Education: A Gift or an Obligation
Education is presented as a goal and opportunity given to all students. Perhaps, unlike past generations who went to school to get an education to better themselves, this generation of students has become lethargic or even – shamefully – lazy. Not to condemn the right to an education, but what if those who truly wish to be educated are being brought to lower standards by those around them? Schools ought to be a little selective – a bigger challenge – raise the expectations and students will rise to meet them if they truly wish to be educated. The problem lies in many sources: the cultural snares of students, low expectations, perpetual blame placed upon instructors, and the “promote to remove” policies that degrade education. Learning begins at home: a common saying that can actually be construed to mean a lot more. When a child grows in an environment that does not value education how can they be expected to pursue anything more than the education necessary to get a job? Sherman Alexie explains in his essay – “Superman and Me” – about his Native American childhood that he was expected to be stupid and to rise above his culture’s stereotype would be to somehow betray his people.
Often the word “uppity” is used for people like Alexie who do not remain tethered by the history of their ancestors. The only way to fix this problem is to directly talk to parents and to elders in a culture, asking them to stop holding their children back because of their prejudices about themselves. Our school systems do not ask enough of students – you cannot make a child do that which they have no desire to accomplish. Why ask a student to take an extra course, for instance, when they will answer within their realm of possibilities – which in most cases is just to survive? David S. Broder’s “A Model for High Schools” showed a situation where students voluntarily are given the opportunity for an education. The students in the program were “high school dropouts…marked as hopeless losers,” who decided that they wanted more for themselves and were willing to take part in an exclusive and rigorous experience.
Blame cannot be placed entirely on teachers; schools need educated instructors who truly want to help students reach their goals, but the monetary message that is sent out contradicts. Then the teachers we do have are asked to perform the miracle of learning while also being placed under strict supervision and asked to meet quotas of passed students. When a teacher has a “problem student” rather than failing them, the student is passed on for someone else to deal with so that the teacher will not be poorly evaluated for “leaving a child behind.” What Emerson spoke of in his essay on education was an idea that will not be allowed to exist if schools continue as they are now. We no longer allow geniuses to come to us; we pool all of our students together in a giant hodgepodge of abilities and hope against hope that one of them makes it to the global workforce. As Dr.
Cameron White explained in “Morally Panicked,” modern education focuses on “the ultimate goal of preparing our youth for the world of work.” Our schools “should not be timid and keep the ruts of the last generation” but instead remove truancy laws and work to make education seem plausible to youth (Emerson). Requiring school only leads to lowered standards as systems try to make up for the “dull sailors” (Emerson). Exclusivity would give schools the opportunity to truly educate students who crave knowledge and allow time to change the cultural moors that inhibit the others. Teachers could finally have the chance to teach those who wish to learn and not just force feed the masses just because they have the right to an education.