Education reform is essential for a better world

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“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of the future.” -Maria Montessori

Every now and then I think about the public education system and how different my education felt when I was a child compared to my experiences with school today. Junior high was the first time I entered a public school. Before that, I would go to school with my mother, who was a teacher, at The Montessori Academy of Arlington starting at three years old. I do not believe my happy memories of Montessori education are a product of nostalgia. Montessori education taught me to be independent and approach things at my own pace. Montessori exercised ideals such as kindness, creativity, and patience. I remember loving teachers who knew our names by memory and treated us tiny humans with dignity and respect.

Today, however, education is very different, specifically my high school education. Most days I feel like I am not given the autonomy to control my schedule and learning. Education feels less heartfelt and increasingly cold. There seems to be less humanity. Along with that, many teachers do not feel qualified to teach their students. I have had a handful of teachers who use their position as power over their students. I have also had numerous run ins with teachers who believe that their class is far more important than other classes. Just because you’ve taught for the last fifty years does not give you the privilege of taking priority over other teachers, nor does it make you a better teacher. If you know the material well but don’t know how to make a positive impact on a student’s life than you have failed. If you haven’t gotten the hints by now, I’m not very fond of my past four years of high school.

At the beginning of the year I was excited for the new AP art class. Art is one of the classes compulsory in my schedule throughout my four years in high school. If there’s one thing I know for certain about myself, it’s that I’m good at art. However, AP art left me disappointed. We were required to complete 24 total pieces, 12 for each semester. Each piece should be finished in a week and a half to two weeks. This time frame made my works come out rushed. To me, art should take time. It isn’t something that should be mass produced. I don’t understand how you can ruin something as innocent and pure as art and turn it into another standardized school subject. The only classes I enjoyed my senior year were my classes with Mr. Den Hartog in English Literature and Newspaper with Ms. Miller. Mr. Den Hartog gave me a new understanding of English class and made it more fluid and engaging. He seemed to genuinely care about his relationship with his students. And Ms. Miller’s class is always enjoyable because she treats us like adults and gives us the autonomy to voice our interests in the school paper.

My problems with public school are as listed: the current school system gives students too much stress. Students are forced to sit in school for eight hours and five days a week and expected to stay still while absorbing large amounts of information in just the span of an hour and 30 minutes. This doesn’t take into account the students that have learning disabilities such as dyscalculia and dyslexia, as well as interruptive conditions that make it difficult to stay focused such as ADHD. Schools teach you that there is only one right answer. Schools teach you useless things such as: advanced mathematics when you know the field you are going to pursue won’t require any of that, abstinence (fear tactics) instead of teaching how to use contraception and safe sex methods, and useless historical facts instead of teaching us the importance of voting, how to register, financial literacy, and how to develop and maintain a good credit score. Teachers and assistant principals demand maturity from students only to the extent that it makes their lives easier. If you expect us to act like adults, why don’t we get the benefits of being adults along with it?

During my time in high school I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve learned that grades are numbers and are not a measure of your overall accomplishments. I’ve learned that the best learning experiences come from outside of school and in the time you spend with friends and family. I’ve learned that zero tolerance policies and collective punishments do more damage than good.

Finally, I believe schools need to adopt a more liberal and less traditional way of getting students to learn. We should focus on the arts and humanities just as much as we focus on subjects such as English and math. Teachers should encourage students to carve out their own paths and work creatively. The Montessori Method should be inserted into public schools all around the country. School should be fun to go to. Students should be interested in the subjects they study. It should be a place where children feel safe. The children in schools right now are the people that are going to be leading the world in the future and their education should take priority. We should not tell children that their goals are not realistic and turn them into callous machines. Instead, we should be encouraging children to pursue their dreams and to not lose hope in reaching their life goals; that nothing is beyond their grasp.

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