The way education system is being handled in the United States has been immensely criticized by researchers and experts. Implementation of education policies and empowerment has affected the public schools because it is divided, mostly by class or prestige. This makes the confidence of the students involved in the system decline. Some teachers may spend extra time to offer one to one tutoring in order to help weak students improve their performance. However, most teachers do not pay much attention to the needs of their students thus denying them the chances they require to perform better. Educational assistants are not willing to take the blame associated with the poor performing students but are quick to receive the credit emanating from those that succeed, those that can bring positive results and the ones who seem to have a promising future. In their work, researchers like Jean Anyon, John Tylor Gatto, and Delbanco Andrew, among others have analyzed the public school systems. This paper discusses the concepts held by authors on good educational system and curriculum and how their ideas differ from one another. In the paper, the word educational assistant or expert will be used implying people like teachers whose influence on educational success of students cannot be taken for granted.
Revolutionary Ideas on Curriculum and American Education System
The American public school system has been limiting the potential of students in the schools to compete favorably in the globalized economy. The system strips students of their responsibility and autonomy (Anyon 68). Jean Anyon illustrated the assessment of five elementary schools and how social class varied and affected students.
Most of the Americans view education as an entry point to success. It is also taken as a platform to climb up the socio-economic ladder. However, students are not treated equally across the socio-economic classes. Education is viewed a tool that has been used to keep the middle and the working class in the lower socio-economic status. The affluent professionals and the elite class students are maintained at the top level of the socio-economic ladder. In Jean Anyon’s article ‘Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work’, different methods of teaching and philosophies of the school system have been expounded. She categorizes them as working class, affluent professionals, middle class, and executive elite schools. The findings of the author show a great disparity in teaching between the working class and the middle class schools in comparison to the affluent professionals and elite schools.
From the findings of Anyon, a working class student’s teaching exercise tends to be a more passive learning experience. Teachers are held as absolute authorities who take total control of students in the classrooms. It is a more mechanical process as the students’ task is just to follow the procedure set out by the teacher (Anyon 67). According to the researcher, this is a very monotonous approach to teaching. The same steps are repeated over and over again, and it does not challenge the brains of the students to think. The mode of evaluation in these schools needs to be changed because it only tests the ability of the students to follow the steps. This in actual sense does not guarantee the evaluation of the answers on the basis of whether they are right or wrong. There is a practical example given by Anyon about a teacher who tells the students to make a 1-inch grid, but the students are not aware that the grid will be utilized to study scale (Anyon 71). She criticizes the concept that college admissions are based on the academic qualifications and test scores.
Shor criticizes the current model of education, which he sees as similar to the traditional model. The author says that the current system of education works as a banking system where the instructor deposits information into the learners (Shor 113). Teachers in schools are the only people who are involved in designing the curriculum while students are regarded as passive recipients of the knowledge. The curriculum designed for students is seen as a meaningful system, which can assist the student in future development. The teaching methodology places the content beyond the control of students not paying attention to the method of its delivery (Shor 87). The author suggests an overhaul of the system so that students are empowered.
According to him, an empowering kind of education is the one that is student-centered, democratic and critical, which stimulates the self resulting to a social change (Shor 92). It should be in from of a dialogue where teachers and students are mutually engaged in the investigation of everyday social issues, knowledge and trending themes (Shor 56). Through dialogue and active problem solving, students gain a platform that can assist them to become agents of learning and change. This is what is likely to give the students inspired learning mechanisms, involved citizens, skilled workers and critical thinkers (Shor 136). According to the author, teachers should switch from the traditional methods of teaching to democratic and critical ones. Shor shares the sentiments of Anyon regarding seeing students as passive recipients of education. Although Anyon holds the concept that students from the working class schools are more demeaned, Shor considers all students affected by the menace. Both of them advocate for democratic learning atmosphere.
Bowen contends that there are basically two significant changes that have taken place in the higher education sector: rapid growth of the online learning and the increasing costs (Bowen 19). The greatest challenge he sees is the question whether the rise in the online courses would assist to lower the cost of colleges thus making it affordable (Bowen 48). Bowen is an expert in the intertwining of economics and education. Although he is skeptical about the issue, he believes that technology will assist in intervening in the costs of the education, without necessarily negatively affecting the learning of the students.
The new technology-based learning including the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will assist to limit the rising cost of education while, at the same time, increase productivity, protect core values and preserve quality. The biggest challenge is the philosophical and the organizational factors, which discourage the realization of its success (Bowen 59). Regardless of these barriers, Bowen thinks that the approach can be very effective.
According to the American mentality, people usually attend top rated universities in the country in order to find financial and other personal fulfilling rewards. Washburn says that this kind of thinking is far from the reality (Washburn 1). Colleges usually impose a universal opinion on students that think beyond financial gains. Most of the families usually save much funds so that they can educate their children to get these benefits. There is a growing trend among the institutions of higher learning: the influence of market forces and commercial values in the academic life. Students are referred to as ‘consumers’ while the learning resources are the ‘products’ (Washburn 65).
