Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Robert over at Libertopia has an interesting post up discussing education, and the division of responsbility between the schools and parents. Eric, of Eric's Grumbles Before The Grave (I'm going to have to start abbreviating that name), takes this point and runs with it a step further, saying that the schools are, by and large, the sole problem, through their progressivism and "teaching" of "morality." I guess it's now my turn to take all of this and take it a few more steps.

Eric says the problem with our schools is that "We allowed our education system to go from education to training, to preparing for the workplace, to instilling morals. Who the hell says that it is government's place to instill morals? We used to know better, but 5 generations of European paternalism and progressivism has changed that."

All that is true. I agree with it 100%. But this talk of "European paternalism and progressivism" seems to be indicitive of a deeper problem with the system. The education system in this country has been, for lack of a better phrase, "dumbed down." Let me explain. In this country, it is assumed that almost everyone will attend some type of college or university after graduation, with the only acceptible alternative being enlisting in the military. While this seems an admirable goal, shrouded in lofty speeches about providing a "college education for anyone who wants one," the reality is that many people who do not want to and do not need to go to college are being thrown down that path without any other options. The end result of this policy is that everyone, regardless of academic ability and drive, is thrown into a college prep cirriculum in high school. This causes the college prep cirriculum to become dumbed and watered down. For example, at my high school, there are basically two paths you can take: the "smart people" route, or the "stupid people" route. The "smart people" route involves taking a lot of AP/honors classes. This is the way the people who actually belong in college go. The "stupid people" route involves taking the regular equivalent for many of the AP/honors classes, with a severe de-emphasis on math and science (for example, global science instead of physics, or statistics instead of trigonometry or calculus). This results in students taking classes that will not help them in college or in life, wasting everyone's time and money. In addition, all students are forced to take classes that have no real relevance to what they want to do with their life. In my case, I was required to take at least two years of a foreign language. I am going to major in engineering; there really is no practical reason for me to learn Spanish, French, or German, yet I was forced to learn German in order to gain admission to a university. At most high schools, I would have been forced to take a foreign language just to graduate high school. Foreign language instruction is a joke; the classes are all regarded by the students as "easy A's." But if this is the case, why am I forced to take the class in the first place? Just one more class wasting my time and money.

So, how do we fix the problem? By changing the way we approach college in this country. This is one area I think Europe (Germany at least) is ahead of the U.S. education system in. In Germany, there are two separate high schools and high school cirriculums. One for college bound students, and one geared towards learning a trade and preparation for life. Of course, in true socialistic tradition, you aren't allowed to decide which high school you enter; it is all based off of one placement test. I'm not advocating going this far; I still think anyone who truly WANTS to go to college should have the opportunity. I'm simply saying that we, as a society, should change how we view college. Instead of viewing it as a requirement to being a success, we should understand that not everyone is cut out for college, and not everyone should be forced into attending. Like Judge Smails says, "the world needs ditchdiggers too." Those "ditchdiggers" shouldn't be forced to waste their time with a college prep cirriculum that has no relevance to their life, and then be forced to waste 4 years (and a lot of money) drifting through college, graduating with some useless information, a bunch of really good stories, and a greater appreciation for alcohol. At the same time, we should improve the college prep cirriculum for those that actually want to attend college by allowing them to tailor it to their specific interests and needs. If someone is absolutely in love with english, don't force them to take calculus in order to gain admission to a college. Instead let them take another english class, or at the very least, do some independent study in regards to english. The same applies to someone (like myself) interested in engineering. Don't make me take four years of generic honors and AP English classes, along with two years of a foreign language, just so I can get in to a college.