The Decomposition of Education
Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
The Decomposition of Education
Why does it seem that students who enter college, whether in a UC, CSU or JC level, do so without the skills needed to be successful? According to Barbara Baran and Vicky Lovell in "Cuts Threaten Classes That Teach Basic Skills," "about nine in ten community college students, more than half of California State University students, and approximately one-third of UC students do not have the skills to successfully complete college-level coursework" (A-11). These are staggering statistics, especially when we consider the reasons why this phenomenon has come to be. Some people might say that it is because the teachers are not doing their job as educators. They are not educating students with the basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills needed to succeed. Others point to parents as the reason for the lack of education. My goal in this essay is to challenge parents, teachers, and even students themselves to fulfill their roles in the preservation of education.
My first argument would be that some teachers lack the boldness to give failing grades to students who earn them, thus causing the students to have no real fear of failure and worse yet no desire to succeed. During my years of high school education I was blessed at the time, cursed in the long run, by receiving test scores that were graded on a curve. Perhaps the teachers graded on a curve because they were afraid to hurt the feelings of students. Perhaps the teachers were more concerned with having students like them than with challenging students to do better. For the sake of emotions, we have neglected education. The focus, I believe, has to be on a sense of shame for failure and a sense of glory for success. Educators, if you are reading this, please, be bold! There is no crime in giving constructive criticism to a student with a failing test score. This would actually encourage students to work harder and study more. However, it is a crime to reduce education on the basis of saving face or avoiding discomfort. I have heard of history teachers who do not teach about slavery in the United States because it is a "touchy subject." What is the payment for this crime? Students, thousands of students, are left behind the bars of institutions of higher learning, never able to acquire a decent education.
The second reason students do not have the basic foundations needed for their education is that they have been trained to not apply themselves. I have taken enough tests by now to know that it doesn't matter what I learn during the semester, as long as my teacher provides a midterm or final exam study guide a week before the exam. If such a study guide is provided, there is no need to pay attention to anything my teacher has to say during the weeks prior to receiving the study guide. In order to pass the exam, all I have to do is look over the study guide the night before the exam and, come test day, voila, I pass! Then, over the winter and summer breaks, I forget everything I have learned during the previous school session. This is why I believe the second reason students enter college without the skill needed to succeed in college is because we, as students, have been trained to not apply ourselves. There is no real need to retain knowledge. No fear of not knowing an answer to a test because tests have been reduced to true or false and multiple choice, or, as my economics teacher rightfully puts it, "multiple guess." Why study when we can just guess the answer with a high chance of getting the question right? I even had a friend who would, on the ridges of his pencil, write the letters A, B, C, D, and E. When he came to a question on a test that he did not know, he would gently roll his pencil on his desk and whichever letter was face up when it stopped rolling would be the answer he chose. He was very wise in the art of not applying himself.
Finally, the last reason students lack the basic skills needed to succeed in college is partly the fault of parents. Parents have a mandate to teach their children basic skills. Why would teachers give out homework to their students if they didn't believe that there was someone at home who was able to help the students understand the problems? They wouldn't. Parents need to encourage their children to work hard and to apply everything that they are learning. Parents should instill the fear of failure and a sense of glory for success into their child's life. Sadly, however, I fear most parents have neglected this duty, and as time goes on more and more parents will follow suit. Unlike teachers, parents have a condensed "student-to-teacher" ratio to deal with. They also have more grounds for giving constructive criticism without losing the love of the child. One of the ways that parents have neglected this duty is by allowing the excess viewing of television in the home. My niece does not have one mother, or father, or teacher. No, she has thousands, perhaps millions of mothers, fathers, and teachers, because she spends more time at the feet of the TV than at the feet of her biological mother. If parents continue to hand over the responsibilities of parenting to the television, then there can be no hope for their child's education.
Without the boldness of educators, we avoid constructive criticism. Without the need to apply oneself, we take away the need to retain knowledge. Without the parent playing an active role in educating the child, only images without words reside in the mind of a child. If this continues . . . perhaps, in the near future, no one will be able to read this essay, let alone to graduate college.
Baran, Barbara and Vicky Lovell. "Cuts Threaten Classes That Teach Basic Skills." San Francisco Chronicle 1 July 2009: A-11.