The BIG Problem with Public Education and How To Fix It

I am currently a dual enrollment student at the University of West Florida who advocates for freedom, especially as it relates to the educational choices of an individual. Today I write to you to express the shortcomings of the public education system that I have fallen victim to personally, as well as a proposition of action for the betterment of the system. The issue at hand is the complete restriction of creative expression of a child when they are herded (like sheep) through a conveyor belt-like education. The pitfall is not in setting competitive standards for education, but it is the implementation of deciding what is “important” to learn in the first place.  Every individual is unique with their own desires, curiosities, and creative expressions. Who is to say that understanding mathematics is more important than learning how to paint? Who is to say that you are smart if you excel in STEM and not in poetry or vice-versa? Throughout my education, I have been force-fed academia that did not interest me, but I was told would benefit me. When I didn’t get an A on my calculus test I was looked down on, why? Because the current model of education tells me that I am supposed to get it. That, in order to succeed and be a “well-rounded” individual I must understand that the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell and that S/R = theta. Point being, as humans we should have the freedom to decide what is important to learn and what isn’t. As humans, we should be allowed to follow our curiosities instead of devoting the precious resource of time to memorization of content solely to pass the next exam in a subject that doesn’t fulfill us at all. For illustration, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has projected that 82% of all public schools are “failing.” This is because the system is measuring success and failure rates through standardized test scores. However, the tests themselves largely only test an individual’s memorization skills and test-taking abilities. Public education has become fixated on teaching for the score (i.e. ACT/SAT) rather than bringing out the natural intelligence of every child. Society as a whole has adopted the mindset that in order to be successful you need a formal education, but I argue that formal education is the worst course of action for any young individual to take.

To combat this curiosity stifling education I propose that either compulsory education laws be uplifted or that the current education model be completely dismantled and rebuilt for the modern age. Compulsory education laws make it illegal for a student to take education into their own hands and follow their curiosities, but as a human, it is their right to choose what they learn and how they learn. By uplifting a law that controls a child’s ability to play a part in formal education or not, is essential for allowing them to learn on their own accord. However, I deem that not necessary if the education system is reconstructed to equip an individual for the ever-advancing Gig economy – an economy in which specialization and personal branding are becoming more and more relevant. I advocate for actions to be taken for the advancement of more individualized learning that accommodates for the will of the learner, and only for the will of the learner. By allowing an individual to run into their curiosities, real education will take place, not memorization. But more than that, the genesis of a life-long learner will be forged. For an example course of action to make this a reality, think a publicized Montessori approach.

With that said, I do respect the arguments of compulsory education advocates as well as modern public education advocates.  Their belief that formal schooling is needed because it acts as a guiding hand for students who are unable to guide themselves is a valid point of benefit in certain scenarios. However, who is to say who knows better for that child? For the majority of individuals who just learn what they want, the practice of not holding back their curiosity results in a deep-rooted drive to learn more. The need for strategic systemized boxes of content does not exist because the practice of learning by living is much more effective. For example, when a child is interested in computers, if we allowed that child to play on computers all day long to the point where they questioned how the computer worked, they would then be exposed to programming. Then, if we allowed them to get consumed in programming instead of making them focus on other forms of content, they would learn how to program very quickly. Now, some might say, “Well that’s great, but the child doesn’t know how to do anything else.” I have two responses to that, one being that when the child learns that way, they are also learning how to read, write, do mathematics, and think critically in order to write an efficient block of code. Two is that the market demands coders. If you know how to code and you love it, you can get paid for it if you are good at it, and at that point who cares if you don’t know anything about biology?

Others argue that formal education is necessary for everyone to have an equal opportunity. When people argue that, they are referring to the resources that formal education gives students of all backgrounds. One way to work around the need for resources is by still supplying resources to kids, but by leveraging the technology of today to act as the catalyst for those resources. Beyond that, thanks to Google, YouTube, SkillShare, Udemy, Khan Academy, etc. knowledge is at the fingertips of any individual that wants to tap into it, for free. With the technology of today and the freedom to follow your curiosity, I truly believe that every individual can take control of their own education and learn what they need to learn to fulfill their passions while also developing marketable skills.