My eighth grade English teacher use to drill me with grammar and punctuation lessons. The subject is underlined once; the verb twice; the helping verb with a squiggly line and so on and so on. My ninth grader teacher use to fill my binder with notes about Jane Schaffer. For every two opinions, one must include a fact. Then I got to tenth grade and my whole idea about English classes came shattering down around me. It wasn’t that I didn’t learn in tenth grade, but I didn’t learn what traditional schools would consider an English education.
Somewhere in the definition for “education” the word “school” is mentioned. It seems natural that education and school go hand in hand, but how much does one actually learn in school? In my years leading up to tenth grade, my conceived idea about education was structure. Education is structure. How could one argue otherwise when the education system leads us from elementary school, to middle school, to high school and so forth? How could one say differently when students are divided into grades based on their ages? Although the education system is a strong structure, it is also a flawed structure.
Ken Robinson argued in his essay, Changing Education Paradigms, that there are two types of people: academic and non-academic. Both types have brilliant minds, but after a run through the typical education system, non-academic people think themselves to be unintelligent. So is it so, that this structure is successful for only the academic people? I don’t disagree completely with public education and its structure. Yes, it is important that students receive academic knowledge and teachings, but sometimes, it’s not necessary for success in life. For example, my tenth grade teacher held up an I-phone and asked, “Why do we have history classes when we have these?” He brought up the point that history questions could be answered with the Google search engine and a few taps of his finger. It was only natural that kids who were successful in history spoke up to argue, while kids who could care less about history nodded in approval.
I like to think of education as a blanket. Although this blanket may keep some warm, others are still left cold. This metaphorical blanket also doesn’t cover everybody. In the essay Superman and Me, Sherman Alexie talks about Native American children. He recalls that there were Indian students who would struggle in traditional education, but excel in life and social interactions. This universal idea of not being the greatest student combats the idea that public education is for everyone.
To what extent do public schools serve students a well-rounded education?
I would say half.
I choose half, not because I feel public education teaches little, but because the basic academic classes fill half of a students needs, but not the life lessons portion. In all my years of being in public education, I’ve just very recently had my first life lesson class. The trick to these classes that makes them slip through the very structure of education is that they are masked with a name like “English Honors 2”.
I am, of course, in no way an expert on the public education system, but being a living, breathing specimen, I can testify that something is definitely missing. Students learn a great deal of things, but more often than not, they also miss out on a ton as well. Like a prisoner chained and trained to see one way, it’s hard to look beyond when beyond ceases to even exist.