Education in this country has perverted itself over time to the point where creative thinking is no longer a focus of learning, instead teachers and students alike put their focus on memorizing facts rather than learning them. We as Americans love to think highly of our country and its education system, but in reality, it is not that great. Our education system is established on academic ability. Kids are not receiving the education they need to prosper in the real world and that is becoming a public issue. The sad reality is that our education system, one way or another, does not always provide the sufficient means or resources to gain basic skills, and so children are left with a lack of knowledge of the real and harsh world. What I already know about the education system in America is that it really needs to be improved. Many children are being steered away from jobs in the arts, for example, because the success rates are not very high. Although I agree that not everybody is going to become a famous singer, I still think that it is their own choice to make and that the education system should not be forcing people to go to school and simply learn math and science.
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The first source that caught my eye was a Ted talk by Sir Ken Robinson. He was talking about creativity and how it’s steadily declining in America. Creativity, at a very primary level, can be divided up into 3 aspects: expertise, motivation, and creative thinking skills. If someone were to ask me what is the first thing I think of when I hear the word “kindergarten” I would quickly say “fun”. Obviously, I was 5 and I do not remember much, but I definitely remember it being a creative outlet for me. “Creativity is as important in education as literacy.”
We are born to be creative and it is nurtured in school, but the problem is that once we get older we begin to lose that sense of creativity. It is a fact that uniformity has become the norm when in reality individuality and different creative approaches should be stressed. So when a child is sent to a school where they are supposed to be learning everything that is meant to help them succeed in the future but instead finds themselves in an institution where they are forced to memorize facts, what kind of personal creative growth can be expected? Just like everything else in this world, education has its pros and cons. Diversity is one of the biggest pros in my opinion. “With a country, comprised of 50 states spreading on an entire continent, you can imagine the overwhelming range of courses and majors that are at your disposal, and, with English being the universal language, you can practically choose any area of study in any university.”
There is so much potential for people to achieve in America because we are the land of the “free”. Another pro is the flexibility in education. We have the option of going to college right after high school or taking a gap year. We also have the option of being part-time or full-time students based on our own individual needs. Another important aspect is that most colleges have an unlimited variety of majors that you can choose from whether it be in the science field or in the arts. To be able to go school in America is a huge privilege to many because, “In a survey for top universities in the world from 2014, 40 out of 100 universities are located in the U.S, 7 of which are in the top 10.”
Another advantage that is quite important is the number of scholarships that are awarded to most students. Likewise, there are also many disadvantages to keep in mind. Many scholarships are being awarded, but even so, college tuition is skyrocketing. “Average tuition in the last 30 years has almost tripled.” When my parents went to school their tuition was almost 15 thousand dollars for all four years, while I have to pay almost 14 thousand dollars a year and I have a scholarship. Another con is that the process of admission into most colleges is through the SAT or the ACT. This is one of the worst ideas in my opinion because your future is determined by a test. Personally, I think that I am a good student, but when it comes to important things like the SAT I become too stressed and do not perform well. Something that can be both a pro and a con is the unlimited access to technology that we have. We are lucky enough to be a country with a lot of technological resources that have helped us discover amazing things. The advantage is that we now know more about our world than we ever and technology is helping us evolve as a society. The disadvantage is that technology is making people more distracted and lazy. Giving a fourteen-year-old an iPad in class can cause them to focus on things that aren’t important, such as social media, instead of actually doing their work. Also, some people may not be very tech-savvy and this can affect them negatively in completing and submitting assignments at school. The education system in Europe, for example, is far more advanced. One of the biggest differences is the amount of time it takes to finish your degree in the US versus the UK. “Degree programs in the US take about one year longer than programs in the UK, although this varies depending upon whether you receive a Master’s degree prior to a PhD.” To receive your Bachelor’s degree in Britain is 3 years, a Master’s degree is 1 year, and a PhD is 3 years.
Another big difference is the assignments and the grading system. Here in America, we always have a lot of homework assignments and most of our grades are cumulative so our final test is just a percentage of our final grade. “In the UK, most schools are much more lecture-based, with only occasional assignments throughout the semester.” Their final grade is usually just based on their final exam so that can be really good or really bad. Another difference is the cost to attend school. They are both quite expensive for a working-class family. “According to a law passed in 2012, universities in England may charge up to £9000 (approximately $14,300) per year.” Although this is still not cheap, universities are not allowed to charge more than that amount. In the United States, the government has little to no control over the tuition. Both countries offer a variety of scholarships and financial aid to citizens and international students. Another example of an education system that out-performs the US is the system in Finland. “Finnish students spend far less time in the classroom, they enjoy 50 minute recesses, lunch is free, and students get very little homework.”
