What's with the American Education System?
Updated: Apr 5
Published in Watch Magazine on November 2, 2020
I keep all my old tests in a box that sits in the attic, untouched and collecting dust until I take out all the work in my binders each year. Now I could get rid of this box easily; however, I always want it there in case I need to look at something from my previous years of diligently taking notes on the Peloponnesian War or scribbling the quadratic formula down on each Algebra II test. But maybe I should cut my losses and throw that box away. When my mom’s book club holds a meeting (by the way I’ve never seen a single person holding a book, only wine and cheese), I don’t hear anything from my box being discussed. Mitosis just doesn’t seem to be the stimulating conversation of the evening. The regular topics are relationships, finances, and politics, things that generally just aren’t taught in school. Almost always, I hear complaining. “My husband did this,” “The stock market did that,” “Can you believe where this country is heading?!” Maybe adults wouldn’t be talking so much about these problems if they were prepared to encounter such real life situations when they were in school. We, as the younger generation, are heading down the same path because we are just as, if not more, unprepared for life than our parents were.
The main issue that tends to show itself when looking at the education system in America is the severe lack of finance and economic education. I can say with full confidence, even with my sixteen years of life – 5840 days, wouldn’t you know – that I have no idea what the heck insurance is. But I doubt that I’m alone, according to a report done by the Council for Economic Education, only seventeen states require a course in economics and twenty-two require a course in personal finances. Most schools do offer voluntary classes like Microeconomics or Econ 101. But then again, how many students take those kinds of non-compulsory classes? Not very many, and it’s not helping, according to another survey done by the Council, whose data suggests little increase in economics education and no growth in personal finances. Guess I missed the class on insurance and taxes (1040EZ, anyone?). Don’t think we are not losing extreme benefits here. A better education on these kinds of topics would lead to greater savings for retirement, reduced personal debt, and better credit scores. So hold my copy of Grapes of Wrath, I won’t be needing to keep it. Unless of course, the Dust Bowl returns, then give it back immediately.
Last year as a sophomore, I learned how to graph f(t) as a function of time. But more importantly, this year I’m a junior with a backpack that won’t even close all the way, everyday thinking, “Wow! I really should have learned how to manage my time better; f(t), you did me dirty.” Apparently, learning how to graph a function in time doesn’t help you actually function in time. Who woulda thunk? Emphasis on self-care and how to navigate a good balance between work and life needs to be better incorporated into our curriculum, and not just for 30 minutes, during a few freshman study halls. Many of us have sports, activities, and extracurriculars that we dedicate our time to after school. It’s so difficult to find a balance between that and the intense amount of schoolwork that comes with high school. Hang on, let me rephrase that. It’s not just high school that I’m looking at here. Finding a balance between work and life is something that I’m going to need for – I don’t know – the rest of my life? Down the road, I’d say knowing my limits and developing a good work ethic is more helpful towards my job or career than graphing f(t) in all her algebraic glory. The trouble is, we’re expected to teach ourselves good self-care habits; it’s not something we “learn;” it’s something we automatically “do.” Hello, frazzled mental state, I know you’re tired, but if you could pretty please just magically manage your time better? Yeah, I don’t see that happening.
You know, any time I talk to any adult, a family member or a friend, the first question – and I mean the first question – they ask me is, “Ananya, what are you thinking about college?” You know, I can’t really blame them; I guess I’m at that age now when they can’t really say “Wow, look how big you’ve grown!” I know my mom posts pictures of me on her Facebook daily, and they probably already know that I haven’t grown any taller. Usually when I get asked those types of questions, I give a solid answer of “You know, I have absolutely no clue.” That usually ends the conversation quickly, and I can sigh in relief. Although, I do think that I am luckier than most, as I at least have an idea of what career path I want to take; I just have no idea how to get there. We’re lucky though, see, College Counseling at Porter, it being a college preparatory school and all, is pretty good. But what about at public schools? Many of the public schools simply don't have enough school counselors to help students with post-secondary plans.
For Christmas this year, I want peace, goodwill, and a bigger push towards college support services for all. Oh, and maybe some help in choosing a school, applying to that school, knowing what I need to do to get into my dream school, paying for my school, choosing a major, knowing what I should expect from college life, and registering for scholarships. Just some ideas, Santa dearest. I’m not alone it seems, the 2018 online survey of 1,000 U.S. students conducted in partnership with MMR Research Associates says that only 41% of high school students can say that they are “very” or “extremely” prepared for college. That’s kind of a meager number considering how much of a looming, dooming presence college has had our whole lives. School should be helping us find our interests and what we’re good at, taking us down that route as early as possible. Thank God for extracurriculars like Watch. Aside from the fact that I like to write, I get to use this article as an excuse for not doing my calculus homework – Amen.
You know what’s the scariest thing? It feels like my future is dictated by one body out to get me. The College Board is a “not for profit” organization that dictates the SAT, ACT, and any other acronym that terrorizes our lives. Aside from that, the College Board is a vital part of the college application process. Since they have this monopoly over the education system and college admissions, there's basically nowhere to run. If I may just go ahead and say it, CollegeBoard hides under the false pretenses of “education.” In reality, the College Board is an evil genius money-making organization that profits off of the anxiety students feel for college.
I could go on and on about the College Board, but I’d be keeping you here forever. Right now I want to spotlight the financial side: the SAT is $48, and $65 with an essay. Think about every high school student taking the test this year. You’re getting your fill, aren’t you College Board? The SAT is costly, making it not accessible to everyone. To make matters worse, every AP subject test costs $22-26 to take, along with a registration fee of $26. Want to send your scores out? Another $11.25. Essentially, it's a money-draining vampire organization. My point? College Board, the “education” center of America, is kind of a scam.
Aside from financial shortcomings, the education system built by the great College Board, fails in so many different ways on the whole. The whole concept of the SAT makes me literally want to curl up in a ball and cry to my teddy bear. So you’re telling me I’m being judged on my intelligence based off of a four-part test? One section where I have to read several passages on Sheila and her pet dog, another one choosing the correct placement of commas in a sentence, and the other two seeing whether I can do math with or without a calculator? Kind of insulting, not going to lie. Also, the most unsettling fact about the SAT is that one doesn’t even have to be “intelligent” to get a good score. One simply has to be good at test-taking. For people with an amazing GPA but horrible test-taking skills, it’s a losing situation. The fact that this one test plays such a huge part in my college process is scary because the test is just not a fair measure of intelligence. The problem is few schools are willing to take a step back from the longtime emphasis on the SAT. However, in recent years, California schools have made it known that they are putting less importance on standardized testing; however, none of the other states have followed suit. But Kudos to you, California schools; you’re true pioneers. You may be the first of your kind to oppose such a broken system!
I know I sound like I’m just on a rant, but I can't sit here and offer solutions to the problems with America’s education system. Truth? I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Folks, I hate to say it, but as of right now, I don’t think there’s any formula – not even the quadratic formula – that can solve the flawed system of American education.