Why Can’t We Find Ourselves on a Map? (Or, Education in America, Part 2)

Yesterday I ranted a little bit about education in America. This was prompted by the school voucher controversy here in Utah, and a rather infamous “map” incident involving Miss South Carolina. I’ve thought about it some more. Why can’t many Americans find our own country on a a map?

I guess the answer in my book is actually two main points: lower standards and focus on specific things, aimed at getting the right answers on standardized tests.

Lower standards in education

This is one that bothers me. It seems we find that we are expected to know and understand less and less. And people expect A’s for doing the minimum. Isn’t that supposed to be a C? For average? Now we give people A’s for doing what they should be doing anyway. As if completing the assignment, with the basics, warrants something that means “excellent.” In my undergrad career, I got a lot of A’s. I didn’t learn a whole lot. When I went to grad school, I went to one with high standards. All of my first assignments were labeled with a C, despite the fact that all of the minimum requirements were met. I had to *gasp* earn my way up to an A. I got an A- and a B+ in two different classes. They were the ones that taught me the most. We need to return to expecting more of students. American students aren’t stupid. Just a lot of them have been taught to be lazy.

Focus on very specific and narrow items in American education

My other issue is that standardized testing, including the stuff emphasized by No Child Left Behind, creates a situation where students are only taught very specific things. And they are taught to pass certain tests, rather than actually acquire learning and skills. I’m not completely against standardized testing. There has to be some measure available. However, too much emphasis on these tests is leading schools to focus on testing, rather than true teaching. Have you retained the information you crammed into your brain for the SAT? Riiiiight.

My next post will probably address my issue with this idea that college is the only learning that’s worth anything. It’s not. We really need to get out of this idea that you can’t be successful if you don’t go to a traditional 4-year college.

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