Politicians are in the news constantly, and one popular topic of discussion is the education system in the United States. There are a lot of significant issues associated with education: Less than 50 percent of high school graduates cannot read or perform math problems to the level that is expected at that age, not enough women pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and 14 percent of schools are overcrowded due to exceeding capacity.
During conventions and debates, politicians often speak about how they believe the education system should be fixed. However, in order to make more effective change, students, rather than politicians, should be asked what they believe is wrong with the education system. They are the ones facing those problems firsthand, and learning about students opinions is far more useful for making decisions than relying on mere statistics. Below are eight students' answers to one simple question: What would you change about the American education system?
1. Misbah, Recent Graduate from Bluefield College
“More one on one attention for kids who need it. Especially those that come from broken/addict families. We see that a lot around here [in West Virginia]. They have trouble focusing. I think a lot of the time they just need someone to tell them that they believe in them and to work hard. Teachers can be super biased and judgmental ... There have been studies done in Scandinavian countries ... giving no or less homework is better [than stressing students out with more work]. Actually, [I] went to a presentation by a Finnish professor for it. It was great. They focused more on the child’s happiness, and they didn't have standardized testing. And I think they're number 1 or 2 in education in the world.”
2. Serena, Freshman at Temple University
“I think more emphasis on the creative fields like arts and humanities. Also, encourage good people to go into teaching [as a profession rather than only focusing on 'prestigious' careers]. And less standardized testing."
3. Anonymous, Junior at Bergenfield High School
“Make it more about actually learning and attaining information and not just about getting good grades, which causes a lot of kids to just use Google, copy or cheat.”
4. Zara, Freshman at Cornell University
“If it's less like a cutthroat environment that only allows a certain type of student to do well and instead more forgiving and reflective of all personalities/backgrounds/intelligences, kids will be less stressed, more determined and actually interested in what they're learning. The teachers I've had who made the class interesting [rather than systematic] and made grades and homework secondary to the education part have been the most rewarding. It's easier to compare statistics about how well an education system is based on test scores [and] acceptances ... but it should be ranked based on student happiness and success based on how they feel they have grown and what they've learned.”
5. Hanna, Freshman at St. Petersburg College
"I would change the amount we use technology. Such as in math class and state tests. As millennials, we are already on technology enough. [We stare] at a screen for hours, straining your eyes, becoming lazy [compared to] having an actual paper where you can write, underline important facts in a reading excerpt, and write notes on the side. Work out math problems. Which one would you choose? Also, expecting students to sit down in an actual physical classroom sitting on a computer and learn math from a 'tutor' which is just a cartoon drawing telling you how to complete a math problem while we have an actual teacher in the class is absurd."
6. Tess, Freshman at Marquette University
"What I would change about the education system is just basic and fair funding and funding for after school programs. I'm from the Chicago area and there's been a lot of controversy about the budget along with teacher strikes. Education is the solution to a lot of the city's problems because it promises hope for a better future for kids especially in areas with high gang activity. Keeping the kids in school keeps them off the streets and helps them have the tools to build a better future which would boost the economy in the long run."
7. Emaan, Sophomore at Montclair State University
“Learn relevant things so we can be adults.”
8. Britt, Freshman at Alma College
"If I could change anything about the way our education system is set up, I would group high school classes based on academic ability rather than by graduating year or age or any other factor. Generally, high school classrooms look like this: Most of the students are average, a few of them are below average, some are trouble makers and some are star students who are considered advanced. We group students [by graduating year] in hopes that the best students' behaviors will rub off on the rest of the class but they don't. Instead, the kids who can go through the material faster are held back and those who need to spend more time on topics are overwhelmed by the speed that the material is being covered in classrooms. If we started grouping students by ability, then the best students can move on to more challenging things while other students can go at a pace that is comfortable for them and get the help that they need. Grouping classes by ability will help teachers tailor the classes to the needs of the students without leaving some students behind or slowing down others."
Many of these students agree that the pressure to succeed in school is the most overwhelming issue. Each day we are reminded to succeed, with negative messages implying that failure in school correlates with failure in life. This pressure increases mental health issues in students, including anxiety and depression. Eight out of 10 college students have reported a mental health issue. Also, students feel the need to cheat to keep up with all their work, with over 85 percent of high school students participating in cheating. Students show disinterest in their classes, but a less systematic approach can draw students in. Less pressure can cause more interest in learning and reduce academic dishonesty.
For students to succeed in school, they need free time for activities meant solely for enjoyment. Students at peace are the ones who perform well. The students that Fresh U interviewed stated that they would like more emphasis on both practical and artistic classes. Practical courses include education on money management, legal forms, insurance and other skills needed in the "adult" world. Artistic courses are often deemphasized due to the instability of related careers. However, participation in arts increases intelligence and mental health. It benefits even those who do not plan on having artistic careers.
Nowadays, students are aware of what needs to be fixed in the education system to ensure their success. It is up to those in government positions to listen to these students.
Lead Image Credit: Pexels