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The Need for Reform In The American Public High School Education System


Published on December 14th, 2019 at 12:29 am

By Maya Demontreux

One of the most important reasons why the modern public high school system in America does not effectively benefit its students is its inability to prepare students with the tools they need for success in the future. According to a survey by Youthtruth.org, only 46% of high schoolers feel what they're learning in class helps them outside of school. In addition from another survey by youthtruth, only a mere 44.8% of high school students feel positively about their college and career readiness. So what are schools doing wrong? It's not a lack of college centered resources for students, but rather what is actively taught in the classroom that is impacting students the most. The school system has had relatively little growth since its start in the early 20th century. Students went to school as apart of a growing era of general reform and societal advancement in the U.S. According to a statistic by the Office of Education, in 1910, only 8.8% of students graduated high school. Between this time and 1940, this number jumped to 50.8%. This sudden raise was the result of new compulsory schooling laws and a new culture more inclined to educate its youth to reflect the new commercial American economic boom. There was a larger need more than ever for skilled workers, those who were cooperative, easy to teach, and machine like. This is the kind of person public schooling was meant to create. However, as times have changed and socio-economic classes have shifted, now most students do not graduate high school to become workers; they go to college. According to The Bureau of Labor in 2016, 69.7% of students graduated high school and went to college. This shows that the priorities of graduating students have greatly changed and that the system has done very little to reflect this. One of the few reforms to the school system in recent years has only made things worse. On January 8th of 2002 President George Bush passed the “No Child Left Behind Act”, which aimed to test all high schools to show which schools are falling behind and needed improvements. This act, however created an unforeseen consequence; that schools now began to neglect an overall well rounded education and solely teach what would be tested. Although states did not have to comply with the new requirements, if they didn’t, they risked losing federal Title I money. So naturally, teachers and schools learned to “teach the test” or only teach the linear concept material found exactly as it is on the test. Owing to this, school content became far more rigid, and schools began to neglect other important fields of education that were not on the test, like creativity, common sense, and deductive reasoning abilities. This caused generations of students to leave high school with a highly unbalanced skill set and be vastly unprepared for the modern workplace or college climate. This proves that the Ameircan Public High School Education System fails to equip students with the tools necessary for their success in the future.

In addition to the Ameircan Public High School System not equipping students with the tools they need for the future, the Ameircan Public High School System also causes an extreme decline in student mental health. The American Public High School System pushes virtually impossible agendas on students by forcing unattainable perfection which in turn only creates immense stress and anxiety as well as a general disinclination towards learning. According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association for the “Stress in America Survey”, teen stress rivals that of adults. The study states that the most commonly reported sources of stress amongst teens was school related as a staggering 83% of students reported that their main stress was school. This in turn caused 35% of teens to report lying awake at night, 26% overeating or eating unhealthy foods, and 23% skipping meals due to stress in the past month. These statistics show the unnecessary toil that school wages upon the young and developing teenage brain. Stress is more than uncomfortable, but has permanent effects on the brain, body, and its processes, especially for teenagers. According to Dr. Sawa in an article for Everyday Health, he says, "I think most clinicians would agree that adolescent stress can cause major changes in adult brains." "The adolescent brain is at a unique stage of development, It is a time when the brain is very sensitive and in the process of forming its wiring network." In addition, fellow M.D. Chris Illades says, “Your teenage years should be among the best times of your life, but the truth is that severe depression in teens is common and up to 30 percent of adolescents have at least one episode of it.” “50 to 75 percent of adolescents with anxiety, impulse control, and hyperactivity disorders developed these disorders during their teenage years.” Considering the extreme vulnerability of the developing teen brain, it is more damaging than helpful to place students in a high stress environment that exacerbates and creates mental health disorders that will stick with teens for life. This proves that the Ameircan Public High School System is the main source of stress in teens’ lives and that it can permanently impact their mental health for life.

