Viewpoint: American education system lacking

Education is a right that many people take for granted, which is sad because people in other countries dream of that opportunity. As college students we should understand how valuable education is because it allows us to get ready for the real world.

However, despite the increase in the number of people attending college, education remains a key issue because America is falling behind several East Asian and European countries.

Exxon Mobil Corp. released a commercial stating that America ranks No. 25 in math, challenging our nation to do better. The company began taking on initiative to solve the problem, but what exactly is the problem? This issue is complex because there are multiple factors such as the quality of teachers, standardized testing, funding, etc.

One of Exxon Mobil’s goals is to increase teacher quality. Finding a teacher who is not only passionate about teaching, but also understands how to teach a child rare.

Some teachers only expect students to memorize information they taught from a book. The problem is that most people forget what they learned because they only memorize it for a short period of time.

The Atlanta cheating scandal which began in 2009 brought light to this issue. Children weren’t passing, so teachers took it upon themselves to cheat. However, if teachers were to actually relate the material to a real-life situation, that child would be more likely to learn.

The problem is that many teachers don’t have a choice at times because of standardized testing.

Standardized testing has its critics, and rightfully so. Learning should not be confined to a test with four answer choices to bail us out. Life doesn’t work that way and neither should tests. I understand that there needs to be a universal standard, but there is too much emphasis on it. Students shouldn’t learn for a test; they should learn to gain knowledge.

The point of learning is to make us whole, rounded people and to help us understand different ideas and concepts. Standardized testing limits what students are able to learn. Children need to have the ability to think critically and solve problems, not just identify them.

There is also a cultural problem within our nation. Many don’t view learning as a popular thing and blow it off. Schools continue to fail in engaging students because they don’t know how. Sometimes good teachers can help solve that problem, but other times they can’t. There needs to be a cultural shift to accept learning, but it’s easier said than done.

The best way to start is to get kids engaged early. In Europe many children start elementary school between the ages of 3 and 4. Young children are extremely curious and want to learn as much as they can. Teaching information at a young age allows that child to get exposed to that idea multiple times because of the early exposure. According one of the founders of cognitive psychology George Miller, it takes seven times for concepts to be stored in long-term memory.

The brain continues to make connections until it stops developing; however, a child’s mind makes those connections more rapidly.

There is a reason it’s easier to learn a language when you’re younger. Europeans take advantage of that and expose students to languages early on. In European school systems language is emphasized in teaching children early as well as math.

Education is a complex issue, but it something the nation needs to go about solving. These kids are the future, and if the problems in our education system don’t get resolved soon our nation is in serious trouble.

Parmida Schahhosseini is a junior journalism major from Houston. She is a sports writer for the Lariat.