The School System Controversy of America

By: Thaaer Alrajab

Teaching in the US vs. the rest of the world (Source: Vox on Youtube)

How the American School System Works

The American school system has been the main means of education in the United States for centuries. With the modern American System being founded in 1837 by Horace Mann, the US has used these same fundamentals to power the education system, according to experts.

The system has children attend this school system for 12 years, before graduating from high school.

The US education starts in preschool and kindergarten, in which kids become accustomed to being around others. Usually for the first time in their lives, they learn to socially interact with others their age as they learn new basic information. This ranges from information about animals, the alphabet, and various objects in the everyday world.

Students then move on to elementary school, known in other countries as primary school. This consists of grades 1-6 in which students learn the foundations of mathematics, English, science, and history. Physical education is also taught and students are able to be active, to an extent.

The image above shows what a typical elementary school classroom would likely look like. (Source: Wikipedia)

Over the years, these same classes are taught again in greater detail, building upon what was taught the year before.

After that, students reach middle school, or the first part of secondary school. These next two years consisting of grades 7 and 8 teach children an advanced version of mathematics from what they had previously learned and continues with a new level of English, according to experts.

In addition to that, students are given options from a list of electives to choose from to take as a class. Usually, they are allowed to choose two.

With the completion of middle school, students enter the final four years of the main required education system of America. High school, or the second part of secondary school, goes from grades 9 through 12.

The image above shows a typical high school classroom. (Source: Photo by Magali Gauthier)

During this time, students take advanced mathematics that prepares them for Calculus, a second world language, more English, advanced history, and other class electives of the student’s choice.

These years are crucial years in the education system of America as they are of great importance for colleges, which would be the next step of education. Upon graduation, a diploma is awarded to the student and then, they may move on to higher education.

Grading System

The grading system throughout most of these years from grades 1 to 12 consists of a letter grading system from A-F. Grade-point average, or GPA, plays a great role in the higher grades as it is the average grade of the student and goes up to 4.0.

There are varying opinions regarding the school system, and experts say that there has even been controversy.

Varying Opinions Regarding the System

Among many things in our world today, the school system of the US has garnered controversy of its own.

Opinions vary on multiple sides of the spectrum, however, there are two prominent opinions: for or against the current American education system.

Especially over the last decade, tensions have risen regarding the authenticity of the school system. Among all things, the school system is not 100% perfect, as nothing can be. Officials say that in recent times and especially with the trials of COVID-19, the education system has had some people wanting a change.

Against the American Education System

Many who possess this opinion claim that the education system is redundant, teaching different people the same thing. With that, comes outliers in which they are too ahead or falling behind.

In fact, officials say that the education system of today is largely comprised of memorization. Some believe that this is one of the main issues in the system, as it has the students end up forgetting most of what they learned after their assessment(s).

Experts argue that there is a difference between learning and memorizing, and that difference can be seen.

The statistic above details the graduations and other information regarding students. (Source: The Manhattan Institute 2018)

When one truly learns something, they might apply it to their life and remember it at ease with no risk of simply forgetting. In other words, they understand its fundamentals.

With memorization, there is a greater lack of understanding as the information is simply retained for a limited period of time. Memorization has been argued to be good when used in aspects that will be used continuously in life.

According to a video by Next School, the modern school system was first made to bring about students capable of working well in factories. Aspects like bells, designated times for lunch and breaks, restrictions on talking, and long hours at school from the morning to the afternoon all contribute to this idea, as the video says.

Mental Health

According to the American Psychological Association, 41.6% of college students have anxiety and 36.4% have depression.

The statistic does not get better for high school students. In fact, ACMH claims that 1 in every 5 students have a diagnosable behavioral or mental health issue.

The image above is a graph that details the age range of those with mental health issues. (Source: CDC)

Those against the American school system claim that academic stress from exams and tests, peer pressure, feeling different, and maintaining their letter grades are all examples of contributions to this issue.

Experts say that it does not take much to know that stress and mental health will further impair the learning capabilities of students.

The famous physicist Albert Einstein once said,” Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

It is known that mental health issues will not only impair the children in school, but it will also affect them in every aspect of their life, when advanced. Psychologists say that this is because these are developmental years for these students and thus mental health issues are amplified.

The World Health Organization says,” Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated.” Some tie this statistic in with the school system, saying that it is during these years in which the school system is the most affecting.

Above is a tweet from Alex Ungku about the school system. Many who are against it hold similar ideas to the one expressed above. (Source: Twitter)

With that being said, those against the system and even students claim that there is not enough being done for mental health within the schools. As a matter of fact, some go on further to say that schools actually contribute to these issues.

Others also claim that assignments and lessons with what they describe as bearing no real value in the real world discourage students from following their passion and contribute to confusion and stress within the classes.

Those that are against the system say that there simply is not enough room for creativity and passion, the two things that have created many of the world’s most successful people.

They claim that people like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and all these other entrepreneurs were not able to succeed by their ability to memorize and score high test scores, but by their ability to think outside the box and incorporate what they learned into their actual life.

Some analysts who have studied the school system have even come out to say that the modern school system, including colleges and universities, promotes the time-for-money standard.

This is defined as trading time for money, similar to what is done in a 9-5 job.

It is worth noting that no job or paycheck is guaranteed by a degree or how well one does in their classes, according to those against the school system.

The graphic above shows how many college graduates work at jobs related to their degree or major. (Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census)

Some have even provided an alternative idea on what to teach that will be of use to students in the real world.

They claim that students should actually be taught about how to invest their money and make it work for them, how to never give up and use their mistakes, how to work with their money in terms of banking and taxes, and the value of hard work in the right areas.

Many students today claim that schools promote the idea that mistakes are not acceptable, either intentionally or unintentionally. One failed test or assignment might cause a student to think that they were not good enough, and in fact, it has happened.

With that all being said, there are still those who commend and agree with the modern school system.

For the American School System

Some also claim that American school systems are getting many things right and are fine.

They bring up the idea that the school system is inclusive, meaning that it is available to all American “school-aged” citizens.

America also funds its education system generously. Experts even say that the promotion of literacy in our schools makes for a benefit.

Extra-curricular activities also contribute to some sort of experience for students other than just learning and working. Students have been vocal to say that they in fact enjoy this.

Many modern events and socioeconomic influences are also mentioned and used in schools and in teaching, keeping students up to date with the world they live in, according to some teachers.

The national graduation rate of high schoolers in the US is shown above as of 2019. (Source: Education Week Research Center analysis of NCES data, 2019)

Professional and personal development in schools has also been a prominent idea as students wanting a higher grade would have to put in more work, promoting the idea of hard work.

Officials and even those that are against the school system say that this can work well if done correctly.

What This All Means

In many places around the world, many claim that that education and knowledge is of importance in life.

Knowledge and education, in general, are seen as components of success in one’s life by many. With that, it comes to no surprise that many, both students and parents alike, seriously care about the methods of education and the education system.

With the varying opinions regarding the American school system, officials have described this as another important controversy that has sparked debate.

Whether or not change will come about or whether or not people will be okay with the current system is simply undecided at the current time.

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Cover Photo: photo by Kyle Grillot/REUTERS

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