Memorizing information is key for students to succeed. Looking at the way information is presented and students are tested reveals this truth. Personally, I still have small mountains of flash cards for those dates and terms that were needed for each class throughout my time in school.
Education has come to the forefront in media since the latest debate over President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVoss. One reason for the coverage is due to the Vice President casting the tie-breaker vote to confirm her for this Cabinet position. This is the first time in history a vice president’s vote has been needed to confirm any Cabinet member.
Opposition exploded from more than a million teachers, parents and concerned citizens through phones and email boxes of senators around the country over this potentially, in my opinion likely, hazardous nomination. Not surprisingly, the Democrats staged a 24-hour protest consisting of lengthy speeches aimed towards those republicans voting yes.
One major issues with this new Sec. of Education is a recent development. During her confirmation hearing in January, DeVoss was asked “So were you unaware when I just asked you about the IDEA that it was a federal law?” by Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., whose son has cerebral palsy. DeVoss looked vacant responding to the question saying, ““I may have confused it.” This is a key law that is so important for all students with disabilities ensuring they get a fair and equal education. The fact she wasn’t immediately aware of the law shows she isn’t up-to-date when it comes to educational standards and programs. This is unacceptable as this is easily one of the most important modern pieces of legislation for any student with a disability and our society.
Further highlighting her detachment from our public-school system are several more issues. Her own children went to private school. This alone has kept her from having firsthand experience with public schooling. She is a billionaire who champions charter schools and vouchers which could divert lots of major funding among other issues. Possibly the most damaging view was brought to light when she called public education a “dead end” and I believe she meant it is broken beyond repair.
The public-school system is broken. There is no doubt about that. Students are swamped with certain periods in history, science basics and grammar that are all going to be on some state or federally mandated test. Schools are punished for students who are absent or just don’t take the test. The schools are also judged on performance which often determines the level of funding schools receive. We them have a self-perpetuating system that teaches to a test. Common-Core standards are helping streamline education by holding students and educators to a kind of “minimum standard” that also keeps education stuck in this system.
The system needs work, a lot of work. This doesn’t mean we can’t make it better. Countless students need the interaction, education and the food and exercise provided by schools. We need to create an environment where students can follow their interests and enjoy the opportunity to express themselves through the arts as well. Rote memorization and endless testing make cogs for the machine but not those who build the machines. Our responsibility to our children and society may well rest on fixing our educational system. Giving up on it is the same as giving up on our future.