Knowledge is arguably the most powerful tool a person can wield. Without education, of any form, it can be difficult to progress through society. When considering the power of a country, things like happy citizens, low crime rates, and a stable economy are no doubt important, but the role of education can often be forgotten in the big scheme of things. Society cannot perpetuate greatness if it is not taught through generations. Greatness does not mean that every person needs to make historic, groundbreaking achievements; greatness should be the opportunity for people to pursue their passion.
The Plague of the Common Core
Beginning by looking at the educational structure of the United States, which I believe to have a rapidly weakening education system, there exists a nearly inescapable expectation and thoughtlessly hard-wired flow for the life of a student. The most recent attempt to implement an expansive, standardized curriculum is the Common Core. The standards of the Common Core curriculum are claimed to be “research and evidence based,” “consistent,” “aligned with college and career expectations,” “informed by other top-performing countries,” and other boastful bases (“Read the Standards”). However, the success of the Common Core is dependent on an ideal world in which every state, every city, every country, etc. has equal access to the resources required to fulfil the demands of the standardized curriculum.
The economic disparities of areas throughout the United States are proof alone that the Common Core is just not effective. With the consideration of equal resources, there is a Catch-22 situation because better education leads to social and economic improvements, but there cannot be educational improvements without a stronger financial basis. The root of these problems is within the political and government structures as there is not a powerful support system for education that would advocate for any meaningful backing. If there are socioeconomic differences, there will be great variances in the quality of education throughout the United States.
A Look at Other Education Systems
Improving the education system is difficult but not impossible, and many approaches from around the world are more successful than the Common Core. At one end of the spectrum, Canada allows the curriculum to be determined at a provincial level, allowing for a more tailored approach in response to local trends (“Canada: Learning Systems). Currently, the Common Core of the United States allows for changes and accommodations at a local level, but in comparison to Canada, these changes subvert the intentions of a nationalized curriculum, nullifying the concept of the Common Core altogether.
At another end is a more nationalized approach from Japan. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) works with professors and the Central Council for Education to formulate and revise a national curriculum every ten years (“Japan: Learning Systems”). Japan demonstrates effective implementation of a national curriculum because although teachers can adapt to the curriculum specialists are particular and mindful when constructing the curriculum so that each grade continues from the last. Additionally, guidebooks are developed with input from experienced instructors so that teachers can reference the national curriculum and follow it as intended. The United States is not so meticulous and strict when it comes to the Common Core. Because there is not as strong of a political ground for education, the process of calibrating a national curriculum does not receive the necessary attention as with Japan.
The Importance of Caring About Proper Education
The United States does not have to morph into another country to fix its education system, but taking some real insights from the success of other education systems and the relationship of education to politics and the economy could benefit the United States in the long run. Allowing students to explore more vocational options and traditional academic pathways, especially at an earlier age than late high school, would prevent high rates of dropouts and encourage students to explore a career they might have never known about otherwise. While the stress the Common Core places on academics and the increased integration of STEM into the national curriculum are both important and with good reason, hard academics are not for everyone. For a society to be successful, everyone has to play their part, and instead of forcing people into a role, the system should provide adequate resources for people to choose the role that best fits.