The Ameircan Public High School System enforces an unattainable standard of perfection upon its students. This current standard does not benefit students as to experience true learning, students need more opportunities for constructive growth and less harsh punishment for normal learning processes. Failure is a normal and important part of human development and behavior. Humans learn best through failure and it is a normal occurrence in adult life. Students, however, are not given the opportunity to fail in a healthy way that won't permanently set them back or stay on their record. In an ideal school situation, students would be able to learn with a highly reduced stress level by eliminating the severity of failure. Instead of giving students one chance to prove themselves, students deserve to be graded on hard work, determination, and perseverance; not by their ability to memorize and regurgitate facts. For example, in the current public American high school system, if a student gets a fail on a test it would stay in the gradebook and bring the student’s grade down, despite any further attempt the student makes to understand or learn this topic. Although varying between teachers, most students will not get a chance to retake this test. This teaches students that failure is permanent, scary, and to be avoided at all costs. Instead, students should get the opportunity to retake tests as many times as they are willing, and replace every poor grade with their improved score. If the student is willing to try again and work hard to raise this score, their efforts deserve to be rewarded. Students shouldn't be punished for failure, but taught that it isn't the end and that there is always room for improvement in life. In a quote by arthurmorganschool.com, “We try to prevent moments of potential failure, but end up creating a space where our children just feel anxious.” ” They get the message that they have to do everything right the first time and cannot fail.” This proves that the American High School Education system’s strict punishment of failure greatly harms students’ ability to grow and develop in character.

Some may claim that the rise of social media is the leading cause of stress and general distress in life amongst teens instead of school pressure. While it is true that social media can lead to a temporary loss of focus amongst students, the good of social media far outweighs the bad. Students often use social media in a positive way to help cope with the pressures of school. Social media introduces many inspiring, educational, and downright funny resources for teens to enjoy in an attempt to balance their life. Social media can feel like a nice and well deserved break for an overworked student, even if it's only for 15 minutes between activities. In addition, the reason that social media has seen such a growth is not because students dislike spending time in person with their friends, but rather that they don't have the time or ability to do so. The pressure of school and constant flow of activities leave little time for fun. In the past it was extremely common for high school students to go out after school and socialize. However, owing to the increasing pressure and growing course load students are now burdened with, many students now find little time in life to maintain in-person relationships. This is where social media benefits students extremely well as it allows them to connect in the spare time between activities and still maintain friendships. The growing use of social media clearly illustrates that the amrican public school system has begun to be so demanding that students do not have enough time left to enjoy life and share relationships with other students and as well as with their families.

. In conclusion, the modern American Public High School System agenda greatly undermines students in a plethora of ways. Firstly, this system does not equip students with the tools they need for the future and has not expanded to benefit modern society. It fails to teach life skills, something that will greatly matter to students 10 or 20 years down the road. Secondly, the current system creates poor mental health amongst students and does not teach them ways to cope with their stress. This can create a lifelong distaste of learning as well as create lasting mental health issues. Lastly, school teaches students that the goal of life is perfection, an impossible standard. It is crucial that schools take steps towards reforming their corrupt system for the greater good of the students. By integrating crucial life skills for adulthood, like paying taxes, taking out a loan or buying a house into lessons, students will leave high school with useful knowledge to help them in the real world. By eliminating national testing curriculum, students will become more creative and will grow to become the next generation of inventors. By allowing students to grow from their mistakes in the face of failure, students will learn that failure is not to be avoided, but encouraged as an opportunity for growth. By enabling students with the tools they need for life, reducing stress, and supporting growth through failure, the American Public High School Education system will at last begin to benefit students.

Works Cited

Channel, History. “President George W. Bush Signs No Child Left Behind Act into Law.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 5 Sept. 2019, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/george-bush-signs-no-child-left-behind-act-into-law.

Holstein, Megan. “29 Ways The Educational System Is Failing Students.”

Medium, Medium, 7 Sept. 2019, medium.com/@meholstein/29-ways-american-schools-fail-students-b0cf3fc805ba.

Iliades, Chris, et al. “Stress May Trigger Mental Illness and Depression In Teens.” EverydayHealth.com, 2013,www.everydayhealth.com/depression/stress-may-trigger-mental-illness-and-depression-in-teens.aspx.

Kenneth A. Simon and W. Vance Grant, Digest of Educational Statistics, Office of Education, Bulletin 1965, No. 4 (Washington, D.C., U.S.Government Printing Office, 1965

Klein, Alyson. “No Child Left Behind Overview: Definitions, Requirements, Criticisms, and More.” Education Week, 25 Oct. 2018, www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/no-child-left-behind-overview-definition-summary.html.

Leal, Fermin. “College Career Readiness Survey.” DocumentCloud, 2017, www.documentcloud.org/documents/2187198-college-career-readiness-survey.html.

Smith, Kathleen. “6 Common Triggers of Teen Stress.” Psycom.net - Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986, www.psycom.net/common-triggers-teen-stress/.

Sprick, Randy. “Randy Sprick's Safe & Civil Schools – Practical Solutions, Positive Results!” U.S. High School Graduation Rates | Safe & Civil Schools, 0AD, www.safeandcivilschools.com/research/graduation_rates.php.

YouthTruth. “Student Engagement.” YouthTruth, 2017, youthtruthsurvey.org/student-engagement/#section1.

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