Required Education?

In my last post I discussed how education is a formal setting and learning is done on an individual process. I also talked about how students need to be involved in their education so that the learning can occur. So why do we have all these requirements on students to receive their education?

Alright, I think we all agree that students in kindergarten do not know what they want nor really understand the process of learning. So can they have the many choices in their education? Well, yes, they can have some say, but they need a lot more guidance as well as requirements to move on to first grade. They need to learn the alphabet, numbers, simple math, music, physical education. The difference is that they want to learn. They are excited to learn new things and be able to show off their talents. It is when they are older and in high school that things start to become difficult.

Let’s look at the typical high school student. They must take an English course. Chances are is that the class is already set up. The teacher knows in August what stories and books the student will read, how many papers they will write, and other requirements to pass the class. The student then moves on to some sort of History class. Again the class is set up in August. Is this class for world, U.S., or government? There is an outline that the teacher follows so that every student this year gets the same information as last year. Then comes math class. Each student is placed into the next class that comes next in the continuum of math classes. Even though the student struggled so much last year in Algebra II and the student already knows they will not be using anything higher than that in the future, they must move on.

Why do we have these requirements? Why do we tell students that this is what they have to know to graduate? Why can’t they choose? Well, some things students need. I would agree that each student needs a reading class. Each needs a writing class. Each needs math. Each needs physical education. Why can’t they choose which one they want though?

When I was in college I was in band and that counted as one of my P.E. credits. Why can’t it be that way in high school? I will be honest and say that I got more of a workout in three months of marching band then I did in a year of freshman P.E. You may ask how that can be possible. Well in marching band we go over the show over and over and over and work on the memorization of it. Each show is about 15 minutes. after the show is learned, the band can run through the show 4 times in an hour long class. In P.E. I had to watch the teacher show us how to hit a tennis ball. Then I watched 4 students play a short game. During this time I sat on the sideline. When it was my turn to play, I would hit the ball. . . . . then walk and go get the ball because I hit it over the fence. When I get back, I hand the other team the ball. They serve it. . . . .then I stand and wait as they go and get the ball after hitting it over the fence. Am I learning? I sure am. I learned that I am not a tennis player. I am not a football player. I cannot hit a golfball straight. Did I get an A? I sure did. I got one in band as well, but I got a workout there.

What I am getting at is that maybe we need to look at what each class offers and see if it can be used to match a “requirement” that is set up by schools, districts, and the state board of educators. Let’s have students start making decisions sooner about their education so that when they get past high school they are not lost. Each student is different. Each of them will be doing something different when they leave our four walls of formal education. So why should we require every single student to be the same? Why are we molding each one to look just like the other? Do we not talk to them about being an individual and take ahold of what they believe in? So why are we making a mold and making each one fit into it? Let’s have students make their own choices of what their class schedule looks like, and we check to make sure it makes sense and works. It can happen.

I know that allowing students to make decisions like this for their education will take a little more work on our part as educators. So what? Are we really here for the students? If we are, then we are willing to help them and take the time it will take to help them. Some days I do not feel as I am an educator as I am a life coach for the kids. This is what our jobs would look like to help them design the education that they want. It can be done. We just need to figure out what students need most. What exactly is “required” for students to grow up and become adults? Is it the same for all of them? I do not think it is. Do you?


About Anthony Purcell

I am Anthony Purcell and I am currently teaching math in Oklahoma.
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2 Responses to Required Education?

  1. David Phillips says:

    I think that, for high school students, we should be offering lots of choices and allowing students to make proposals about their own learning. That doesn’t mean anything goes. There must be standards and there must also be a minimum level of knowledge and skills in core areas. However, the way students learn should be optional. For instance, if they are required to write a process essay, that could take a number of forms. One might like the traditional essay format giving instructions on a topic. Another might use a dtp program like MS Publisher to create a tutorial with step-by-step instructions and graphics. One could use Prezi to make a presentations that can be viewed online. Another might make an instructional video that would then be posted to YouTube. A creative teacher should be able to make an assignment that allows a wide range of options so students can employ tools and skills that are truly 21st century in nature.

    • I completely agree. I like how you said that it doesn’t mean it’s a free for all. There are requirements, but they look different from what we have now. I feel that we as educators have become to lazy and that parts of the system we have now are easier for us. Having more options for students means a little more work on our part. Are you ready for the challenge? I am!

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