The Educational Imbroglio
Across the country, there is a heated debate over our educational system. Unfortunately, it’s a lot like watching members of the flat earth society argue about whose theory is right - there is no right answer, because everyone is wrong.
im·bro·glio noun 1. an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation.
The most recent and perhaps egregious example of this is a breathtakingly misguided article by Kevin G. Welner, who is the director of the National Education Policy center, which is absolutely terrifying. He is attempting to discredit the idea of “tracking”, wherein low-performing students are separated from higher achieving students, because obviously you can’t teach kids who “get it” the same way as kids who are struggling. Unfortunately, the entire conclusion rests on a logical fallacy. He says, and I quote:
“When children fall behind academically, we have a choice. We can choose to sort them into less demanding classes where they will fall further behind, or we can choose to include them in classes that maintain high expectations.”This is a false dichotomy, since there are many other choices. We can sort them into a class with the same expectations, but an alternative teaching method. Sort them into a class that actually pays attention to the concepts that are giving them trouble. The idea is to help children who have fallen behind catch up with their peers, not throw them in a room and forget about them. Schools that simply lower their expectations of poorly performing students are doing it wrong. Furthermore, trying to argue that something can’t work because no one’s doing it properly is another logical fallacy.
There’s also a persistent argument against charter schools, which claims that the money spent on charter schools should instead be used to improve public schools instead. This is laughable, because public schools receive funding based on test scores. So, all the money would be spent improving test scores instead of actually teaching children anything. Charter schools are important because they aren’t bounded by these nonsensical restrictions and thus are free to experiment with alternative teaching styles. Throwing money at our public schools will only shore up a method of teaching that’s fundamentally broken. It’s like trying to fix the plumbing after the roof caved in - it’s completely missing the point.
To make matters worse, there’s also a war on free time. Recess is being cut in favor of increased instruction time, while educators cite minuscule increases in test scores as proof that this “works”. If by “works”, you mean it succeeds in cramming more useless junk into kids heads, then sure, it’s “working”. However, if you want kids to actually learn instead of memorize pointless facts that they will immediately forget, you have to give them time to process concepts. Their brains need rest, not more work. Bodybuilders don’t lift weights as long as they can every single day; they lift weights every other day and only for a few hours or so, because the muscle needs time to recover.
This, however, is an issue with a society that thinks hard work means working yourself to exhaustion. This is incredibly short-sighted and in direct opposition to plenty of evidence that points to rest being a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle. It can be your job, or school, or a hobby, it doesn’t matter. Humans do not function effectively when forced to focus on one thing for hours at a time. The only reason we attempt to do this is because we used to work in factories, but nowadays we have robots. Modern jobs are all about thinking creatively, which cannot be forced. You can’t force yourself to understand a concept. It’s like trying to force a broken leg to heal faster by going for a jog. You must give kids time absorb concepts instead of trying to cram it down their throats. They need to understand what they are learning, not memorize formulas.
Mainstream education doesn’t take this seriously. There are plenty of experiments that have effectively taught children advanced concepts with radically different teaching methods. One guy taught 3rd graders binary. These kids learned english and how to operate a computer without a teacher at all. There are plenty of cases that show just how woefully inadequate our teaching system is, but it seems that we care more about a one-size-fits-all method that can be mass-produced than a method that’s actually effective.
Our educational system is failing our students, and we refuse to even entertain notions that could make a difference. Instead, we just legislate more tests and take away their recess.
Because really, memorizing the date of the Battle of Gettysburg is more important than playing outside and having a childhood.