American Schools and Their Rigor: Should That Be Our Focus For Aiming Towards Success?

“Common Core supporters argue that American schools aren’t rigorous enough and the national standards will help every student learn what they need to succeed.”

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-Arne Duncan, the United States Secretary of Education since 2009, in his latest comment on the Common Core. This article from YahooNews can be found here. Additionally, Duncan has been in the news lately for backlash on his recent comment about “white suburban moms” which can be found here.

Do American schools “lack success” due to easy courses or because we are not teaching our students the right material?

As a student, particularly a student enrolled in a class designed to provide students freedom and responsibility, my personal opinion is that we–students–are not exposed to the material needed to succeed in today’s world. Many argue we are behind other countries when comparing standardized test scores, but when Don Wettrick went to Europe this past summer, many argued they do not care about their high test scores. One may wonder why this may be, as certainly Wettrick did, and the colleagues he was conversing with gave a clear answer: Test scores do not create jobs.

Americans have one characteristic many educators and officials leave unacknowledged when comparing students to those in other countries: We have creativity.

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In the recent TIME magazine with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on the cover and the title “The Elephant in the Room,” there is an article titled “Why China Can’t Invent.” Naturally, this sparked my interest, as most Americans believe China is a powerhouse ready to knock our socks off. However, this article argues that China rips off of American inventions and is successful only because it has figured out ways to make our products cheaper.

I can concede that there is truth in that statement, but money is what makes the world go ’round. How is it that China is not the leading superpower in TIME‘s eyes?

The article provides many reasons for China’s decline, from labor’s rising costs to “good managers are hard to find.” China does not have the creativity that fosters new innovations; therefore, they recreate American products with less expensive materials. This ties together with the education system, as without the encouragement of American creativity beginning in schools, that American value of innovation and creative “thinking outside of the box” mindset is lost.

Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University and the previous Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993, can be quoted stating, “Too much testing crushes creativity and innovation, and that’s why we must stop it — now.” Though she previously supported the No Child Left Behind Act and charter schools, Ravitch has become “disillusioned” and believes “we are destroying our education system, blowing it up by these stupid policies.”

Ravitch sounds like my type of woman and let me tell you why. As a student, I can attest to the fact that students are taught as if on an assembly line, memorizing information for a final exam and then dumping it out in preparation for the next load of information thrown at them. (I have previously spoken about this in paragraph 5 of “Simple Digital Tool With A Lost Audience”) Common Core standards are written by people who haven’t sat in an actual classroom and learned for many years. They do not understand the impact social media and technology can have on students when used properly and they do not care to learn. The schools they have created are not preparing students for the world they will soon be released into. As I have argued before, students are not taught how to properly maneuver a website, write fluently through a computer screen, the proper etiquette of typing and replying to an email, how to code, what to post and what not to post on social media profiles, how to gauge what is appropriate and what isn’t on the Internet for our age group… The list goes on and on.

Instead, these standards are are not accomplishing their goal of “not leaving any child behind” but stifling the students who understand the material and want to move at a faster pace. Our creativity is prevented from fruition due to specific standards and protocol. American schools do not need to be as rigorous as other nations’ because we have the innovative minds of a free country and a history of rule breaking. I suppose the real question is how do you measure success?

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10 thoughts on “American Schools and Their Rigor: Should That Be Our Focus For Aiming Towards Success?

  1. This is a fabulous post. I applaud you on your well-researched, persuasive piece! I completely agree with you, and I am glad that you are able to be such an eloquent voice for the students who deserve so much more.

  2. As usual, another great blog, Paige. The “assembly line” example given here, I’ve seen that brought up in a political cartoon I saw a while back. Along that, you have a great amount good points, people, and words of interest here, especially the TIME magazine one. As always, keep up the great work, Paige.

  3. Paige, can you forsee a “digital media” curriculum developing to the point that it can be instituted as an actual course?

    • Mr. Kasper, without revealing too much of my plans for my social media education mission, yes. A digital media curriculum is extremely possible and is a tangible goal that I have for my personal mission. I want students to acknowledge and recognize their responsibilities on social media and one way to accomplish this is by designing a class tailored to the idea.

  4. Pingback: Social Media Education | The voices of Twitter users

  5. Pingback: Social Media Education | Sugata Mitra’s New Experiments In Self-teaching: What Do They Mean For The Future?

  6. Pingback: Social Media Education | The Inevitable Question: “When Am I Going To Use This?”

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