, I do not have petty reasoning backing my beliefs, for example disliking homework or disliking school in general; I genuinely believe that schools discourage learning.

Education is a gift, and those of us in developed countries are lucky to receive it, but simple education is not enough. We need a quality, enjoyable form of education. Today’s school system appears to be an all out competition to get to the top, rather than a chance become wiser, better educated individuals. Coming from a Jewish background, education is key to success in life. In fact, it is considered a mitzvah, or good deed, to study the Torah. It is the same in other religions. The first word in the Qur’an is “read”, or rather seek knowledge and educate yourself. Buddhism claims to be a system of education rather than a religion.

Without education, how would we learn from the past and build upon the knowledge of the ages? But rote memorization is not an ideal way to learn. A generalized form of teaching is not as effective as many would like to think. It has been said many times, but I’ll say it again. The school system is designed for one kind of student, one who easily understands material in the way it is taught in schools, a kind of student which unfortunately makes up a small percentage of the student population. It is here in which I believe religion has a solution.

The ways in which religiously active people study holy texts is through a combination of individual and group study. In Judaism, one reads the Torah and comes to his or her own conclusions. Then, one groups up with others who have read the Torah, and individual perceptions of the text are discussed. Everyone has his or her own perspective. This form of learning encourages individual thought and personal, as well as social, action. Although religion is typically portrayed a single-minded way of leading life, I would like to modify this conception. I believe this form of learning which combines public debate and personal interpretation, demonstrates the many faceted view of the world accepted by religions. Discussion does come from a single source, with a strict set of morals, yet the meaning and use of the these morals is open to interpretation.

In fact a similar conception, one of single-mindedness, can be applied to our education system. Basically, in school, one is taught how to think in a socially acceptable way. We are taught history without really questioning if the “facts” are truly facts. We are taught English and expected to write analytically essays that see the a book in one particular way. We are taught math and science that are vital to our understanding of the world, yet who is to know what exactly is vital in our lives?

When discussing this issue with my mother, she pointed out that although debate is wonderful, it must also be regulated. There must be a sort of platform to debate on. There must be a foundation of knowledge that everyone must agree on, otherwise everything would be up for discussion, and rather than coming to conclusions, it would all be circular argument. Perhaps the best system, is one that combines open forum as well as the familiar factual way of learning. This way, people could be taught the most basic and fundamental of knowledge, but still have a chance to voice personal thoughts and opinions.

In order to better our education system, we need more than just more funding for new computers and salary wages; we need a better way of teaching. In my perspective, this form of teaching should rely on class discussion, on questioning what is presented before us. We should be taught to analyze in more ways than one. Individual thoughts and quirks should not be squashed just because they are not conventional, they should be encouraged. I speak from personal experience. I have a brother with so-called “learning issues” and although he does have difficulty learning, I don’t think it is so much a problem of his, but a problem of the system. He never decided what way of learning was best for him. My parents have struggled, and are still struggling to fit him into the rigid education system that becomes more stale with each passing year.

We need change, and we need it soon. We are taught to think outside of the box, but yet we are educated within the most consuming box of all. This box emphasizes success above understanding, perfection above attempts.

Russell Rumberger, a researcher at the University of California-Santa Barbara, points out, We have a very monolithic conception of high school, which is a comprehensive high school with a singular diploma that everyone gets.” Here in America, college seems to be the only place to go and in order to get there, or at least get into the university you want to go to, you have to be at the top. This top is defined by a person who is completely well-rounded, socially, physically, and academically. But where do basic morals fit in here? Where is the room for individuality?

Our schools need to become learning centers rather than contests. How can we be the top nation in the world, when our students are struggling to keep up in school rather than discovering who they are  and finding happiness? Do not mistake my words. I do not believe that our education system will ever be perfect, but it can definitely be improved. Additionally, I realize life, and therefore school, will not always be easy, but that doesn’t mean it has to be overly difficult and stressful. The ends never truly justify the means.

So all in all here is my solution. Schools should encourage individual learning and discussion. Rigor and competition, should be eliminated as much as possible. Although it will be hard to eliminate competition, as our whole society runs on finding the best of the best and putting them to work, being individual happiness and attempts should be encouraged. Additionally, the religious way of approaching study should be adapted using a combination of debate and lecture. We should teach our students to question not conform.

What are your thoughts on our education system? And how do you believe we can better it?

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4 responses to “How to Fix our Education System: A Teen’s Perspective

  1. Sofia, thanks for engaging us in this important conversation around education- esp as the U.S. is at a critical point in deciding which direction the country is headed for the next four years. Also, one type of school structure I would look at is Montessouri- which tries to incorporate learning with a hands on approach in a mixed learner environment. 🙂

  2. I believe that Exeter Academy, a boarding school on the East Coast, uses an “open table” form of discussion like the one you presented.

    • I’ve heard of that Academy before, and their system sounds interesting! I just wish that such a style would be implemented in public schools, so students who cannot afford to attend or do not live near such an academy, can receive a similar education.

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