The United States of America is commonly referred to as “the greatest country in the world.” Yet in education, it is considerably subpar. This is to no surprise, however, as there has been an increasing number of students and teachers to complain about the system in place today, and why it is not meeting their expectations. Students learn to memorize in American classrooms, and teachers lose their passion because of their inability to make a difference. CEO’s and heads of businesses profit from their young, ill-minded workers, while those who are desperate to make a change can only watch it happen.
From its factory-like aspects to the capitalistic mindset, the future of American education must include more funding, passionate teaching, and better preparation for students.
The Department of Education was founded in 1867, with the goal of standardizing and implementing education across the country. During this time, in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, was when public schools began to appear. Factories were the main source of profit, and the work that needed to be done, had to be done efficiently. This is where the term “factory model of education” comes from. The factory model of education was used back then to teach students obedience and compliance through schooling. Students were taught to become factory workers. This type of education is still with us today, through standardized testing and “assembly-line” teaching.
The use of standardized testing can be seen as a way to create a “uniform product”, as said by Valerie Strauss, a reporter who covers the practice, politics, and psychology of education. Standardized tests, which are multiple choice tests, “…fail to account for students who learn and demonstrate academic proficiency in different ways” (Effects of Standardized Testing). It is a one-size-fits-all achievement test that also affects teachers due to the preparation to teach for the test, rather than teach the subject.
Similarly, the “assembly-line” style of teaching used in classrooms today also caters to only one type of human intelligence, of which there are multiple. As Strauss states, “…a system that forces students to learn things, often at an inappropriate pace, does a great deal to inhibit real learning” (Strauss).
Both methods are outdated and meant to be efficient, not effective, akin to a factory.
Today, the public education system has been influenced by the capitalization and privatization in America. The capitalistic mindset in the United States is not necessarily bad; however, it robs those who cannot afford a quality education. This lack of funding in the public-school section has caused a dramatic loss of teachers, as well as a negative impact on student learning.
Qualified teachers, the guiding figures throughout school, have become exceptionally hard to find, which can be attributed to a variety of reasons from low salary to dissatisfaction with testing pressures. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, teachers make anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000 a year (Digest of Education Statistics). Those living in low-income areas make less and are sometimes forced to buy their own supplies for their class. Teachers also must deal with the pressure of teaching for the test, which is commonly used to determine whether a teacher is “good” or “bad”, regardless of how the teacher is.
Teacher attrition, which is the gradual process of losing teachers without replacement, is about “…twice as high [in the USA] as in high-achieving jurisdictions like Finland, Singapore, and Ontario, Canada” (Carver-Thomas, Darling-Hammond). The teacher turnover rate, which is the rate which teachers change schools or professions, is high, especially in the south where there are lower salaries and less advantages to being a teacher. These have caused a shortage of qualified teachers because they have sensed they receive no help as compared to other careers. “Teachers are the number one in-school influence on student achievement,” and the replacements for these teachers are unqualified candidates who harm academic performance (Carver-Thomas, Darling-Hammond).
With fewer teachers and an ever-growing population, there are going to be fuller classrooms run by inexperienced adults, who have no passion in education, and they will be seen as a role models for their students.
The educational system is flawed, which endangers the future of the United States as a whole. With the youth being those who will lead in the coming times, having them being set up for failure is a wrongdoing. Schools spew out lost adults and the system destroys those who are vehement about helping them. While there is no clear solution for how to handle the problem, there are steps that can be implemented to guide the country in the right direction. These include more funding, passionate teaching, and better preparing students.
The lack of funding in the school system is an issue more complex than it seems. The root of the problem would be the privatization of schools, and the way the federal government chooses to fund schools. Simply put, parents are incentivized to enroll their children in private schools, which are normally high-performing schools, through scholarships, school transfers, or school vouchers. These programs are federally funded, and they are taken out of the funds sent to public schooling, making public schools lose money. The schools are then stuck in a loop: a student transfers to a private school, a low-performing public school loses money causing teachers to quit, and the low-performing public school performs worse as a result (The Problem with American Education). Instead of funding students to go to private schools, which do not need the money as they have the tuition costs paid by parents, the federal government should fund public schools as they are meant to do. This allows the low-performing public schools to gather the resources and materials they need to help ensure quality education to their students. Ulrich Boser, the CEO and founder of the “Learning Agency” and the “Learning Agency Lab”, along with Carmel Martin and Meg Benner, claim that when “…[s]tates invest in their public schools and create more equitable school finance systems, student achievement levels rise, and the positive effects are even greater among low-income students” (A Quality Approach to School Funding). Investing and funding more into our public schools only guarantees students receive a satisfactory education.
