The Reflection

Gull Lake High School's Online News Source

Years of progress but has the system of education?

April 23, 1635: the date at which the first public school was established within the U.S. nation. National Geographic covered the history of this first school, known at the time by the name of The Boston Latin School, and stated that the school was  “strictly for college preparation.” The Boston Latin School is still around to this day, having moved locations around the city, but surprisingly very few other changes have been made to the education system at the school itself. Sure some of the school’s physical characteristics, courses, and textbooks have changed, but has the system itself really experienced any major updates? 

Picture of an empty classroom from roughly 1926 arrangement differs little from the current classroom. Photo courtesy of Palos Verdes Bulletin.

While the answer to this question is highly debatable,  early schools and modern-day schools share many of the same characteristics. 

One of the first similarities that is easily recognizable is the setup of a classroom. Since early days the classroom has been designed with rows of student desks with a teacher’s desk settling in the front decorated by the fine background of a chalkboard. This design has not changed in most classrooms today, and why is this? According to the online source, Today’s Classroom, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this layout⁠—advantages being that all students have an equal view of the instructor and board, making the environment a fair one for all pupils, and the negative being that the setup often serves as a barrier between teachers and students. The disadvantages have an underlying effect on the advantages in this scenario.

 Although students may have equal advantages among peers as far as viewing, the view is not particularly helpful if students and teachers are separated and unable to be heard by one another. This is not the only disadvantage to the separation amongst the two groups. The barrier of rows of desks can create a place where students feel disengaged. Sometimes making minor updates such as transitioning from a chalkboard to a whiteboard just isn’t enough for the education system to show for the passing of a few hundred centuries.  

Besides classroom layout, another factor that has not changed much is the part of schools being for college preparation. Schools and society across the nation heavily stress the idea that a college education is what makes a career. In addition to this, the way many subjects in school are being taught is very focused on the idea of retaining information in the brain only long enough that it can reflect a good grade on the test at the end of the course semester.  This being the case, what is the true reasoning for spending 13 to 15 years of your first 18 in an education system? 

This is partially rhetorical but also partially true: schools teach the social skills needed for their students to thrive in life and make connections with people which is crucial to the development of the brain, and the way the thought along with it expands the imagination in a more critical sense. This ultimately will benefit each and every person immensely, allowing them to find goals and areas in which they enjoy. The idea isn’t to get rid of school⁠— it’s to improve it in this world where there’s such expansion and innovation. The problem is that schools still follow the same learning style as when horses were pulling people around, and the only things that flew were birds. 

The idea that we are learning to think on our own and critically expand our ability to problem solve is great, but the truth is we really don’t. We are spoon-fed every piece of information and then told to memorize it, taking out the actual idea of what we are told school is for. The other problem facing this is because we aren’t doing any learning on our own, and we are being pushed all of the information at once then told to practice with homework we are lectured longer than our brains actually retain information. In a speech on how to learn better by professor and author Marty Lobdell, he mentions a study done by The University of Michigan in which they studied freshman and sophomore students on how long they would efficiently study for. The results were 25-30 minutes without a break. That being said a break of 5-10 minutes of fun and not being in a work area can be unbelievably beneficial to the brain and its ability to retain information. Profesor Lobdel went on to say, “There’s a simple conduct in psychology all of you are aware of, things that are reinforced we tend to do more of, things that are punished or ignored we tend to do less of, and we operate by those principles to a large degree.” 

This brings to question once again why are students attending school if it is operated in this fashion? Schools can be better suited to the way a human brain functions, especially one of adolescence that doesn’t have practice in learning and making their brain think critically. Mark Rober’s, a former engineer for both Nasa and Apple and entrepreneur, gave a Ted Talk on changing the mentality of how you learn. In his ted talk, Mark brings up a study that he challenged 50,000 people to try a basic coding program. In his study he used two different programs, both started with 300 points, but the only difference was in one if the person didn’t succeed they wouldn’t lose any points. On the other side for every attempt they weren’t successful they would lose five points. The results found were astonishing. Those who lost points averaged a 52 percent success rate compared to the 68 percent of those who didn’t lose points. That alone is a 16 percent difference, in our grading system that’s the difference between an A at 93 percent and a C at 76 percent. 

Graph of Mark Rober’s research used in his Ted Talk.

The more compelling part of the evidence was that those who didn’t lose points tried nearly two and a half times more than those who lost points. He called this the Super Mario Effect: “shifting the focus from falling into pits into saving the princes, to stick with a task and learn more”. In the article by USA Today, author Erin Richards brings up the United States diminishing scores and rankings with possible reasons why as scores continue to rise among other nations. Mrs. Richards brings up the common core education system that was put in place to boost America’s education, but as Richards mentioned the United States is ranked ninth in reading and 31st in math literacy out of 79 countries and economies and leads on to say that  “scores have essentially been flat for two decades.” All of this information builds up to the question when and what is the education system going to do to not only keep up but catch back up to be a leading power in the education race?  Without a progression in the schooling system, there is no room for progression in the nation’s young leaders, leaving the door ajar to other nations to be the leading powers in the world. 

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