November 20, 2010
Education Standards in Today’s Society
Henry Peter Broughan once stated "Education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave." In today’s society, a quality education being provided during the most impressionable years of a child’s life is essential to the development and success of our children. One of the most prevalent problems in our educational system today is the variation in the quality of education that children are provided. The quality of education tends to be a reflection of the affluence, or lack there of, in the communities that children come from. In order for a child to succeed in today’s society, a high quality, well balanced education is imperative. The curriculum, classroom size, resources, funding and management of the classroom are all factors that help contribute to and establish this educational quality.
Former President Lyndon Baines Johnson passed several legislative acts between 1975 and 1976, which were designed to correct the many inequalities that existed in the public education system. As previously mentioned, these inequalities included the access to as well as the quality of education that poor and minority students received as opposed to their non-minority or privileged counterparts. As a result of these reforms, every child is now required to be enrolled in some form of public or private education, which is known as Compulsory Education Law. These laws worked well to insure that all children were enrolled in some sort of educational program, however, it seems to have fallen short in its goal to address the value of the education that is provided. Although compulsory education was implemented with the intent of creating all men equally, without the “quality” of the education being equal the very purpose of the law goes unserved.
Compulsory educational laws mandate that a child be enrolled in an educational curriculum by a certain age ( age five to six in 32 states) and remain enrolled until age 16 in 26 states and 17 to 18 in the remaining states. Many officials argue that age should not be used as a measure of determining a child’s readiness to enter school and be successful. The issue that we need to keep sight of is that if children are allowed to enter school at younger and younger ages, many people may choose to enroll their children in school although the child may not be ready to learn from and be held to standards of a structured curriculum. In essence, without age limits imposed, the school system may eventually be used as a cheaper alternative to daycare. This increase in attendance would increase the need for additional teachers and resources as well as increase class sizes. These additional needs would eventually pose added stress to an already faltering educational system.
Classroom size is one of the most critical components of a quality education. The number of students that are being provided instruction by a single teacher can affect how much each student actually learns in a number of different ways. A prime example of this is my daughter’s high school. Over the past three years, the number of children in one class has risen from approximately 22-25 children per class to nearly 40 students due to budget restraints and teacher lay-offs. With this increase in class size, my daughter has regularly complained of distractions by other students, discomfort due to the close quarters. She has also talked about the inability of the teacher to gain and maintain control of the class in a timely manner so that a descent period of instruction can be given. As a result, the children who are willing to learn are left to study independently or “wing it” on tests that contain material which the teacher was unable to cover during the class period.
The larger classroom sizes also cause a child to be less willing to ask for extra assistance. In a more intimate setting a child may feel more comfortable in saying he or she does not understand. It may also be much easier for a teacher to notice that a child is struggling, even if the child doesn’t ask, and provide the individualized attention that a child may require. With larger classes also comes more conflict among students which may stem from cramped conditions or the disruptive behavior of some students.
In addition to classroom size being an issue, a larger issue lies with the variance in curriculum. Some measures should be put in place to establish a common standard for things such as grading scales, text books used, and basic curriculum that is covered. If a child graduates from a high school which is known to have lower educational standards, this child is automatically placed at a significant disadvantage among his or her peers when applying to institutions of higher learning. In the American culture, success and development is generally defined by an individual’s education level, which leads to other things such as social status, and employment. Without a sound educational foundation, one generally cannot expect to secure a well paying, meaningful job.
The problem with this measure of success lies in the lack of uniformity in the education system. For example, a child who attends high school in the state of California is required to have 120 credits completed and pass the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam) in order to graduate. In contrast, a high school student in the state of South Carolina is required to have a total of 24 credits completed and pass the South Carolina High School Exit Exam. This difference in requirements poses a significant issue to children that may transfer from one state to another, such as dependents of military members. When a child transfers from California to South Carolina, as my daughters, did, many things get “lost in translation”. Upon transfer, my daughter lost three credits that were deemed “useless” by South Carolina’s education system and was forced to compensate for this by attending additional classes in an after school and online setting. In addition, she has also had to take the South Carolina High School Exit Exam despite the fact that she passed the California High School Exit Exam in during her sophomore year in California.
Establishing a national common curriculum standard which all children have to master prior to graduating high school would essentially level the paying field when it cam to children applying to institutions of higher learning. It would also make it easier for colleges and universities to translate the various high school classes and grade levels that appear with each new applicant.
If this cycle of inequality continues, many schools in underprivileged areas will continue to graduate students that lack the basic skills to properly function in society while schools in more affluent communities continue to turn out future leaders. Compulsory education helps to prepare children to be productive and functional members of society as well as teaching them citizenship skills as well as tolerance and cultural diversity which is needed for them to become functional and productive members of society. Although the thought of moving away from compulsory education may be alluring with the rise in home schooling and other means of alternative education, the real answer is not to deviate from the plan, but to improve upon it. Malcolm Forbes once stated "Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one." I believe that if a child enters and exits our educational system with the knowledge and confidence that he has been provided with an education that is just as valuable and thorough as his peers, we have succeeded in arming that child with the strength and confidence needed to succeed in all of his endeavors.
Works Cited Weaver, Reg. “Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization: Improving NCLB to Close the Achievement Gap.” Senate Committee on Health, Education, and Pensions and the House Committee on Education and Labor.13 March 2007. 06 Nov. 2010. Print.
Compulsory Education. National Conference of State Legislatures. N.p..n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2010. http://www.ncsl.org/programs/educ/CompulsoryEd.htm
Ivan Illich. “Deschooling Society.” Cuernavaca, Mexico. Nov 1970. Web. 7 Nov 2010. http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html
ETNI-English Teacher’s Network. Education Quotes. 20 Nov. 2010. http://www.etni.org.il/quotes/education.htm