It is no news to most Americans that the modern academic model for education in the United States has failed us and is in major need of redesign. A thorough reevaluation and reversal of a three majorly flawed philosophies currently embraced by the education hierarchy as a whole could quite possibly reverse the current trend of the ever declining standards of academic success in our country.
First, the commonly accepted norm of the concept of mass-production applied to education must cease and desist. Students are individuals and must be treated individually. Each student possesses a unique set of strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and handicaps that are unevenly distributed across the academic array of subjects. For example, some are better at math. Others master language concepts easier than scientific principles. Since each student’s learning potential for each subject varies, how can it be expected that the same time (i.e. a 45 minute period) spent daily on each subject for each student will result in a balanced mastery of all academic subjects? Logically it would seem that if one subject for a student was twice as hard to learn as another, twice as much time would have to be spent to master the more difficult subject. A shift from an arbitrarily uniform academic structure must give way to consideration of the individual student.
Second, the bulk of the responsibility for the student’s learning, currently being held nearly entirely by the teachers, must shift to the students themselves. If it does not, upon exiting the classroom, the individual student will cease to learn. Simply put, if a school cannot train students to learn for themselves, they have failed. School should prepare a student for life (which is nothing more than a continued education), and it is experienced individually. You do not get to take your teacher with you when you graduate. The incorporation of student-initiated goal setting and realization should be overseen and rewarded by responsible and attentive teachers. Setting and reaching one’s goals for one’s self is the driving cause and effect of ambition itself. Good teachers are always looking for new tools to motivate students. Yet, ironically, this one vastly important responsibility, goal-setting, is assumed in most education environments by the teacher and not the student.
Third, the student’s education should be mastery-based instead of the current lock-stepped approach. As it is, in most educational settings, the students all move through the course curriculum and the various grade levels at the same rate as determined by teacher in order to meet the current administrative standards. It is relatively inconsequential whether or not the student fails to master the course material as long as a minimally passing grade is achieved. Some students will master the material in the time allotted for the course. The average will not, but will “get by” with an average passing grade. Some will fail out-rightly. Present educational philosophy dictates that time is the constant and learning is the variable. What if this were reversed? If learning were made the constant, every high school graduate really would have a 12th grade education and could perform 12th grade academic work.
While it is certain that the adherence to these suggested reversals of current educational philosophy would require significant upheaval and revamping of the current classic teaching methods and structures in place, it must be realized that the same ad-nauseam approaches to education reform (i.e. lowering the student-to-teacher ratio, upgrading school facilities, increasing teacher wages, etc.) have failed to bring the results that are desperately needed even at great financial expense. Quite simply, instead of more money, let’s invest more thought into education.