Opinion: American education has failed its students

Feature Photo By: Izzy Honey – Sophomore Miah Vaughns rests her head in class during instruction in this posed photo. Many students don’t pay attention in class because they feel the content is overwhelming or boring. 

By: Mya Johnson, Review Staff

The American public education system has failed its students; it has failed me.

As I start the transition from high school to college, I’ve realized how unprepared for my future I am. In my 13 years in public school, four years in high school, and three years taking college courses, I have taken three classes that have given semester or year finals. I don’t know how to study for a final because that is a skill I was never taught.

When I hear college students talk about their course load, my preparation is subpar; and it’s not for lack of trying. I take difficult classes that require a lot out of me, but not nearly as much as they should—not if they should be preparing me for a future in postsecondary education.

I have been taught that a letter grade is more important than my health–physical or mental–and electives that I love don’t matter nearly as much as my math classes do. My passions are being drowned by core classes, and I’m not the only one that feels this way.

But because I haven’t been able to take as many fun or creative classes as I would have liked to take, I feel drained in my core classes. I cram the information, dump it on a quiz or a test, and then I forget it. I don’t feel like I absorb and retain a lot of the content I have sat through.

I’m thankful for the teachers I have had that try to change things in the classroom so I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time, but there aren’t nearly enough teachers like that to make a difference.

One of Mr. Tafoya’s orchestra classes runs through a song. Rangeview offers a plethora of electives but many students cannot find room in their schedules. (Mya Johnson)

I wake up too early and sit in a classroom that is too crowded to cram for a test I will never think about again. Then I will regret not remembering it when I’m sitting in a lecture in college, trying to recall what I learned in my sophomore chemistry class.

I don’t want it to be like this. I used to love coming to school. I had a desire to learn. But I’m not learning anymore. I’m just memorizing.  

Andrea Durdic, a junior at a charter school called STEM School Highlands Ranch, attended Aurora Public Schools for six years before transferring this school year.

“Charter education seems to be better for students as they have more time with teachers,” said Durdic. She continued, saying, “I actually do feel more prepared for college… the academic rigor in all my classes helps me prepare for future exams.”

Altering public education in America is not easy, though. Public school hasn’t changed very much in the past century, except in diversity and splitting age groups. But students have continued to change, and so has technology and society.

If everything around school is shifting, it doesn’t make sense to teach a changing world the same way for decades. How am I supposed to be prepared for the world if I am being taught the same way that my grandparents were being prepared fifty years ago?

A big problem in education is the desire to follow the rules over everything else. Public schools are so obsessed with how well students perform on standardized tests, enforcing a strict dress code, course requirements, and so much more.

I wish I wasn’t shoved into a class that I didn’t need to take. I want to take courses that help with the career I want to focus on. It doesn’t seem reasonable that a student going into a field in English needs a chemistry class and someone going into a trade like a beautician shouldn’t have to take four years of math.

The classes that students take should help them prepare for college or their future jobs, not credit requirements. Classes should help prepare students for real life. I want to learn how to file taxes and study for a midterm, not that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell or how to graph a cosine function.

Junior Lauren Graff looks for her name on the list for testing rooms. Standardized testing a common in a student’s school career. (Mya Johnson)

Money is the biggest hurdle to jump, and a complete reform is unrealistic, but there are some changes that can be made.

Students often feel like numbers in the system unless they get more personal attention from the adults at school. It’s important that teachers offer their support outside of the classroom.

I have several teachers that provide resources for me after class and it’s helped me be far more successful. I know if all, or even most, of my teachers gave help like this, I would develop the skills I need to carry into college.

There are classes available for students to prepare for SAT. It seems probable that a class could be offered to help us with becoming adults: college apps, job searches, finances.

I don’t want public school to completely change. I have learned a lot about myself in my time at Rangeview and I’ve had a lot of experiences that I couldn’t have had anywhere else.

Schools are doing a lot of things right, too. After all, they have produced students that become doctors, rocket scientists, and politicians. Recently, students around the nation have been rising up to advocate for the things they believe.

Maybe students are the answer to the struggles that public schools present. If enough of us voice our distress, something could change, as many other things have when we stand up.

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