Obviously, we need to learn in school, but giving us homework that will make us stay up till midnight is not the right way to do it. I usually stop doing work at around 11 pm because I know myself and I know that I stop retaining information at a certain time. For how laid back this schooling system is, it is still ranked sixth for math, third for reading, and second for science which is far above the United States. To become a teacher in Finland is a very long and tough process which many cannot endure so only the best will succeed. As Dr. Fioriello said, “good teachers get good results”. To further explain my points I want to talk more about the lack of creativity we have in the States. Like I said earlier in this paper, I do not think that the schooling system in America is letting us reach our full creative potential. “Keeping children in a classroom all day stifles creativity and puts them under a lot of stress.” Since kids are most influenced and formed at school, when they are taught that there is only one correct answer to every question, their intellectual curiosity is limited and so is their ability to think freely and creatively.
Another country with a notable education system is China. China has been kicking our butts in the educational field for a long time, but is their system really better than ours? Education is one of the most dominant forces in society in China. They are one of the few countries whose government accommodates its people with different schooling systems, “…China provides its citizens a diverse school system: public schools for students of all ages, specialized schools for the disabled, private schools and vocational schools among the many other institutions for education.” In the US, we have to attend school until we are around 16, but in China all students have to finish 9 years of school and then get to choose if they was to go to Upper-Secondary School (high school), Vocational school, or just join the workforce. Attending college is China is also a challenging process because instead of the SAT or the ACT they have to take a National Higher Education Entrance Exam which has questions about literature, mathematics, and a foreign language, usually English. Another difference is applying “undecided” into college. In America it is a pretty common thing because most people do not know what they want to do, but in China you must go into college with a career in mind and changing your major is not a common thing at all.
Why is that our schools do not drive students towards thinking differently? Maybe it’s naivety. Or maybe, as Anna Craft puts it, “…it is the tendency to see creativity as a ‘generalized’ phenomenon, and not tied purely to a particular area of knowledge.” It is the very nature of the educational system that places certain emphasis on some subjects, and consequently gives them more effort, time, and funds. This leads me to another problem, the job market. We are currently struggling with jobs right now because there are not many openings to begin with. In school we are taught that if we do well in classes we will graduate and get a job right away, but in reality that is far from the truth. The job market right now is not good, “…the unemployment rate is at 3.8% which is a historic low.” Thirty years ago it was sufficient enough to have a high school diploma and have a job, now most employers want you to have a Bachelors or even a Masters diploma. Maybe it’s more sad than ironic that the reality is that employers are looking for workers that are able to use to their advantage creative thinking skills and turn them into powerful ideas and solutions. But how can we do this if our schooling system is only teaching us the basic fundamentals of life and not the “other things” that we need in order to succeed as adults.
Now, to even have a basic job you need to complete at least 4 years of college, which means that you need to find a way to earn those 40 thousand dollars for tuition. That is what I am having trouble wrapping my head around, if I can’t get a job with just my high school diploma how am I supposed to make money to pay for the college diploma I need in order to be employed? This leads me to my next topic, Vocational schools.
Many people think that they should not be around anymore because it makes teenagers believe that they don’t need to go to college if they don’t want to. I disagree with this completely because not everyone is made to go to school. Vocational schools are important to America because it is not something offered by many other countries. They teach teens all about specific careers, like plumbing and carpentry, so that they can be employed right after high school instead of going to school for another 4 years and learn things that won’t useful in that field. There will always be a demand for carpenters and plumbers so going to a vocational school can be more useful and less time-consuming for certain individuals. The United States used be the model of innovation and technology, but in the last fifty or so years, while it’s intelligent scores have risen ever so slightly, America is no longer the model for inspiring and creating. The United States with all of its aspirations for greatness and all of its dominating factors has consistently found itself in the lower half in the Program for International Student Assessment (“Fast Facts”), which compares all the averages of fifteen year olds from all over the world participating in an exam that tests Math, Science, and English skills. Even though we are all aware that we are consistently inching downwards, for some reason we continue to resist change. In perspective, we have neglected creative thinking to focus on intelligence, even though the two are clearly connected in every way. We are all born into similar environments where we encounter similar goals like talking and walking; however because of particular features of own cultures they attach meanings to their experiences in achieving these goals. When there is such a teaching style in play students are not taught to think outside the box, and as a result are not very capable of coming up with new solutions to unfamiliar problems. Something new I learned about our education system is that I misjudged it. Of course it’s not superior to China’s, but we are all lucky to even be going to school. Getting an education is truly a privilege that many of us take for granted, myself included. This topic was very special to me because although I am not a first generation college student, my parents are still proud of me and continue to give me the things that were not possible for them. My dad came to America alone at the age of seventeen and worked a bunch of odd jobs just to have enough money to go to college. He delayed his college education by four years and barely knew English, but that didn’t stop him. Now he’s a lawyer and continues to work extremely hard for my brother and I to be able to have the best education and eventually have the careers we choose.
We as a nation can follow other nations’ large footsteps and try to amend our problem. Through knowledge and questioning of the already known, motivation to discover the unknown, and a schooling system that spreads and teaches the best creative thinking skills, we will make America the country it has always claimed to be. The purpose of education is to open minds and teach the youth how to think, not what to think.
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