Washburn looks at the way the state of higher education has drastically changed from the traditional academic research-based to a commercial center (Washburn 141). According to her, the higher education processes are mostly emphasizing finances at the expense of quality education. As a result, there are no measures provided by the higher education officials to emphasize the quality of education in learning centers, as well as supporting the learning systems. Students are forced to outsource funds elsewhere, for instance, from donors to come and pay their fees. This is the concept that has really worked to demean the humanities and the art-based courses in the society.
Both Washburn’s and Bowen’s research lean on the aspect of education institutions emphasizing its financial welfare at the expense of educating students. Bowen’s solution to this challenge is the increasing Massive Open Online Course’s (MOOC’s), which might force colleges to lower their fees. On the other hand, Washburn says that institutions of higher education should invest more in research-based education rather than acting as commercial sectors.
Delbanco believes that the current and the future generation might be less educated than the previous ones (Delbanco 26). The author offers many ideas of what is supposed to be in a college curriculum over and above the credentialing aspect. Teaching emphasizes much in directing the attention of the students more than directing their minds. According to him, most of the colleges do not tell the students the issues that are worth thinking about (Delbanco 85).
What one gets from Delbanco’s argument is that if students are to be educated towards freedom, then they must be educated using the liberal arts and great books. The author notes that the only thing that is left in the curriculum today is students who solely aim to get the credentials at the expense of the most important content (Delbanco 142). he claims that core curriculum is usually taught in the first two years of student’s undergraduate system.
The writer seems to cherish the traditional concept of curriculum based on exploring the human experience through historians and the best traditional writers. Sciences are usually limited to their scope of life. For example, a science does not tell students the scope of one’s responsibility. Thus, the current system tends to favor the rich.
Delbanco is concerned about the neglect of the core curriculum. The courses he stresses should be taught in college are the ones, which students can use to discern their personal and public life. In addition, they can also use these courses to supply them with the necessary knowledge that can help them become responsible citizens. Furthermore, when the liberal arts are taught, students can be assisted to forge a common rational background. He emphasizes more on a curriculum aimed at imparting ethics and diverse thinking as opposed to economic empowerment (Delbanco 137). One of the best things that the American society can do to fulfill its democratic promise it to make education available to as many young people as possible.
Mike Rose’s experiences in his piece of writing,‘I wanna Be Average’ makes the readers aware of the experiences that youths go through in the current public school system. Just like Delbanco, he seems to cherish the traditional education system. Students in the education system lack motivation and face the challenge of receiving poor instructions. As is the case with Delbanco, he seems to be concerned more about the concept of bettering the education system for the sake of the youths.
Students in his class feel that they are average (Rose 13). This is a sign of lack of motivation as they do not seem to care about working hard to achieve their dreams. Mike says that he changed his attitude towards his education and life when another teacher, McFarland started teaching them because he inspired him to work hard and encouraged him to go for college education. McFarland is portrayed as a person who cared for his students. The greatest issues addressed by Mike are that teaching methods and approaches affect the students learning atmosphere. Motivation among students is relative depending on the learning approaches or methods that are used.
Due to the vocational program they are in, no one expects them to do well. The main idea here is that teachers can influence their students either to pass or fail. He says, ‘students will float to the mark you set’ (Rose 164). Students will always believe that the limit that is set for them cannot be surpassed. In this concept, he shares the opinion of Anyon who also thinks that there is a great danger in separating students along their socio-economic status. After realizing the truth later on that she would go beyond the limits that were put on him, Mike could live beyond those limits and think about his life from a wide perspective (Rose 192). In this piece of work, it is evident that the underprivileged population has much potential in them, which cannot be realized if the society continues to popularize differential treatment in education in terms of socio-economic status.
Gatto differentiates the concepts of being educated and being schooled. He says that these two notions are different things. According to him, the overall goal of the school is to bring the students ‘at the same safe level’ (Gatto 54). He believes that students can achieve education even without the assistance of a teacher. He opposed the concept of the modern schools that made them look like prisons. The education provided in the schools makes students work by doing assignments. By not doing the assignment, they fail. Going to school is considered a gate pass for future success (Gatto 46). The greatest question he thinks about is whether all graduates are indeed successful. He observed and realized that all the successful people in America did not graduate from local secondary schools. He supports the idea that education should be flexible in the content that teachers teach the students. In his view, education is more important than schooling.
The idea behind his argument is that students are normally bored by some of the contents that are taught. This makes them relent in their efforts to learn. Students should, therefore, be allowed to choose what they are learning to stimulate voluntary efforts among them. Gatto suggests changes in the curriculum, such as allowing students to choose what they want to learn. In addition, the curriculum should be set in such a way that the learning schedules are flexible and favorable for students. The contents taught should assist the students to develop intellectual mind (Gatto 63). In addition, students should be helped to succeed in practical activities in various fields. In such a way, the curriculum will assist the system to break away from the jail style.
