The reality of educational priorities

Courtesy // Tiffany McGaughey

Education has been lacking in America. National Public Radio reports that every year, more and more countries outperform American students in areas like math, science and reading.
Americans are becoming more intellectually average. So what’s wrong with our education system?
Throughout my education experience, I have always been told that getting good grades would lead to success in life. My teachers, parents and mentors told me this.
I was sure that if I got an A in my math class, I’d be making more money than I could imagine. This is exactly what’s wrong with the education system.
Because students are so focused on getting good grades, the vast majority of them don’t care to learn the material.
According to readingrockets.org, “school children are constantly bombarded with new knowledge in multiple topic areas in which they may or may not be interested.” Their strategy is to study for a few days before the test, and then spit the material back out onto the exam. During those few days, the material is kept in short-term memory, where it can be dumped to make room for new material.
There is a huge amount of material as well. Our school system rushes to teach all it can to students while their brains are still developing, giving them a basis in the subjects that are deemed ‘necessary for success’.
However, up until the collegiate level, several of these topics are not necessary at all.
Why can’t our school system teach subjects that students would actually use in the real world?
When I was fresh out of high school, I could tell you about calculus, French and history, but I couldn’t fill out the deposit slip to cash a check.
So, with unnecessary topics and short-term memory students, the American school system has witnessed a decline in its students’ education.
Not only have America’s students scored poorly on tests, they’ve also scored poorly on cultural and political awareness.
Here’s what I mean: students have been trained to collect, repeat and delete data from their brains. Some of this data, from subjects such as language, government, and ethics, are profoundly necessary for success but gets deleted with the rest.
So a student could get all A’s, but not remember basics in geography and political science once they got a job or went to college.
So this is how I would change the school system. I would keep primary education (K-8) exactly how it is.
What students learn during these years is extremely valuable, and I wouldn’t change it. High school, however, would change drastically.
English would be required for all four years; history, foreign language, and science for three. Two years of math, a year of government (so that students know how to vote and be involved in our democracy), and a year of world cultures and religion (so that students would understand other cultures and respect their beliefs).
There would be a semester of finance, a class that teaches students how to manage money and a semester of social sciences, which would help students understand social situations and better their mature social lives. There would also be no homework (unanimous cheers), and more comprehensive and personalized testing, in order to eliminate the cookie-cutter testing system that America has today.
    It’s no secret that our education system needs reform. And obviously, it’s not something that can be improved at the flip of a switch. But I do believe that our system of education can be reformed within the next decade, with the right people and the right ideas.