EngWr 101 MW 10:30am
1 October 2012
The American Education Dilemma
The American Education System is placed under scrutiny for low test scores and failing to instill basic skills and knowledge needed to succeed in secondary education and the working world. Matters look even worse when studies are done showing a blatant disparity between the educations that Americans receive versus the education of children in Asian cultures. Some people think adopting the model of Asian education in our schools is the solution to our problem. Although Asian education techniques yield a high success rate when it comes to proficiency in standardized testing, implementing their complete education style is not a wise decision. Finding a happy combination involving the American ideals of creativity, freethinking, and small classroom size, along with the Japanese customs of effort, well-trained educators, and teacher rotation would benefit not only our education system, but also our entire country. One fantastic aspect of the American education system is that students are schooled in an environment that encourages creativity and individuality. This allows children to experiment freely with ideas (Ho 199). Children in the United States have art projects displayed in museums, learn creative geography, and reenact historical political debates simply because our country places a high value on creativity and individuality (Ho 199-200). In turn, this learning environment bolsters the United State’s ability to be one of the top innovating countries in the world. However, a crutch that our country falls back on is focusing on ability as opposed to effort from a very young age. In his article “Strengths, Weaknesses, and Lessons of Japanese Education”, James Fallows states: “We give tests, classify, and track students in belief that this will help them obtain instruction that is best for them” (Fallows 203). However, In Japan, effort is regarded as the most important aspect of school life. Children are not tested and separated at a young age according to innate ability. This type of testing and separation occurs much later “after everyone has had a chance to try” (Fallows 203). This is an education tactic that would do well to reinforce the American Dream. We tout elbow grease, hard work, and determination in this country, yet we single children out at increasingly younger ages before their elbows have a chance to get greasy. Although encouraging effort over ability is a progressive tactic, it can be a slippery slope. There is excessive pressure placed upon Japanese students that starts in grade school. Students as young as eight years old attend afternoon cram schools after they have already spent the day in class (Fallows 201). This pressure comes from the need to receive high test scores in order to be accepted to a prestigious university. “University admission, as opposed to grades earned in university, determines what kind of career you will have in Japan” (Fallows 201).
In American culture, individuality is important because uniformity is impossible for us. The United States is a melting pot both racially, and economically. One great characteristic of American classrooms is the smaller class size. This allows for more one on one, student-teacher interaction. Interacting this way with a teacher reinforces the mindset that each person is different and has something special to offer. This type of environment fosters creativity and freethinking, which are both key factors in maintaining an innovative country. One downside to this classroom dynamic is that some American children are not as privileged as others, and this is only further reflected in the quality of schooling they receive. In the article “New Math-Science Study Rates U.S. Students Mediocre at Best”, author William S. Robinson claims “Public schools, especially city schools, have trouble finding well trained math and science teachers.” This is because “American teachers do not have the time to prepare as thoroughly as teachers of other nations, and they do not observe each other or work together” (Robinson 196). While Japanese students have much bigger classrooms and virtually no one on one time with a teacher, they still perform better in math and science than American students. Their educational success isn’t because of the best test scores being high; it is because the worst ones are. This is due in part to rotating the best teachers and principals throughout Japan so the disparity of education in schools is much smaller than that of the United States (Fallows 205). Another big contributor is the fact that “Japan has the most fortunate lower class” and “as our two systems have competed, the best bottom has proven more important than the best top” (Fallows 205). Children all across Japan, no matter their parent’s economic standing, are still receiving quality education because of the fairness enacted by the Japanese education system. However, “the emphasis on standardization . . . constricts the breathing space for children who do not fit or are not comfortable in this rigid mold” (Fallows 202). That says a lot because uniformity is much easier to achieve in Japan than the United States. At the very least, children in the United States freely use their left or right hands in the classroom, whereas in Japan, that is not an option (Fallows 202). Although the American and Japanese education systems are extremely different from one another, they both have many positive aspects. If we could marry the American standards of creativity, freethinking, and small classroom size with the Japanese values of effort, well-trained teachers, and teacher rotation, the United States would have a stellar education system. If we could find a way to implement all of these ideals in our public school system, our future generations would be unstoppable. Not only would we be home to the best innovators in the world, but we would also boast higher test scores and better proficiency in math and science. Teacher rotation and emphasis on effort would ensure that everyone, no matter their position on the economic totem pole, would receive a well-rounded education from a competent educator. It is time to revise the American Dream so that a higher value is placed upon education. One cannot simply venture out into the world and strike it rich anymore. Times are changing, and soon, the elusive American Dream will only be attainable after one has received a well-rounded and comprehensive education.
Fallows, James. "Strengths, Weaknesses, and Lessons of Japanese Education" Text and Contexts: A Contemporary Approach to College Writing. Ed. William S. Robinson and Stephanie Tucker. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009. 200-207. Print. Ho, Kie. "We Should Cherish Our Children’s Freedom to Think" Text and Contexts: A Contemporary Approach to College Writing. Ed. William S. Robinson and Stephanie Tucker. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009. 198-200. Print. Robinson, William S. "New Math-Science Study Rates U.S. Students Mediocre at Best" Text
and Contexts: A Contemporary Approach to College Writing. Ed. William S. Robinson and Stephanie Tucker. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009. 195-196. Print.