Fixing the Education of America

Picture from publicagenda.org

Picture from publicagenda.org

I am not a Teacher. I am not a PHD in anything. I am not a professor and I am certainly not Valedictorian. I am, however, a student of my past. I think a lot about what I have done in order to fully understand the reasons I did them. My past experience with education systems has lead me to an amazing truth that must be told to the world.

We are teaching our kids the wrong way.

You have heard it all before. You have heard how the school systems are shutting down health classes to give kids more time in the classes that only work their brains. You have heard how the schools have been have a hard time with their funding because the kids can’t pass the tests. There is a reason all of this is happening. There is a reason that kids have a bad attitude in public school. There is a reason why the majority doesn’t pass the tests and why we are now offering High School Equivalencies instead of Diplomas. The answer lies within the kids attitudes.

I remember back in my days of middle school. I would go through school just like the rest of the kids. Answering questions, talking in groups, making the most of my time their. The problem came when math class rolled around. Do not get the assumption that I am going to tell you that I was horrible at math until a teacher showed me a teaching method that turned my life around. No, I was very good at math. Not that you could tell though, my grades always began to plummet after the middle of the semester. I would stop bringing my homework in get zeros and have to make up the grades later. My teacher was always baffled by this. Why? because no matter how low my daily grades got, my test scores were always immaculate.

This always happened in all of my classes all throughout high school. My daily grades would suffer and yet all my tests had good scores. In fact I made it to pre-calculus until I opened up the chapter on “imaginary numbers” and said “That’s enough for me!” After that, I only ever did enough to pass.

Why did I do things that way? Was I not absorbing the information? If that were true wouldn’t my test scores have been low? I pondered this for a long time after graduation. I finally figured out what it was. It was staring me right in the face the entire time. The answer: I was Bored!

image from backstoryradio.org

image from backstoryradio.org

That’s right, I was bored! I was bored because we would spend an hour and a half on a single topic (I know, my school system has wierd schedules), and then the teacher would say “Well that’s enough of that topic for today! Your homework today is the 50 problems on page Twenty!” I would, of course, not do the work because life got in the way. You know, video games, chores, TV, going outside, hanging with friends. That was the kind of life that got in the way. I would say to myself “We went over it in class. I know how the thing works. I don’t need to do 50 problems more. It’s boring and won’t help me understand it more than I already do!” The next morning, I would march into class with no homework and get a zero for the day. I would also have to face the embarrassment of not handing in my homework in front of my fellow students.

I think this boredom problem affects all students and we are approaching the method of teaching wrong. There should be no reason that a kid should be sent home to do a huge number of problems from a text book. THAT IS WHAT SCHOOL IS FOR! The learning needs to be done in a classroom and it needs to be done differently to save time. Maybe that way we can pass the tests and cram some physical education in there too!

What is the solution? I do not have all the answers, but I can put us a step in the right direction. Imagine a class full of kids. The teacher is standing at the front of the class and the lesson is on the board. Today’s lesson: Multiplication. The teacher should spend the first few minutes of the class explaining what it is and how to do it and even giving some helpful tips (like holding up your fingers when multiplying by nines). After s/he is done with the lesson, The students should be asked to create and solve at least ten of their own problems. Then the students will be asked one by one to come up to the board to make an example question and answer it in front of the class. During this time the teacher can check his work on the paper handed in. An assesment will be made if the student understands the subject. If he doesn’t the teacher will help him. If he does, he will help any student’s after him who don’t understand along with the teacher. By the end, everyone should know the subject so well that they can answer any problems that come at them no problem and now we can move on to the next lesson.

This method of teaching will also help develop social skills. Kids will be braver about talking in front of a crowd. They will learn to work together to understand the problems and no one will be left in the back of the class because everyone will have their time at the front. They will also have more time at home for whatever they need because no homework should be neccesary.

image from anarkismo.net

image from anarkismo.net

The only other solution I have is to stop wasting time teaching our kids things that they don’t really need to learn. I spent an entire semester with the rest of my school learning the 50 states and their respective capitol’s by heart. I still know most of the Wakko’s America song by heart. I have never used that information since middle school except to prove that I knew the material to my friends. Kids need to know useful things. They need to know how to survive in the world and solve real world problems. The 50 states don’t come in handy when your tire goes flat on your car. I don’t need to know all of the presidents, just the ones that are important, maybe then I can have room for information on eating right for my health. I don’t need to know that Steinbeck was making a reference to the bible when he wrote the last scene of “Of Mice and Men”. I could, however, use the information of how to fill out those long forms at the hospital! Give our kids information they are going to use.

Even if you give kids information that is useless, try to give it in a more tempting way. I was fed the word “pi” in just about every math class I can remember. I always new it was never ending and I always new its relationship to circles, but did you know “the why of pi”? Pi is a never ending number because the only way we have been able to get it is through measurment. If you give a man a ruler and a string and a circle and tell him to find the exact number of pi and then compare his answer to the man sitting next to him, they will not have the exact same answer. Why? because measuring is not an exact science. You can’t see molecules with your naked eye, and string can stretch and the width of the line on the ruler comes into play as well. The only way we have been able to get pi to the (i don’t remember what it is now, billionth?) decimal point is because we use things like electron microscopes. If you want to get an exact number for pi and make all of our circular objects perfectly round from now on, you need to calculate it. Do not measure, calculate. You need to make an equasion. Did you also know that if you are successful in making that equasion, there are several universities that are ready to drop $1 Million dollars in your lap? How is that for incentive?

After learning all this I spent a month straight with a notebook and calculator in my hand trying desprately to come up with the answer. If I had known abou this in school I would have become an expert in geometry. I would have been obsessed with my school work. Alas, they did not tell me any of this, so here I sit. I am not rich and every circle in the world is flawed.

These are the things that need to change. If the education system is not working, then it needs to be fixed. Kids are smarter these days then they used to be. The education system needs to evolve with them or, God forbid, it will become extinct.

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