Education: A word all politicians use to gain support, something they all promise to do something about yet always stays roughly the same. Why is it that the largest conversation about education has to do with simply adding more money to a budget? Unfortunately, money is something that people understand better than most other things. In most peoples’ minds, the idea of throwing money at something solves the problem and while this may be roughly true for some issues it is definitely not the case for education. Education is a large part of what forms a human mind to go out into the world, the other components being upbringing and personal experience. Education is the only one out of these three that the government has power over and that the people have a choice of what it should be.
The idea of education is a program that serves to enlighten a human mind to the skills and knowledge that will be most effective to better the world and to give them a good life. Why doesn’t this get more focus when the current system in the US is simply failing so many people? We’ve all heard the argument that standardized testing is the enemy and that it emphasizes certain types of intelligence while not others. While this is definitely true it barely chips away at the problem. I believe that in order to really reform education we need to rethink what it means to this country and rebuild the entire system from a few key fundamental blocks. By basing education on a few values rather than a few subjects this will allow education to change with the needs of society. In addition, it will serve to never leave anyone out of the possibilities that education can bring to any subject or interest.
Right now plenty of children and even adults think of education as something that sucks. School is a place you go to to be bored, uninterested, and to waste time. Who can blame them? In order to change the perception of education we first need to redefine it. School shouldn’t be a place you go to to do what you’re told and to learn things that are completely uninteresting to you that you will most likely forget immediately after you take the test. Instead, it should simply be a place to learn. To learn what you’re interested in, to learn things that will actually help you be a self-reliant and effective human, to learn things that will help you be a good, happy, and healthy person.
If we had an education system that emphasized these things, what truly makes up a human being, rather than specific subjects, children and adults would be way happier to attend as well as creating an overall better society. This is something we are in dire need of right now. We have a society that doesn’t emphasize health, self-reliance, or morality and instead emphasizes personal gain, greed, and pleasant experience over everything. Education has to be one of the hearts to bring about the change we so desperately need. Here are the things that I think should be the essential building blocks of an education system that would work for everyone and form a better society:
- Personalized Education
Personalized education means a system that while teaching some basic essentials that everyone needs to learn also emphasizes and encourages individual interests. If a child takes an interest in art, for instance, perhaps half of their time the next school year would be spent on artistic endeavors. This would also hold true for someone who may be interested in math, physical activity, activism, or computers. Whatever the interest may be, they would be allowed to pursue it as well as switch if they like. The idea behind this is that all interests have a place in society so if a child shows an interest we should encourage it and encourage them to take their natural place in the world doing something they enjoy and adding value in their own way.
2. Critical thinking: Teaching Children to Think For Themselves
This is sadly something that lacks severely in the current education system and that you often don’t see until college. Perhaps it’s because the system encourages the average, the mediocre, and wants children to grow up to be another cog in the machine that is already running and working for the people on top. By teaching children to question things and to think for themselves in a critical and logical manner this helps them gain decision-making skills as well as the ability to solve tough problems. This is also a skill that helps people not just follow the crowd and instead come up with their own ideas that might be better than what everyone else is already doing.
Teaching morality is one of the most essential roles the education system can play. I’ve written in previous blog posts about what I think a transcendent moral would be and once one is agreed upon this would be taught in schools from a very young age. Currently, the extent of morality taught is through the vague posters about honesty and friendship which even the teachers probably haven’t thought about fully. They are read over at the beginning of the year and become a backdrop to the spelling quizzes and math tests. It could be argued that a large portion of the problems in society simply comes from immoral behavior so why not teach it in depth as kids grow up so that they have these foundations of what it means to be a good human?
Creativity is something that has been battling to keep the small foothold it has in current school systems for a while now. The current stream of thought seems to be that the STEM fields and football are far more valuable to children than creativity. Why? Because those things bring in money. This is a very unfortunate train of thought to have and an even worse one to follow. Creativity isn’t something that only people who are painting have but one of the things that people appreciate about children the most and, if adults keep their creativity by surviving the school system, something that can solve important problems and add new value to the world which is far more valuable than temporary money to throw back into the cycle of only emphasizing certain subjects.
Open-mindedness goes side by side with critical thinking and creativity. Open-mindedness allows people to not get stuck in their biases and allows them to learn things quicker and without resistance. It also helps personal interaction go more smoothly as people will always have different perceptions of things. If we teach children to be open-minded about everything, we are raising a generation who can have mature conversations with anyone about solving problems and sharing ideas which are fundamental building blocks to a society that progresses and changes based on the well-being of its constituents.
While this should be an obvious factor of education, unfortunately, it takes such a minor role. Currently, the extent of health education in schools is teaching about the MyPlate recommendations, sex-education, and some minor overview of what you should do to stay healthy. Unless you take a nutrition class you don’t learn about how to tell if a food is healthy or not or figuring out how to create a personalized exercise plan which, even then, is quickly forgotten. Instead, we should be teaching about how fresh foods are healthier, about macro and micronutrients, and finding ways to exercise that each person can enjoy from as young of an age as possible.
With these six things, I truly think we could build an education system that emphasizes what’s truly important for an individual and an individual taking their place in a larger society. As a result, we would have healthier, happier, and more moral communities and society as a whole.