Recently, legislators in Oklahoma voted to ban AP U.S. History from high schools because it does not display “American exceptionalism,” but rather, “what’s bad about America.” Aside from the issues of offering objectivity in education and acknowledging the fact that America does in fact do wrong sometimes, it speaks to a larger problem with public education. The government fails the K-12 system with its educational standards, and it’s not just kids who feel the effects—college students do, too.
The faces behind these institutional changes may or may not be qualified to make such important decisions. Congressional leaders propose resolutions about education, but most have not been in public school for a while and don’t understand what effects their efforts may have. They should be commended for thinking about the “little people” and their education, as America’s next generation of legislators, business owners, and intellectuals come from our age group. However, only some of them have the experience necessary to make institutional changes in education policy.
In the K-12 system, the federal government pushed public schools to adopt the Common Core curriculum, standards designed to remedy the failures of the current educational system. Almost every state has adopted the standards, which focus on English and mathematics. Some critics of the initiative believe that it emphasizes rote memorization and test-taking rather than learning and critical thinking, a failure of the public education system that has become a bigger problem and sparked numerous debates throughout the years.
With the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), a non-partisan educational organization that implemented Common Core and makes decisions regarding public education, you have a group of people who are versed in the language of educational administration. Their board of directors is full of individuals who have experience teaching in public schools, served as superintendents on public school boards, and have degrees in educational administration.
Some of the educators on the board haven’t been in a classroom regularly for over a decade, and times certainly change. With each school year, public education caters to a different audience. It’s important to keep up with that to ensure that the quality of education remains excellent by asking superintendents nationally to contribute to working on a standard of education that all public schools should be held to. Common Core is a good step in the sense that it places an emphasis on changing currently failing education standards, but it’s not enough.
At the college level, indignation directed at the government revolves around tuition hikes and budget cuts. Unfortunately, policymakers will always be in charge of allocating funds to public education. However, if educators were able to advise policymakers on how funds would be spent in public education, and show the impact of it on American society, it may change minds. Offering a new perspective and how far the dollar can be stretched by educators who are aware of what goes on in the field may profoundly influence decision-makers.
Another point of contention for college students lies in how unprepared they feel coming into secondary education. For many public school students who experienced the textbook, standardized-tests-and-busy-work education, college sometimes provides a shock with the increased emphases on individual study, critical thinking, and research. It would be ideal if we can change primary education so as to actually set students up to be prepared to be successful students in college.
CCSSO seems to be a good place to start when it comes to establishing guidelines for public education, but they are years outdated. What’s best would be to draw from the experiences of public school educators: those who work face-to-face with students each day, who understand the needs of the classroom. Have them analyze what needs to be improved to have an environment conducive to a proper education. Make those improvements, implementing them to make subjects more interactive, exploratory, and stick in students’ heads. Teach them how to think rather than what to think. Draw from students (not all students would recommend six periods of napping and an extra-long lunch as amends to public education). Educators and students alike understand that the point of school is to learn and prepare ourselves for careers and shaping the future.