Education in the United States is always going to be a significant topic for discussion because it is something that has a wide-reaching effect on every generation. It is something that most people have a strong opinion about because they have their own experiences from which to pull ideas for ways to improve the system. This sample education essay explores how education reform in the United States is necessary and the courses need to be designed and implemented to take on a more cross-cultural interpretation of historical events and politics.
Education reform in the United States
Though some opinions might veer to one extreme or the other, the idea most can agree on is that the American schooling system is indeed in need of some refining as we continue forward into the 21st Century. The education system, while somewhat admirable in its steadfast approach to providing a relatively cheap education for the majority of children in the country, does not treat all students equally.
Especially in a time of No Child Left Behind (the most current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that The White House suggests is more than five years past due for reauthorization) and other public policies that are intended to benefit the students in the U.S., new concepts are being endorsed and implemented including the development of some Afrocentric Schools in North America. By developing a curriculum around a specific set of pre-endorsed cultural learning, students can engage with materials beyond the manner that the current one-size-fits-all educational system puts forth.
The current American school system derives the substantial majority of its curriculum from a Eurocentric base and the benefits that coincide with this curriculum have unlocked many opportunities for those whom the system itself benefits. The biggest question at the core of this discussion is this: How can the education system be formed into a site for equity and growth for students? With the implementation of these Africentric schools, perhaps we have found a substantial portion of the eventual answer.
No Child Left Behind and one-size-fits-all education
The dominant position in teacher education has tended to be a one-size-fits-all strategy. Of course, with the advent of standards, standardization, and the test-driven curricula of No Child Left Behind, the one-size agenda again rears its decontextualized head. Such a position assumes that teaching and learning is a culture-free process that has nothing to do with the experiences and identities that teachers and students bring with them to school.
A teacher uses the same standardized methods, treats all learners the same, transmits the same learning techniques, and seeks the same instructional goals no matter if her students come from the South Bronx or the Upper East Side (380).
George Herbert Mead presents the concept of symbolic interactionism which, when boiled to its basis, describes the process through which mind, self, and society are developed or how people form meaning and structure in society through conversation. Educators, and the environments they create for students, are of paramount importance in fostering the development of a culture within the educational system.
The schooling system covers all five of the basic levels of communication and takes a student from the age of five or six, and sends them through the system until they’re on the cusp of adulthood at seventeen or eighteen years of age. Yet the educational system in the U.S. does not seem to understand its role in creating attitudes surrounding these master statuses that shape the minds of students at a young age. As Mead states:
What goes to make up the organized self is the organization of the attitudes which are common to the group. A person is a personality because he belongs to a community, because he takes over the institutions of that community into his own conduct.
He takes its language as a medium by which he gets his personality, and then through a process of taking the different roles that all the others furnish he comes to get the attitude of the members of the community (162).
In order to properly address the lagging tactics implemented by schools, we must first come to an understanding that a large group of students in metropolitan areas like New York City or Chicago are likely to respond to different forms of education than students in rural areas across the Midwest or along the Mississippi Delta. The one-size-fits-all strategy that is alluded to is perhaps the greatest disservice to students across the U.S. and the revolution against this strategy is evident in the development of Africentric schools throughout North America.
Mead, G. (1934). Mind, self, and society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. 162.
Steinberg, S. (2009). Diversity and multiculturalism: A reader. New York City, NY: Peter Lang Publishing. 380.