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Upping the Ante

Let’s be honest: Our school system needs to change and step up a bit. It needs to stop shoveling kids out by the dozens and actually teach them. That’s why for the next few weeks, I’m going to look at what we do (What we do wrong, mostly), as well as what other countries do right.

I don’t mean everything in the country, mostly just school related things; Teaching, learning, homework, the whole shabang. Our country needs to stop this… “Assembly line” of pumping hundreds of thousands of children out each year, and start actually teaching these kids. We can start basing our new ways on education systems that would work for us. Countries like Finland, China, and Norway have fantastic systems. I would like to base a new system off of those countries’, as well as integrate the idea of multiple learning types so nearly every kid will be able to learn effectively and efficiently.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you,” and that is exactly what we’re going to start with. Looking at what’s wrong with us so we know what to get rid of. We’ve all seen what U.S. public schools do: We wake up between 06:00-and-08:00 in the morning, then start school between 07:30-and-09:30. We go from class to boring class for about an hour per class, let out by a bell system that controls our lives. Then we eat a really terrible “lunch” between 11:00-and-13:00. We get let out (The fact that it’s phrased, let out, like animals…) between 14:30-and-15:30, do extra-curricular stuff until 17:00, and then finally go home. But the day’s not done… We still have one to three hours of homework (Ryan). This whole system of forcing classes upon kids, force feeding them bad food and worthless knowledge because we think we should, this is what I aim to stop.

Overworking kids does not work, and homework is a massive problem. Even Japan has realised that (Economist). Overworking anyone, student, adult, teenager, elderly, or toddler, is a very bad idea. It can lead to obesity, cause serious mental health issues, as well as physical health problems. In recent years, teachers and administrators rely on homework much too heavily, solely because of memorization. We need to figure out some other form of education. Finland uses a form of schooling that is more based on examples, and much less homework. They use a base of creativity and hands-on.  On the other side of it, we could assign more homework, like the East Asian countries (Japan, China, those countries). (Partanen, ) This would require more discipline both from teachers and from parents. This would not work in America for a couple of reasons. First, their school days are longer, with a larger amount and more intense work, yes. Although, their overall school year is shorter. Also, as we have been so used to the current way of doing things, even the most homework-savvy American student would feel broken under the strain of homework.

In the United States of America, we need both. We need an adaptive education system. Counselors, administrators, and teachers alike need to begin to figure out how students learn. We need to combine homework and teaching to be the most efficient and effective thing possible. I think we need very short homework assignments (No more than 10-15 minutes per class) and grade it for correctness. As a society we’ve gotten into the habit of, “Test for correctness, homework for completion.” That just isn’t effective. Then the teacher reviews the work the next day, and moves on to the next lesson with lots of examples and hands-on learning.

Also, teachers and administration need to get to know the students and their learnings styles. I don’t mean through the whole “Personality quizzes” that we’ve all taken before, but merely based on observing students. What the student does, how they talk, how they react, their amount of homework turned in… Teachers need to translate that into, “How am I going to best teach this kid?” This is something that Finland has taken into account. The teachers (Selected from the top 10% of graduates (Partanen)) design a curriculum, testing system, and create an individualized grading system for each student. So an “A” for one student, which is pretty universal for “Great” or “Fantastic!” won’t be the same percentage/grading scale as an “A” for another student. A teacher/student relationship must be less Speaker/listener, and more of an actual relationship with real conversations.

The school system as a whole needs to stop being an authority figure shoveling information into a kid’s brain so they can spit it out on a test and never remember it again. We need to start teaching in a way that makes the kid/class engaged and, not necessarily enjoy, but not dread going to school.

Works Cited

Partanen, Anu. “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 29 Dec. 2011. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/>.

Ryan, Julia. “How Much Homework Do American Kids Do?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 19 Sept. 2013. Web. 13 Apr. 2014. <http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/09/how-much-homework-do-american-kids-do/279805/>

.”The Struggle to Create Creativity.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 28 June 1997. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://www.economist.com/node/91903>

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