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Education System: Why Should Students Have a Right to Decide

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What’s Missing in Education…

Whether a schools holds One thousand or One hundred students its purpose is the same, a school exists to educate its students. Students work hard to receive their degrees a kind of “status symbol” (Malcolm X, 5), which allows them to move on to the routine boredom that is adult life. And even through their many years of school most graduates don’t/didn’t realize that they are/were being short-changed on their education. Education today is missing something, but what? Ask any school administrator what is so great about their school and they’ll tell you, you’ll eventually hear some number talk. To the administration, school is a numbers game. State leaders and taxpayers are completely brainwashed by numbers, in recent years the focus in education has shifted from quality education to standardized testing. The focus on numbers has created a new system of ranking schools, in fact many schools are now ranked by how well their students do on the MCAS. MCAS is so important now that schools whose students consistently do poor on the test are kept under strict surveillance. They call this program, High schools that work, but it seems more like High schools that produce high test scores. Has the need for “tangible proof” (numbers game) that our children are learning become so bad that even most school administrators are failing to see what’s missing in education? The answer is yes.

It seems so odd that when confronted with this issue of what’s missing in education the school administrators do not go to the students for their input, but instead look to each other. After all the students are the ones that are being educated, and it would seem that they would be the most qualified individuals to identify the flaws in education. Go ahead and ask any student, and they’ll tell you what makes Class “A” so much better than Class “B”, or why Professor “B” makes class fun, and why Professor “A” just doesn’t. Students operate under the fog of numbers that blinds the administrators and according to the students it’s not the numbers that make one particular school better than the other, it’s the educators. If you were to ask Mike Rose who or what was most influential in his education he would probably say, Jack Macfarland. As Rose said in I Just Wanna Be Average, “…[Jack Macfarland] gave me a way to feel special using my mind…”(10) Ultimately what Jack Macfarland was able to do for Rose is what any great educator should be able to do for any of their students. Macfarland was more than just a great educator for Rose, he was also a mentor and a friend. And it was because of this great friendship that Rose was able to accomplish so much.

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I myself, as a student can relate to what Rose says about Macfarland. My high school career was very unique and challenging, I had dealt with the transition from Needham HS to Framingham HS and finally to Keefe Technical HS, and through my many transitions I had noticed one thing in particular about myself, and many of my educators. Long ago I had decided that it was the instructor that made the class. I had never been academically inclined so to say, so when I did well in a class it would make me wonder. I began to think about why I was doing so well in a particular class, and it occurred to me that in any class I would do well in I would also share a particular personal relationship with the instructor, a unique mentor-pupil relationship. This correlation became even more evident to me with my switch to Keefe Tech. At Keefe students would attend traditional academic classes one week, and would switch to their vocational class the next week. I seemed to excel in my vocation, as most students did, and I would mostly attribute that to the strong personal relationship that I had with my instructors, Mr. Conaghan, Mr. Phelps, and Mr. Rabidou (whom we called, Mr. C, Mr. Pheezy, and Rabs). Long gone had seemed the days when I had instructors that would motivate me. Things changed when I went to Keefe, everything was new to me, but my instructors welcomed me into their shop. From the beginning I saw how Mr. C, Mr. Pheezy, and Rabs (whom I will collectively refer to as my instructors) would interact with us, and it seemed as if they were just “regular guys”. My instructors would also encourage me to do my best and make the right decisions, while never forcing me to. They treated us all as equals and gave us all the same opportunities which always seemed to motivate me to do my best. My personal friendship with my instructors became even stronger through State and National competitions where I would see my instructors in an entirely new light. I’ve won over Sixteen awards and certificates in my vocation, most of which I attribute to my friends, Don, Ben, and John.

When I think about one of the most important things my instructors gave me I think about the right to decide. As illustrated in The Right to Control One’s Learning by John Holt. Holt states that, “If we take from someone his right to decide what he will be curious, we destroy his freedom of thought” (37) Holt’s approach is a bit more radical than mine. While I do agree that the right to decide is very important in one’s education I take a more conservative approach myself. Today in America we are seeing a growing trend in education. It’s called the shrinking budget. And while this budget shrinks we are seeing something magical. High school electives are disappearing. You do remember electives, don’t you? It’s usually that one class you got to choose, whether it was wood shop, or auto, or some art class. Your High school probably cut those classes first, because like they – – those classes are the “unimportant” ones. The administration of your high school probably called them “non-essential” to your education, but how “non-essential” are they?

Let’s call them “non-essentially essential”, because what seems “non-essential” to the administrators can actually help define you and what you want to be. Many carpenters who did not elect for a vocational education may have fond memories of wood shop from their high school years, the very shop that inspired them to become carpenters (That’s the definitive part). The shrinking budget means that the many trade shops no longer hold priority in education. And perhaps the saddest things of all is that they will never again inspire a new generation of tradesmen. The funny thing is that many schools opt to save the Spanish program rather than a trade shop, because we all know that all Americans should speak Spanish (This illustrates the stupid decisions made by school administrators). What seems to be managing the budget, is also managing the right to decide in education. The right to decide is diminishing in many high schools across America, and it’s taking with it an invaluable part of education. The part of education that breeds “unique” people.

In modern times we are seeing more and more missing from education. It is truly a shame that there are not enough great educators in the world like Jack Macfarland, Don Conaghan, Ben Phelps, and John Rabidou. Educators must strive to form this special bond with their students in order to mend our educational system. In addition students should once again be given the right to decide, which will allow them to become free thinkers and revolutionaries. What’s missing in education? You decide.

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