This lack of funding has created a snowball effect, in terms of the teachers in schools. Teachers are being replaced by unqualified employees who, at no fault of their own, have worsened student performance and achievement levels. In comparison to Finland’s education system, whose students have ranked number one on math and science on the Program for International Student Assessment, “[a]ll teachers are required to have a master’s degree” (Colagrossi 10 Reasons Why). Colagrossi also mentions that “[t]eaching programs are the most rigorous and selective professional schools in the entire country” (10 Reasons Why). With such hard requirements, becoming a teacher in Finland requires one to be passionate about their career, which has proven to be extraordinarily beneficial in teaching students. Compared to Finland, the US’s requirements to become a teacher are not anywhere near as hard. Each state has their own requirements, but they all require a bachelor’s degree — held in any subject — and must pass a required state exam. While our teachers may still be educated, they are not required to be taught anything education based. This seems concerning as teachers are expected, not only to appropriately deal with students, but to be able to effectively teach a subject they know well. On top of that, the teacher shortage and the ongoing pandemic of Coronavirus have overwhelmed schools to the point of hiring underqualified teachers. The teachers in America seem to limit student productivity and performance, while having professionally trained, motivated teachers has shown to positively affect student academics.
Lastly, students in the United States are not prepared to enter society after high school. They are taught from a young age to go to school so they can graduate and head off to college. Many will find themselves with overwhelming debt after seemingly forcing themselves to study for a degree of a career in which they have no interest in. Students are produced in a factory like manner, only to be shipped off to college, to then work for the rest of their lives. During their schooling, they are given minimal to almost no information about other options after graduating, such as internships, gap years, the military, or even heading straight into the workforce. There are community colleges and vocational schools for those who would not want to go to a traditional four-year college (Shaffer Alternatives to Traditional College). Yet these options are not taught or told explicitly in school. Obtaining a degree is not required in the United States, as opposed to other countries, however, it does feel expected. Students must be educated properly, about their options, by schools. The information taught in schools is not inadequate; basic math, reading, and writing skills are needed. However, students are not prepared to enter society after graduating. A common complaint is that of not being able to file taxes, and this is due to the fact of the government refusing to allow it to happen.
The future of American education is based on — what everyone desires — money. The better funded schools are allows teachers to be maintained and better trained, which leads to positive student performance. However, in the state the system is currently in, public schools have failed their students. The factory model of education is outdated and should be discarded immediately as the population increases. The federal government should increase funding to public schools to allow teachers and students alike to prosper. Teachers themselves should be passionate and motivated to teach and help students learn. Education is important because those who are educated allow society to function highly. Students walk the stage at graduation, to then be lost in their own mind because school has failed to teach them about what to do next.
Carver-Thomas, Desiree, and Linda Darling-Hammond. “Teacher Turnover: Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It.” Learning Policy Institute, 16 Aug. 2017, learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/teacher-turnover-report. Accessed 28 April 2021.
Chen, Grace. “A Relevant History of Public Education in the United States.” Public School Review, Public School Review, 22 Jan. 2012, www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/a-relevant-history-of-public-education-in-the-united-states. Accessed 28 April 2021.
Colagrossi, Mike. “10 Reasons Why Finland’s Education System Is the Best in the World.” World Economic Forum, www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/09/10-reasons-why-finlands-education-system-is-the-best-in-the-world. Accessed 28 April 2021.
“Digest of Education Statistics, 2017.” National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page, a Part of the U.S. Department of Education, U.S Department of Education, nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d17/tables/dt17_211.60.asp. Accessed 28 April 2021
“Effects of Standardized Testing on Students & Teachers: Key Benefits & Challenges.” Effects of Standardized Testing on Students & Teachers | American University, American University, 2 July 2020, soeonline.american.edu/blog/effects-of-standardized-testing. Accessed 28 April 2021.
Shaffer, Suzanne. “Alternatives to Traditional College.” CollegiateParent, Collegiate Parent, 20 Dec. 2019, www.collegiateparent.com/high-school/alternatives-to-traditional-college/. Accessed 28 April 2021
Strauss, Valerie. “American Schools Are Modeled after Factories and Treat Students like Widgets. Right? Wrong.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Apr. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/10/10/american-schools-are-modeled-after-factories-and-treat-students-like-widgets-right-wrong/. Accessed 28 April 2021.
“The Problem with American Education.” YouTube, Second Thought, 19 Mar. 2021, youtu.be/e7sN11tjhNo. Accessed 28 April 2021.
Boser, Ulrich, et al. “A Quality Approach to School Funding.” Center for American Progress, American Progress, 13 Nov. 2018, www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/reports/2018/11/13/460397/quality-approach-school-funding/. Accessed 28 April 2021