It was so wonderful to see all of my new and returning students today. Like many other schools throughout the country, the one where I teach started back this week. Despite all the dismal talk about the state of American education, it is going to be another splendid year.
I hear so much negativity in the media about the educational system in our country. The media feeds off the politicians, who spout inanities based on statistics they just made up to pass a new piece of useless legislation. Everyone makes up a bunch of junk to seem relevant and keep their jobs. What they forget, or simply choose to ignore, is what matters — the children.
The children are what it is all about. They are the ones that matter. They are not just cogs in the machine; they are not just a bunch of statistics in a ledger. They are real, tangible, creative human beings with much to contribute — most of which can never be measured by a test.
This is my eighth year of teaching. I absolutely love it. I see these students and I know the future of America is bright, no matter the bleak prognostications of the doomsayers. I know that if we just can forget all this nonsense dubbed “reform” and get back to what we do well, we will be all right.
There are many aspects to American education with which no other country can compete. We are losing sight of that and, ultimately, that will lead us into trouble. Last I checked there were quite a few countries in Asia. I don’t know why we want to be just like those countries.
I do not want our educational system to be like those of Asia or Europe. I want more than that. I want our educational system to be the best. I believe it is.
American education teaches students to use their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to come up with new approaches and solutions. We teach students to be creative, which leads to innovation and progress. Our students might not perform as well on standardized tests as students from other countries, but if I am trapped in a well and need a special machine rapidly designed to get me out, I will count on my students to do it, and they will do so in the most creative and effective way.
As Fareed Zakaria, the author and international editor for Newsweek who attended elementary and secondary school in India, states in his book, The Post-American World:
“I recall memorizing vast quantities of material, regurgitating it for exams, and then promptly forgetting it. When I went to college in the United States, I encountered a different world. While the American system is too lax on rigor and memorization — whether in math or poetry — it is much better at developing the critical faculties of the mind, which is what you need to succeed in life.”
This is what I have been saying for a long time, even back in my days as a reporter prior to becoming a teacher. The American system of education is not tragically flawed; it is not diseased and dying. It is different than the systems of other countries, but in those differences resides our strength.
We might not manufacture the latest gizmos and gadgets, but we are the ones who invent them. We might not churn out factory workers who can ace bubble tests, but we inspire students to create the inventions those factory workers assemble.
This is what makes America great. This is what makes us strong. If we continue to listen to those who say otherwise, we will head down the wrong path.
In his book, Zakaria says, “Other educational systems teach you to take tests; the American system teaches you to think.” I could not agree more, and that is why the American system is the one in which I am so proud to play a part.