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Inclusiveness and efficiency: Why American schools are not the best

by Tegan Mazur - Copy Editor
Mon, Feb 13th 2017 10:30 pm

 Public education is not a subject that should be taken lightly. The next generation is lying in the balance between an effective and ineffective education system. 

So how do we know if our system is working? 

According to the Huffington Post article, "U.S. public schools are not failing. They're among the best in the world," by Steven Singer, we have plenty of evidence to know that our education system is as top notch as it can be at the moment. 

The article reads, "Let me repeat that in no uncertain terms - America's public schools are NOT failing. They are among the best in the world. Really!"

Singer makes several good points about the positive aspects about the United States schooling system. We try very hard to include every single child in America in the schooling system and the reason that our test scores are not as high as other countries is because of the fact that we include all of our students in the scores, not just the ones who do well on testing.

Singer also has enough foresight to take a swing at some of the obvious faults in the American education system like the continued segregation based on race and class and the obvious lack of resources given to poor students. He also comments on America's varied range of curriculum and education in humanities and arts, where other countries don't.

What strikes me as a little too savior complex in Singer's article is his praising of special education in America, how special education students are included in the education system as well, unlike other countries. The whole notion comes off as a big pat on the back that isn't deserved. 

In fact, the whole notion that America has this overall fantastic, unstoppable force of an all-inclusive benevolent education system is a hard pill to swallow. I would certainly agree the American education system does a good job at times of trying to include everyone in the system. However, like Singer said, there is still a deplorable amount of segregation and class-based inequality present in the school system. It is not appropriate to brush that aside in the matter of a few sentences so you can resume your praising of a system stacked against the poor.

Not to mention the fact that today's job market is moving rapidly towards one where a high school diploma will get you less and less. According to the The Atlantic article, "The Growing College-Degree Wealth Gap," by Mikhail Zinshteyn, "Graduates who hailed from households with incomes of at least $116,000 — the top quarter — represented more than half of all the degrees awarded in 2014 among 24-year-olds." 

So public education, even if it is offered to everyone, is only a one way ticket to the place you were born in unless you can get your hands on enough money for a college degree. Wow, the American education system sure is great!

Singer also talks a lot about test scores around the world and how America stacks up against other countries in this regard and why. Sure, we don't exactly top the charts and Singer explains it's because we include all our students in the scores not just the high scoring ones, but does any of this matter? It seems education should be far less about scores and more about education. As a nation and as a society overall, it seems like we've arrived at this conclusion that the only way to measure the success of education is through standardized testing. Framing education like that is just not the way to go about it.  It creates an environment where students have to focus on getting an "A" grade no matter the cost.

The problem with Singer's praise of the American education system is not the inclusion of all students. I would agree that the U.S. does a fairly decent job of trying to educate every child it can, but that alone does not make our system great by any means. I would say the problem with American schools is something endemic of many countries; the pressure to perform. From kindergarten to senior year of high school and potentially into college we are taught and conditioned to attach worth and value to high test grades. 

Americans love to think we're the best; it's one of our favorite pastimes, but things don't improve when we only think we're doing well. We have to be critical of everything if we want it to be the best it can be. This goes for education, too. Singer's main point is that we are a great nation for education because we teach everyone, but just because we teach everyone doesn't mean we teach everyone the same, or even that we teach them well. 

Test scores are supposed to be a method for measuring learning, not a method for teaching. 

If we teach everyone, but we don't give them all the same opportunities, it's just as bad as if we, like other countries, didn't teach some. A step in the right direction, sure, but if we fail one student, we fail them all.


teganh83@gmail.com