Why We Need Realistic Education

In a stack of papers called Reform.

  • Dec
  • 17
  • 2006

College isn’t for everyone. Going to college simply because you feel like you should is possibly one of the biggest mistakes you will make in your life.

College should be a means to an end, not an end in itself.

It’s a nice dream that no child will be left behind, all students will be ready and willing to go to college, and all citizens will be well educated and care about their own learning.

It’s a nice dream. However, educational policy needs to be based on reality because we don’t live in a dream world, which I’m sure you’ve noticed by now.

Where It’s At

An idea presented in a CBS segment and apparently in a book (as suggested by a graphic in the CBS bit) got me thinking. The American Diploma Project pushes for schools to prepare all students for college. Michigan and North Carolina, among others, agree and are just starting to feel the growing pains involved in making that push reality.

Is college entrance the goal of public education, the final indication of success or failure? By pushing all students into a college track, are school districts looking to prepare students for more education or for life? Are the two mutually exclusive?

Blame High School

When it is only one third of a person’s education, high schools cannot be held ultimately responsible for graduates entering college with poor skills. Only by considering ways to revamp the entire education system do we place our energy where it’s needed. So far, I’ve really only seen attention focused on ways high schools “fail.”

The Standards: Accomplices To The Crime

State standards just excuse teaching the same tired curriculum year after year. With things like standards in place, teachers don’t have to worry about the relevance of what they are teaching. Far too many teach it because it’s in the standards and measured on a standardized test created by a third party. My state hasn’t reconsidered the English and Language Arts standards since 1997. I’ve heard of no plans to revisit the topic, though it’s possible I’m outside that discussion.

“Even Those Students Not Planning On Going To College”

Is public education in America worse for having realized that not all of our students are going to college? Preparing all kids for college wastes time, both on the part of the schools and the students. Learning to distinguish between metaphor and simile or between synecdoche and metonymy holds no value unless you pursue further education, specifically in English. I’d be willing to bet that such distinctions, or at least ones very similar, would make it into most English curriculum in these more aggressively college-prep courses.

When you expect public education to be everything to everybody, advanced and far-below basic students alike, you automatically create a failing system.

But for the realization that not all of our students will or even want to go to college (why learn the difference between sine, cosine, and tangent if you aren’t going on to college, for instance), doesn’t that make American public education stronger? Or at least more realistic?

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