Today's School's Leave Room For Improvement 

Webster's New American Dictionary defines school as "an institution for learning and education." Just as much is learned about the social world and human psychology as are traditional educational topics. School, especially at the high school level, is a place to find a role in society and learn to communicate successfully. Preparation for career goals is also a main focus. However, as a 16-year-old high school sophomore, I have noticed more than a few discrepancies between education's goals, and its actual accomplishments. 

Inadequacies are widely due to the social pressures high school inflicts, but there are problems with the educational system as well. One highly problematic area is the competition for both grades and status. While status influences are more societal than able to be solved by any system, competition for grades can be changed. Social competition within the educational environment is student-inflicted. Conflict that often arises between students distracts from school's goals. Plainly, student relationships can make or break an educational experience. Unfortunately, the disrespect that too many are displaying towards other students, teachers, and themselves cannot be solved as can other minor quirks in the system. 

The way to solve problems in education is to get to the root of behavior that negatively impacts on others' schooling experience. Youth behavior is the result of the media, parents, tradition, and a multitude of sources that cannot be suppressed. The problem is societal. If social status, fear of violence, or disrespect detracts from learning, then serious changes in education and common society need to be made. May 10th's issue of Newsweek emphasizes that "lines drawn by teenagers are frequently unfair, often hurtful, and generally enforced by physical and psychological intimidation." This kind of treatment should not be suffered by any student. 

The tragedy at Columbine High School shows exactly how a misled school and community can turn disastrous. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's actions displayed, among other things, the effects media influences and an out-of-control social hierarchy had. The outcast students were verbally and physically abused by classmates, while, strangely enough, little administrative action was taken. Threats to students should not be taken lightly. When this happens, students lose faith in an authority that is supposed to protect them. 

As for academic competition, students should be encouraged to strive to reach their best, and not be sorted and categorized by a recognition-hungry system. A modern educational program should allow for a personal, individual school experience. Class size should be small to maximize the time a teacher can spend with a student, and fairness should be actively pursued. Too often are students compared by ability, past experiences, and gender. Impartiality should be a goal in cases of censorship, the stifling of personal style, sexism, and favoritism by teachers. 

School should provide a forum for interested students to discuss current events and topics that matter to students. Traditional History and Math are important too, but if we have no emotion or understanding of the world around us, then we will not be able to apply our academic skills to real life situations. More choices as to classes should also be granted. Colleges should consider adjusting their requirements to interests. A student that detests Science should not be required to take four years of the subject in high school in order to attend University of Michigan. This only causes resentment and apathy towards the educational system we are intended to be an integral part of. Students often need to be able to justify the usefulness of a topic for success. Heightened interest in education that an altered system could bring may be enough to improve student attitude, and even reduce the in-school violence that the nation has recently been plagued with. 

Public education has the potential to teach far beyond its current goals. Changing the schools America is familiar with could revolutionize the country. It sounds idealistic, maybe it is, but we cannot assume that we've reached the optimal level of education. Action needs to be taken to modify education, to turn the focus towards student needs, and away from placing a monetary value on knowledge. 
By Andrea M. Swalec   


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