On Education: ‘No Child Left Behind’ leaves us all behind

Education is important. Growing up, maybe this resonates for some of you, the prevailing opinion of school was that “it sucks.” School was that thing you had to go to because Mom and Dad told you that you had to. It seemed like school did nothing for you except stand in the way of playing soccer at recess. Yet, in spite of how you felt about it, your education was one of the most important things to ever happen to you.

With the passing of a bill called the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, the education you likely received from kindergarten onward was based on standardized tests. You probably felt in a very real way the negative effects of “teaching to the test.” Although this bill was intended to make your education better, many experts in the field today would say that it has completely destroyed real education.

I remember a few of my older teachers lamenting the terrible effects of standardized testing and how they felt like they couldn’t actually teach anymore. Throughout my Olivet experience, I’ve begun to understand what they meant.

When your teachers had to “teach to the test,” they no longer had to make sure you understood the material. Their job became to make sure you could remember the correct answers long enough to pass the test. Teaching became less about showing students what happens when two chemicals are combined in a test tube and more about making them memorize the Periodic Table.

As a result, school became something of a prison. Rather than put effort into understanding literature and algebra, the role of the student became to “memorize” standards. We would stack data on the surface of our brains rather than let it sink into the very fabric of our minds. “Text anxiety” became the norm, as the balancing act of not letting the stacks fall off of our brains until we were done with the test became the only definition we had for “studying.”

The purpose of saying all of this is two-fold. First, the pastoral heart buried somewhere inside of me wants to encourage you to not give up on pursing your education because of the emotional turmoil caused by this crazy, messed-up system. Frederic Douglass once said, “Education can make a child unfit for slavery.” The way for you to break free from the slavery of school is to continue to be educated. So don’t quit! Your education is important. You are important!

Second, I want to propose a couple solutions. One very important thing to remember is that education legislation is handled at the state level. The President has no real control over education, so when you vote, vote down the ballot for governors, state representatives, and school board members who will make good decisions about education in your state. If you don’t know anything about any of these candidates, ask teachers.

Another solution is to change how you think about your education. Don’t waste your time trying to make grades if you don’t understand the material. That isn’t helping anyone! You’re paying thousands of dollars to get an education, and if you come away with a 4.0 but still don’t understand your field, then you wasted your time and money. Don’t do assignments for points. Do them to actually learn.

Education is important. Education can truly be a force for change in the world. Being exposed to new ideas can increase our appreciation for each other. When we learn from each other, we’re no longer fighting with each other. It’s worth more than all the points money can buy, and you deserve the best education possible. Education makes you a better person, and the world a better world.

Evan Sherar, Staff Writer

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