I typed up a quick response to the "Advise the Advisor" program on education from the White House, but unfortunately it was 1,277 characters too long. Whoops! Oh well, I trimmed it down to more of what they were looking for (math and science strengths), and copied it to put up here. As a quick disclaimer, you may have already heard some of this before in my last post about American education.
Here's the prompt:
In order to compete for the jobs of the 21st century, America’s students must be prepared with a strong background in reading, math and science along with the critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity needed to succeed in tomorrow’s workforce. How has your education prepared you for a career in the 21st century? What has worked and what challenges do you face?
And my original, lengthy, and slightly off-topic response:
My education thus far (currently a college student) has been somewhat lackluster. I think I, and many others, learned more general concepts at shallow levels than detailed knowledge at deeper levels - and I'm a former AP student, current Honors college student. If I doubt the quality of my education, what are others experiencing?
In the math and sciences dept, I feel that students could really gain from an emphasis on practical aspects as well as more rigorous standardized exams (most students will agree, standardized tests are a joke for the majority of the student population - I will address working with the students who can't keep up momentarily).
In English, students need to focus on 2 major pursuits - writing and reading. Simple enough? Not for many. I say have students write VERY often, which is key to building communication skills. Reading should be a balance of classics and contemporary works, both fiction and nonfiction. Students will retain reading lessons more by having critical-thinking assignments on readings, and can also benefit from supplemental content (for instance, watching a live version of a play read for class, with a discussion on the similarities/differences right after).
History can be taught easier if students are taught how to study it better. Most kids can get good grades in history by merely assembling a study guide of main concepts and relating them to one another. Unfortunately, many students don't realize things like this, and then spend outrageous amounts of time getting lost in readings. Again, critical thinking assignments will boost knowledge acquisition.
Foreign languages need more emphasis in schools. All students should be learning something language-wise, even if it's ASL (probably the least emphasized). However, curriculum needs an overhaul. In the short-term, we can see greater rates of bi, tri, or poly-lingual students if we push for more immersion-based classes from the beginning, and trim fat by cutting down on "busy work" - which runs rampant in foreign language classes.
Greater math and science skills can be encouraged by having more students take computer science classes. Computer science helps students work in our technology-saturated world, builds critical thinking abilities, and reinforces mathematical concepts. Big victories, in my opinion.
We need to emphasize the arts just as much as we do sports. An artistic background encourages creative thinking and requires absolute dedication to perfection. Think about it: in a musical performance, a single flaw can ruin an entire tune beyond repair. If students can learn this behavior and apply it to their studies (and lives), we'll have a nation of productivity masters within a generation.
As for dealing with so-called "problem students" who frequently under-perform on exams (and all too often drop out of school early), their problems stem from a few root causes: poor family situations, a lack of self-confidence, and inexperience with studying and managing time effectively. While the education system may not be able to directly attack the former issue, it can work with the latter two. One program with a history of success in this area is AVID. As a student with a few friends who are AVID high school alumni, I'm actually jealous of the supportive environment and resources they were given - and I was often "beaten" academically by AVID students. Can we expand this program, or create more like it?
That may be long, but as a student I take education seriously - as do many of my peers. You may not hear it much from High schoolers or below, but most students really do have an interest in learning something and getting somewhere through education. Please feel free to contact me with a response!
I'd love to hear what other people have to say! Until next time!