In elementary school, students learn the foundation to their education. Whether they will later become a doctor, a lawyer, a writer, or an actor, all students learn the basics of math, English, science, and history. The student is able to build on this information for the rest of their schooling and really the rest of their lives – the overall emphases is centered around learning. The politics of the system, however, are creeping into the classroom. Scripted curriculum and common core are making sure students know certain information with the almost sole goal of reflecting well on their school and making it to the next grade.
In high school many students slave over their school work. Many of the classes, students feel, are things they will not even use and many students start to slack off as they near “the end”. Students face the demands of building their resumes, having a solid social life, and excelling in school. In my opinion, high school teaches a lot of how to simply get by. The testing culture is at an all time high. Between AP tests, SATS, standardized tests, and others, testing well is more valued than learning. The emphasis has shifted from growing in knowledge and academic ability taking the most challenging path to get to the next step. High school for some serves as a ladder to the next level, rather than something to actually benefit them in their lives as a whole.
In college, education is supposed to shift from a general knowledge and information focus to a career focus. Students strive to get to the best schools to make themselves the most attractive in the job market. Ideally, students would be doing relevant classes and hands on experience with what they desire as their life work, but this is rarely true. Students are spending thousands upon thousands to simply complete general education requirements to acquire general knowledge in different subject areas like they did in high school. Shouldn’t the education we pay for prepare us for the job that will pay us? Unfortunately, undergraduate college education has often become another stepping stone. I, personally was told by a dean in the graduate program I hope to be a part of “It matters less what you major in, and more what your GPA is.” Since when does the knowledge I gain not matter, as long as I study something? Graduate schools seems to almost always be necessary in the real word, in other words, paying for four years of college is no longer enough.
Why does the focus differ so much? Ideally, I think that students would learn a background in many subjects at a young age including not only core subjects, but studies in the arts or hands on work. As they reach middle and high school where public education, their knowledge should be expanded as they explore their interests and become a well rounded education person. College should then prepare students who seek this level of education out for a job that will require that schooling not for the label, but for the training it provides. Now in a sense, this is our system, but when we take a step back and look at it… it’s scary how much the focus has changed.