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On social archetypes of "good" education

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Underpaid teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and a lack of psychological support for students are just a few of the problems with the American education system. Let’s put aside the political and policy issues in our education system and talk about our societal understanding of education and what a “good” education really means.

In the United States, the social norm is to accept a liberal arts education as the pinnacle of quality education. This status symbol has permeated from top liberal arts colleges to secondary schools in the form of valuable AP curricula and pressure to get a “balanced” education. At the high school level, students face extreme pressure to achieve high grades, said to be the only way to get into elite colleges. It gives the impression that you are a high school graduate and can only make ends meet by doing simple jobs. We need to broaden our horizons as to what a successful career path looks like and how the education system shapes it.

Look at other education systems around the world. For example, in Germany and Switzerland, students are classified into one of three different curriculums based on their grades in primary and secondary school. Those with excellent academic performance enter the secondary school “Gymnasium” and receive a wide range of liberal arts education to advance to the liberal arts department and graduate school. Others have the option of proceeding to a secondary school of vocational and technical education, from which they enter a technical or research university. Those who choose not to pursue a formal university education go to vocational schools and offer apprenticeships.

This is clearly not a perfect system. Only the student’s primary education is considered when making a career decision. This may eliminate your chances of achieving academic excellence later on. But there is an idea that the American education system is lacking. It’s an option for students. Vocational and technical high schools are few and far between in the United States, and formal programs for apprenticeships are a thing of the past. Vocational education is looked down upon, even though it provides more targeted and specific skill sets to the needs of manual workers. Moreover, for students for whom college is out of the question, either financially or academically, these opportunity must be formally presented.

At the college level, America’s tunnel vision focus on the liberal arts has consequences. UR is the latest exception in a sea of ​​schools with a rigorous core curriculum and overwhelming distribution requirements. There is value in the broader idea of ​​”teaching students how to think” through the liberal arts, but is it really worth it to force students to spend nearly two years in classes they may have little interest in? A student going from a top high school to a top college can meet the general education requirements if they can spend all four years of high school, an additional two years in college, and focus on their chosen field of study. must be met. For students who excel in one academic field and struggle in others, overly stringent distribution requirements can be particularly unnecessary and demoralizing.

Comparing this to the UK system, students often choose a field of study in their second year of high school and become experts in that field before going on to university. Students from the UK’s top secondary schools are likely to graduate prepared for high levels of study in their subjects in a way that requires an additional two years of schooling before reaching the United States after high school. . The dangers of specializing too quickly cannot be denied. So the example above seems to show her two extremes. That is, forcing a student to decide on subjects and career her path before she is an adult and has time to explore all her interests. They don’t get the specific skills they need and end up struggling with gen-eds.

In the United States, education is both too specialized and not enough. There are places and times, and more importantly, there are people, students, who are suited for each of these different types of education, from traditionally accepted liberal arts to career-focused schools to vocational training. The acceptance of liberal arts as a benchmark for higher education everywhere excludes many, from students who are not liberal arts-leaning to students who have a career roadmap in mind and have no time to waste. broaden our perspective on universal education, take some lessons from education around the world, and tailor each student’s experience to best support the individual rather than conforming to general social archetypes. It’s time to start adjusting.