Before I begin my criticisms of public school, it behooves the interested to read Mandatory Education: Teaching Pigs to Sing by Blanche Barton. She does an excellent job of highlighting some other issues with the education system in the United States that I will try to keep away from. I also agree that homeschooling is often the best option for our children, however I will try to keep away from that topic as well.
Many of the problems in today’s education system stem from the simple fact that today’s students are over-tested and their test scores are much more important than accumulating useful skills and knowledge. For example, My junior year consisted of 4 standardized tests given to the entire grade, as well as a 5th I elected to take. In order, they were the pre-ACT, the ACT, The ACT Workkeys, a state standardized test to measure the academic progress of students though their years of schooling, and the AP Literature and Composition Test. Between each, I spent more time learning test taking skills than actually learning useful subject matter. I could not tell you how to find the volume of a sphere if my life depended on it, but I do know how to make a test show I know how to do it. 66% of my junior year could have been one class, called “how to keep the school in good standing.” In fact, a large percentage of my time in school over 12 years could be titled that way.
Students themselves are frustrated in this regard. Upon learning that the state standardized test we were taking was the first one of this title and would never be released to colleges or have any impact on our schooling whatsoever, students in school districts all over the state did something incredibly Satanic. We made mockery of standardized testing. Many students adopted the phrase “teach us, don’t test us” as answers in the many areas where written responses were required. Some of the more creative students, such as myself, held competitions to see who could make a mockery of the test in the most funny or intelligent ways. Briefly, the teachers tried to threaten punishment for students who did not test to the best of their ability. Those threats were met with a threat much more powerful. If teachers told students how to answer, the test would be thrown out due to its self imposed rules and then would make taxpayers pay for a retake and further disrupt the school’s ridged schedule. Essentially, proctors were powerless unless a student attempted to copy another student. My favorite response on the test was on an English portion. I was asked to continue a story about a girl at an aquarium. I had the girl telepathically communicate with a wise old turtle, who taught the girl about the ill effects of the level of standardized testing endured by modern high school students on their learning, the economy, and the taxpayer. I also correctly answered a math problem, explaining how to solve it using only the phonetics of Bill Cosby’s stereotypical speech pattern.
Over testing was not the only issue with my public education. As Magistra Barton pointed out, it is widely recognized that public school was created here in the States in order to accommodate the needs of the booming industrial economy at the time. The structure of schooling in standardized shifts as well as the curriculum perfectly prepared children to work in the factories that their parents did. As the economy began to change, so too did the curriculum, but the structure of public school endured as they now instilled what became regarded as a moral work ethic. The economy of the United States became information based, particularly in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (or STEM fields for short). This resulted in two things. The first was a condemnation of the arts, and the second was a condemnation of skilled trades. For as long as I can remember, both of those areas of education were considered below making efforts in the STEM fields. As a result, I spent most of my schooling telling myself many of the things I loved and still love were not marketable skills and I should be focusing on those more “academic” pursuits so I could be the most successful and happy. This mindset has done nothing but hinder me as I move through the world. While I currently pursue a law career, I feel almost slighted in that I feel my true passions and joys lie outside of what I have been taught is prudent from a young age. When I begin to pursue those passions in a way that I can make a career out of, I will be far behind where I could be if I were shown those options which I now see.
As Satanists, we recognize that each individual has talents that other individuals may not. Obviously not every child is good at something, however all children have some interest, and most interests can be pursued to a job. For this reason I feel that it is to the benefit of our society’s efficiency and thus us as individuals to make a change in the public school system. Obviously I am not an educator, but here are changes that I feel would have helped both me and my peers. I propose that education, starting at grade 6, be more student led and specific. Instead of 4, standardized core classes with 2 elective courses, the junior high years can be broken into 4 “credit pathways” for students to attempt to fulfil. These could be STEM, Visual Arts, Language Arts, and Social Studies. While each credit pathways will focus primarily on courses that fit the pathway name, it will still be required that students take courses that would be better fit another pathway. For example, I would best fit in the “Language Arts” pathway because that is where my passions lie, but I may take Psychology, which would be a social studies course. This system allows students to still be fairly well rounded, while allowing them to begin honing their inborn talents early. Upon entry to high school, further specialization should be required, and each student has multiple ways to graduate. While none of these pathways are any better nor any worse than any other inherently, this fits with allowing society to better stratify itself as people pursue their natural skills and thus their natural worth. Those who will be the best at operating heavy machinery will do so. Those who are the best visual artists will continue being so. This fractioning will also better stratify those industries, as those who are naturally competitive will be competing in those fields they are passionate about and thus improving in ways they otherwise wouldn’t.
Aside from the efficiency aspect, this model would promote choice and self evaluation on the part of students and lead to people living much happier lives. At the very least it would have avoided the “mid-Adolescence Crisis” I am currently experiencing.