LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Education should inspire learning – Odessa American

The sun ascends upon the horizon, illuminating apricot clouds stretched across the pale blue sky and commencing birds to chirp their festive song; alarms set the night before by neighborhood children chime for their naive attention; it’s the first day of school, the smell of fuel emissions from loading buses and frantic cars, and freshly trimmed grass covered in dew reminisce the first morning of kindergarten. I stare intently at the ceiling to adjust my vision to the outpouring light from the bedroom window; I come to the realization it’s the last time when peers and I will wake for our first day of high school.

Rose is probing her closet for a piece that fits the acceptable dress code; Tom is stressing about his unfinished book report due by the acceptable deadline; and Gregor is worried he might not play tennis if he can’t score acceptable grades. The dilemma for each student arising from school’s interference on their judgment; otherwise, Rose could choose to confidently express herself, Tom could continue to explore literary classics rather than compulsory reading, and Gregor, not an excellent test taker, could persist to excel at tennis.

The regular effect of school on students’ creative, academic and athletic pursuits can sometimes feel limiting. But what force acts behind to undermine each student’s growth of personality, to express, learn, and develop? In between passing periods navigating through peers like condensed sardines is overwhelming to fathom, but regardless of how many more students the district can push beyond capacity, a thousand different names and faces are expected to align with a uniform expectation, ceasing their potential to grow as individuals under the forceful effect of standardization.

The education system inhibits independent thought with a standardized formula. The method consists of arriving at an objective destination. Don’t fret about losing direction! Students must conform to “acceptable thought” until reckless whims of curiosity are restrained to an appropriate path. For instance, poetry is likely to be excluded from instruction because of its propensity to have varied and fruitful meaning. Indeed, when poetry is taught in class, EOCs narrow the subjective beauty of poems to dull strategies, methods and patterns, to obtain the “right answer.” In the learning process, students are trained to think uncritically to fit restrictive pedagogical theory, and the objective treatment of poetry can apply to history, algebra and reading.

In an assembly line when a product fails to comply with the Texas Education Agency’s standard of academic readiness, students are coded as unsatisfactory and sent back to recall. Thus, I ask: who is that student among blurred faces? what makes them exceptional? how do they perceive me? My mind undergoes a symptom of feeling like there’s not a single thought that can disassociate myself from peers. The answer to my pending questions is pointless. Standardization isn’t structured to cultivate a form of thinking that compliments a distinct identity. Peers may have diverse hairstyles and clothing, but nothing permits individual identity because T.E.A. measures do not cherish the construct of an inviolable thought.

The district has promised to not return to a “one-size-fits-all” approach to education. But the district’s attempt to reform education should be reviewed with skepticism. Districts across the state, including locally, have contracted the program Naviance; the program culls each student’s data into a qualified algorithm, more qualified than yourself, and arbitrarily dictates our interests, courses, career paths and suggested colleges. The newly implemented program conflicts with the new ideals of the district- to recognize and nurture an eclectic learning environment- but characteristically resorts to a degrading “one-size-fits-all” method. If the district’s defence for Naviance is an expedient solution to an abundant population, then the district should first prioritize relieving the capacity of schools before it commits to personalizing education.

A core but often omitted voice in education is caused by an unwilling prerogative to trust teachers and students. Although an administrator acts indirectly with a classroom they subvert the credibility of a teacher’s direct relationship with students. The teacher is no longer the guide and director, and is discredited for the intimate time spent understanding the “hopes, desires and chief interests” of students. In addition, the voice of students is rarely accounted for except on a solitary sheet of alphabetized bubbles. My friends and I feel hopeless because any attempt to address personalizing education is futile. Afterall, the pessimism of my classmates is not surprising; antiquated walls have witnessed the same formulaic pedagogy for decades. New technology meant to innovate education has produced more programs like Naviance, digital surveys and assessment reports designed to measure- not foster- the growth of students.

Education is a continuous process to inspire students to be reflective thinkers throughout their lifetime. What is the end of a standardized curriculum, but to ensure students have retained the right information? What skills of inquiry do we hope to instill in tomorrow’s participants in society? Do the rewards of conformity, passivity and obedience deserve greater value than the benefit of stimulating the curiosity of students? Students docile to the learning process may be a prerequisite to the numbing effect of standardization, to unquestionably accept what is instructed, but an authentic education succeeds in inspiring a world of reflective thinkers motivated by intellectual freedom, guided by the spirit of inquiry and desire to question the unknown.

Matthew Thompson