We all learn something new each day, and education in general is an integral part of just about every single person’s life. Whether it’s a bright-eyed kindergartner hopping off the yellow school bus, an ambitious PhD-seeking graduate student at a university, or a parent registering for classes, meeting teachers, and helping with homework, education and the education system are never far from us. In her Keywords essay titled Education, Elizabeth Rose Gruner describes the various styles of education and their development throughout history. She highlights the idea that education is often self-directed and takes place alongside, rather than through, standard curriculum. Although education can be primarily vocational (preparing students for a future as productive adults) or more holistic (nurturing children into adulthood and citizenship), the overarching objective is to help bring up individuals that will contribute to society in a beneficial manner. After reading and reflecting on this essay and these takeaways in particular, I began to draw connections between Gruner’s work, the American Girl story Kirsten Learns a Lesson by Janet Shaw, and a video clip from FOX News (https://video.foxnews.com/v/3504012538001/#sp=show-clips) about the debate over standardized testing in public schools.
In Kirsten Learns a Lesson, we see that traditional education is not always what works for everyone. In the story, Kirsten is sent to a school in Minnesota with her cousins. But unlike them, Kirsten hardly speaks, writes, or understands English. When the class is tasked with memorizing and presenting a poem, Kirsten is overwhelmed by the expectation that she will be able to complete this task with ease and is frustrated by how simple it is for her cousins and the other children. Eventually, by employing her own memory trick and trying her own way, Kirsten manages to remember and recite her poem.
This story shows that at times, education should be more flexible and accommodating. Even without the language barrier Kirsten had at her new school, not all students learn the same way and the spectrum of student strengths is incredibly vast. Kirsten’s school appeared to be more focused on the vocational aspect of education, likely relying on parents/family to take care of the holistic aspects of education and raising “good kids.”
In a more modern setting, the idea of differing learning styles and opinions on the educational system is extremely prominent in the debate over whether standardized testing should continue in schools. In the news clip titled “Debate Over Standardized Testing in Public Schools,” an Atlanta couple is at-odds with their elementary-age kids’ school district over standardized testing. While the couple argued that such tests cause unnecessary anxiety and stress, the district asserts that administering standardized tests is simply the law. It’s a story that every school district in every city has heard, whether it’s from students themselves, parents, or even teachers. While this testing is an unconditional feature of standardized education, it’s not to say that it has its downfalls. These tests may not adequately measure each students performance in the same way Kirsten’s assignment in school didn’t necessarily reflect the intelligence and skills she actually possessed.
In conclusion, the topic of “education” is extensive and it’s clear that it takes shape in multiple forms and in arenas other than a traditional classroom. It’s important to have standards in place to assure students receive the best experience possible, but it’s equally as important to consider that the “perfect student” doesn’t exist. What works for one will not work for everyone else, which is evidenced in Kirsten’s story and in the news clip featuring two parents that are certain in their stance that standardized testing is just not for their children. Education as a process will continue on and on. Certainly, new methods and modes of education will arise and be debated as we strive to gain knowledge and become better contributors to society. It sure seems like we all have a lot to learn.