There is no denying that the American education system is deeply flawed, and there are examples of this everywhere. High dropout rates in inner-city schools, racial divides in college admissions, and underfunding of schools nationwide are just some examples of the problems our school system faces today. Geoffrey Canada, an American social activist, author, and educator discusses these problems and how to move forward in addressing them in his TED Talk entitled “Our failing schools. Enough is enough!” Canada starts the talk by addressing the fact that he was in school 50 years ago, yet the same problems he encountered still plague the system today. Why are these problems still so prevalent today, and how can we change them?
To begin to address these questions, we need to look at the education system now and analyze the way it operates. Dr. Canada describes the system of education as a “business plan,” which hasn’t changed since its creation. In order for schools to receive funding from the government, they need to operate according to the rules and regulations set out by the government that funds them. In order to abide by these regulations, teachers and administrators are forced to create an education plan that is supposed to allow the majority of students to gather the information they need, but this creates a big issue. This formulaic plan of education fails to account for all students’ needs, and students that do not receive the support they require will fall short. The current education system operates as it did when it was created, not accounting for the needs of all students, leaving some behind, where they will struggle until their time in the education system is over. This lack of support leads to low graduation rates and high dropout rates. The “one-size fits all” model of education leaves behind more vulnerable students, who need more support in their education.
Another problem with our current education system is standardized testing. The glaring issue that Dr. Canada mentions is with the slow rate of return on test scores. If a student takes a standardized test in March, and their results come back in the summer, those results are essentially meaningless at that point, because there is no way to help them if they aren’t in school, and then they will move onto the next grade. More immediate results could help teachers and students alike to address deficits in learning that year as they arise. Another issue with standardized testing is that they provide great general statistics on schools as a whole, but are meaningless until you use those results to make a change. A similar issue arises with research in the education field. Dr. Canada mentions the results of a research study that indicates that poor children fall behind in their education during summer breaks. He notes that this research has been repeated countless amounts of times, with the same result, yet nothing has been done to remediate the problem.
The “business-plan” model of education that Dr. Canada lays out is clearly ineffective for many students, yet the cycle continues. Why is it that education is the only industry in America that recognizes its deficits, yet continues to operate according to the ineffective plan? There is extreme resistance in the education field to change or try anything new. Dr. Canada compares this resistance to the technology industry. If this unwillingness to change was present in that industry, where would we be? If technological innovators created something that turned out poorly or didn’t work, they wouldn’t simply stop or revert back to the old way of doing something, they would continue to innovate until they found something that worked. This needs to happen in the education field as well. We need to continue to research what works and what allows children the most access to education, and then use the findings to make a change in the education system.
Going off of this, there needs to be a system-wide change that is broader than individual schools. If one school changes their ways of teaching and it works, that’s great, but it needs to be a broader change, in order to affect the lives of more children.