Gatto’s ideas would deviate from the ideas brought about by Delbanco. While Delbanco’s system demands that students to be taught liberal arts as compulsory content, Gatto believes that the students should be left to decide by themselves all the content they would like to be educated on. Gatto focuses on education as something that can even be achieved without the help of a teacher while Delbanco sees instructors more important than the content.
According to Dewey, education does not prepare students for life; instead, education is life in itself. Education is the process of living and not a preparation for future living. Dewey came up with a concept referred to the pedagogical creed (Dewey 63). Some of the ideas he brings to the education system include the role of education process and teachers, the role of the school and the concept of experiential education. Dewey stresses on the ‘hands-on-learning’ concept, which implies that students should not only be taught theory but should practice (Dewey 165). The school does not only give students the knowledge of content; students are supposed to learn how to live.
According to him, the school ought to give students holistic education so that they can realize their full potential (Dewey 58). There must be a balance between the curriculum and the learner. The students should be given chances to express their experiences and interests. This is also an idea held by Gatto. The teacher plays the role of a guider and a facilitator. In doing this, he/she creates a conducive atmosphere thus guiding students to discover aspects of learning by themselves. When students are made to learn in such an atmosphere, they are likely to be active participants in classroom thus becoming lifelong independent learners (Dewey 57).
Analysis of the Myths on Education and Ideas from Research
There are several myths that people believe in regarding education in the modern society. First, the teacher is always the most important source of influence on students. It is an undeniable fact that teachers are very influential in the life of a student and their contribution is very significant. However, research shows that less than 30% of student’s success is attributed to schools and teachers (Gatto 57). A significant proportion comes from the external factors. The most identified factor that contributes significantly is the socio-economic and psychological qualities of the environment at home, neighborhoods and support of their physical health. A conclusion was drawn that teachers have very little influence on the success of these students as compared to other external factors (Gatto 55).
Second is that homework boosts achievement. A research that was carried out by Gatto shows that students who have less homework and less study hours at school perform better (Gatto 46). The important factor is what experiences these students learn in school. Therefore, it is an illusion that homework boosts achievement.
Third is the issue of the size of the class. Different share the opinion that the size of the class does not matter in relation to the education of students. It has been shown that reducing the size of the class increases the time the teacher will attend to individual concerns as opposed to large sizes of class, especially in the category Anyon terms as schools for working class category (Anyon 69).
Fourth, is the belief that one program in a region should be effective in another. Programs are normally related to the context of a district or the region the schools are based. Educational approaches delegated at the national level might work for some schools and not for others. Educational needs assessment and thorough examination for schools in every district should be carried out to ascertain the right curriculum for them. Researchers like Dewey and Gatto have supported the idea that students have diverse needs depending on their environments, interests and potentials. Therefore, education system should not universalize education curriculum across all the regions of the country.
The fifth false notion is that zero-tolerance policies make schools safer. There is no existing evidence to show that schools adopting the zero-tolerance policies receive less or no violence. Suspensions and expulsions normally weaken the capacity of the students to perform and may make them fail. According to the ideas of Mike and Anyon, students will always be creative and work towards achieving the best if treated as rational beings. This also means that rationality can be used to deal with ill-behaviors in schools.
Sixth myth is that money does not matter. Use of more financial resources in equipping the schools with better facilities, finances for fees and teachers was seen not to play a role in the success of students. However, this is wrong. Schools financially established schools with better facilities are likely to attract better-educated and experienced teachers. A school with more students and good financial resources will hire more teachers. The issue of accessibility to financial resources has been demonstrated by Bowen and Washburn who have attested that well-to-do families have easier access to quality education as compared to lower class socio-economic level students.
Merit pay for teachers improves the performance of the students. The teachers are evaluated on the basis of whether the students have passed or not. This makes competition arise among teachers, which, in turn, hinders collaboration. Therefore, this leads to their counter productiveness. Rewarding teachers on merit encourages other teachers to be punished over socio-economic factors that are beyond their control.
Most of the authors who have conducted researches on the education system in the USA have found flaws in the system and the curriculum in general. Some of the most prominent ideas are those of John Dewey, Jean Anyon, John Tylor Gatto, and Delbanco Andrew, Shor Ira, Bowen William, Washburn Jennifer, among others. All the researchers have found gaps that need to be filled in the education system. The most highlighted improvement issues are democratizing education to allow students to utilize their full potential and allowing students to have equal access to the same system of education regardless of their socio-economic status. Some researchers have underscored the fact that the education system should abolish rigid systems of curriculum and teaching. Furthermore, it is important for education experts not to create a glass-ceiling for students because most of them have great potential if well guided.
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