Think about how much of your life is spent trying to learn all you can and make yourself better prepared for the "real world." We start schooling at age five or six. Kindergarten is about finger paints and learning the alphabet. Before we know it, we are standing in front of our class and parents accepting a high school diploma. That is thirteen years right there. Then, if we really want to "succeed" we have to get through another 4 to 6 years of college. That is almost 20 years total in school. Are those 20 years well spent? Are we all satisfied with the education we received? The answer is "no." It is apparent that today’s education system in the United States is not satisfying the needs of all people.
One of the main controversies in the education system of the United States is the content of what is taught. Everything that is taught in school is uniform for the entire grade. However, not every individual student is uniform in what they already know and how capable they are of learning new things. Not only that, but also is each student interested in learning what everyone else is learning? Today there are many schools that have put more emphasis in teaching learning skills rather than the knowledge that is needed to move on to the next level (Hirsch 129). Some schools have gone to what is known as "core knowledge" to make sure that each and every student has the same foundation upon which to build the rest of their education. They believe that through the method of "core knowledge", everyone can benefit together (Hirsch 129). Opposite that idea is the idea that we shouldn’t be filling a child’s mind with "miscellaneous facts", but rather be trying to extract the knowledge that is within each person’s mind (Harris). The main argument with that opinion is that without some filling, there won’t be anything to extract from a person. One positive thing that our children are learning is the ability to think creatively and be innovative. Many Americans overlook the fact that in this country, children are able to experiment with ideas and learn to believe in themselves and in their own creativity (Ho 126). But is mere creativity enough to make up for the other shortfalls in education? Another big controversy in education is the way the children are taught.
Many of the same arguments that are made regarding what is taught, can be made regarding how it is taught. Those who are naturally talented and intellectual say that filling a child’s head with various types of knowledge is not very productive, but what about those children that need that knowledge just to be at an equal level with the other students. Children who have not learned very much at home or outside of school won’t have very much to give intellectually, so the idea of teaching to draw out personal knowledge will not work. How do you fairly teach a class that will mean whether or not you will keep your job? Many teachers face this dilemma today because of the process of anonymous evaluation. Teachers who get a bad evaluation could lose their jobs because of it, thus there is an ever-growing problem of teachers giving better grades to possibly save their job. What about the grades that are given? As long as there has been a school, there have been grades given to students to show how well they are doing in school. But are grades the most effective way to show a student’s progress and more importantly, what they actually learned? Some call grading "tyrannical and indefensible" and even go as far as saying the grading system is "criminal" (Lean 131-32). Grading is probably the most scrutinized of all practices in education. It is easy to see the difference between an "A" and an "F" in a subject like math where the answer is either right or wrong. But, how do you give a grade in a subject like art where each piece is something from an individual’s own creative mind? There is no right or wrong, or good or bad. So how could anyone say that his painting is an "A", while her sculpture is an "F"? In a case like that, grading can be seen as nothing more than personal preference. So how does grading affect students and teachers?
The grades given to students not only affect the students’ lives, but the teachers’ lives also. For students, bad grades mean not getting into the college of their choice, and for the teachers, bad grades mean possible bad evaluations. Many people have blamed bad grades for giving a child low self-esteem, but what about those children who have excellent grades and no social lives. Don’t they have low self-esteem? Building self-esteem in students shouldn’t be a substitution for basic schooling (Moore 136). It has been argued that teachers lower their grading standards in order to raise the self-esteem of their students. Those teachers believe that a high self-esteem is necessary for a student to learn well and have a high self-esteem (Moore 136). True self-esteem does not come from a high GPA, a piece of paper called a diploma, or even a high status socially; it comes from hard work and meaningful accomplishments.
Do you want children to be filled with trivial information or encouraged to think on their own and explore their own intelligence? Do you want to receive letter grades just like you or do would you rather receive evaluations on their progress? Do you think that their self-esteem should be based on their grades or something more important? These are questions we will have to answer in new millennium and as we become new parents. The education of our children is something too important to overlook.