A lot has been written about how American students lag behind their international counterparts, especially in the areas of reading, math, and science. Most politicians and educators agree that education reform is badly needed, but there seems to be no clear consensus for how to go about it.
I am not an educator nor do I have any professional degree in education. But I am a product of the public school system and my mother is a NYC public school teacher. If I were in charge of education reform, I would use three basic principles to shape my reform efforts.
1. Learning Should Be Fun
For a minute let’s forget about standardized testing. Imagine a world where kids came to school, not because they were forced or bribed, but because they enjoyed attending school. Learning is a natural part of life. Discovery and exploration go hand-in-hand with learning. Educators, parents, and politicians need to work together to reform the curriculum in such a way so that it emphasizes the natural process of learning and makes education fun. Getting students to want to come to school is a big step toward ensuring the next generation will be able to compete internationally.
“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” – Dale Carnegie
2. Bad Behavior Will Not Be Tolerated
I’ve heard stories from friends and relatives I know who are public school teachers about how a good chunk of their time is spent breaking up classroom fights or dealing with disruptive students. This takes away from valuable teaching time and is unfair to the students who actually want to learn. If I were a reformist, I’d make sure public schools have the option to expel students for bad behavior. Parents of these students would have the option to home-school these kids or send them to a special charter school for children with behavioral issues.
3. Parental Involvement is Mandatory
Imagine if school worked like a factory. Parents would drop off their children with their unmolded minds, and at the end of the 12 year process, having been shaped and molded by the public school system, their child would emerge a genius. Unfortunately, a public school is not a factory. Students and parents have to do their parts as well. Sometimes parents underestimate the influence they have over their children. They need to stress that learning is important, and demonstrate this by taking an interest in their children’s education. This means helping with homework, attending parent-teacher conferences, and being aware of what is going on in their child’s school.
I believe if parents, teachers, and politicians work together and refocus their efforts on the above principles, they can fix the public schools and give the competitive edge back to our kids.