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The Unseen Side of the Current Educational System
Many people have praised Chester Carlson for his brilliant invention of the copy machine; fast, extremely productive, and especially handy, a person’s task is to simply press the button and wait for the product. However, I am certainly disgusted by this machine: not by the rancid smell and screeching sounds it creates, but by its convenience and simplicity. Isn’t this machine similar to the current educational system? Where everything is standardized. Where educators’ task is plainly pressing the button and waiting to clone students with the exact same thoughts. Albeit many believe that the standardized educational system of regulating what students will learn is the best form of education, there is an abundance of evidence illustrating how that system can destroy students’ creativity and individuality.
One way the current educational system acts as a copy machine is by choosing same and reanalyzed novels year after year. This becomes most evident if one compares the suggested reading lists given by schools, which Time has already accomplished by collecting the top 10 reappeared books from various schools’ reading lists: these literature range from Shakespeare’s Macbeth written in 1606 to the latest book, To Kill a Mockingbird, written in 1960. Not to mention that these books are mostly outdated, but according to Time, “[these] classic texts that have monopolized school reading lists for decades” (Time). Why should we not invest more modern writings and endow students with newer concepts? Yet, many organizations have attempted to fix this problem, such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) established in 2001 by the United States Congress. However, is it successful? As the educational policy analyst Diane Ravitch has stated:
One of the unintended consequences of NCLB was the shrinkage of time available to teach anything other than reading and math…test scores became an obsession…teachers used the tests from previous years to prepare their students, and many of the questions appeared in precisely the same format every year; sometimes the exact same questions reappeared on the state tests. (Ravitch 114)
Not only eradicating the purpose of tests, the NCLB has restrained students from learning math, history, and science; having decision-making and social skills; descrying the luscious cultural heritage of our society; discerning the various problems and disputes in our world; and most crucially, becoming conscientious and enthusiastic citizens.
Moreover, putting the wrong emphasis can ultimately cause a task to become fruitless, and this is what many teachers are currently doing. When it comes to literature, teachers often emphasize on educating common themes instead fully analyzing a book. To take a case in point, a teacher’s guide for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry created by the Center for Learning claims, “this novel invites students to become reasoning human beings who can live cooperatively in a multicultural society” (Taylor 9); the guide then lists profuse activities related to racism for teachers to carry out, such as asking students to “mix it up” during lunch by sitting with classmates they are unfamiliar with and having students create picture books “of a character [that] faces discrimination” (Taylor 13). Not only neglecting the rich amount of literary elements hidden inside the novel for students to take away, but by including a tremendous allotted activities that are easy to be performed, one can see how this guide strongly allures to a languid and unmotivated teacher. Yet, another guide for the same novel instructs teachers to explain the functions of literary devices and discuss the pros and cons of the two types of narration found in the novel (Natbony). Undoubtedly, this guide focuses beyond the topic of racism, enabling students to deeply gouge out the literary elements and express their thoughts to the novel; on the contrary, besides acting as a veil for teachers to self-praise themselves as good educators and students to character themselves as moral and antiracist people, the first guide is completely inconsequential to education.
Yet, many educators supporting the status quo consider the best way for students to learn is to help them analyze through drill by drill. This is evident in Papua New Guinea Department of Education’s teacher’s manual: “If students are expected to learn something, teachers must tell them what it is, and create appropriate opportunities for them” (Wilson 6). A biped with a functional brain should indeed identify the irony: how do teachers “create opportunities” for students to learn if they should “interpret the knowledge for students” (Wilson 6)? This belief not only loses opportunities for students to interpret independently, but further overcrowds the society with reiterating viewpoints. As pictured in Awantha Artigala’s popular cartoon of the educational system, when teachers are controlling a machine that pours out each student’s creativity, cloning students with the identical appearances, and insolently saying to each other, “Good” (Artigala), it is symptomatic of the fact that students are being fed upon teachers’ ideas, each walking away with the same takeaway. As Professor Benik claims, the more teachers empower students to take their own “responsibility” to handle the materials they learn and apply them actively, “the more they truly learn the material” (Benik). And so, teachers that overanalyze not only traps students from leaving the swaddling bands and become self-sufficient, but further deters students’ ability to call their shots and acquire new ideas.
Ultimately, the current educational system is impairing students’ creativity; but it is also, more significantly, ravaging the society’s progress towards innovation. Having the repeated and overanalyzed topics, the wrong emphasis, and the malpractice of “drill by drill” can altogether result in the loss of fortuities for students to express their thoughts and creativity. Therefore, it is time for people that live inside the smokescreen to realize the need for change and stop this system from hindering societal progress and cramming replicating perspectives to our future generations.
Artigala, Awantha. Cartoon. Odyssey. 30 December 2011. Web. Accessed 20 June 2018.
Benik, Marla. “Talking too much and doing too much.” The 67 Worst Teaching Mistakes. On Course Workshop, 2018, oncourseworkshop.com/table-contents/67-worst -teaching-mistakes. Web. Accessed 20 June 2018.
Cruz, Gilbert. “Top 10 Books You Were Forced to Read in School.” Books. Time, 10 July 2010, entertainment.time.com/2010/07/09/top-10-books-you-were-forced-to- read -in-school/. Web. Accessed 20 June 2018.
Natbony, Rachel. “How to teach Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.” Teaching Guides. Prestwick House. 2018. Print.
Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. Sydney: ReadHowYouWant, 2010. Print.
Taylor, Mildred. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: Teacher Resource. Cleveland: The Center for Learning. 2011. Print.
Wilson, Tracy. Upper Secondary Language and Literature Teacher Guide. Papua New Guinea: Department of Education. 2008. Print.