June 18, 2019 | 75° F

BOZTEPE: United States education system is in need of serious change


The United States was once the destination of the finest K-12 education system in the world. The United States used to be consistently ranked in the top-three best in the overall educational rankings worldwide that highlight a mixture of reading/literacy scales, problem solving skills, science/mathematic proficiency levels and overall average scores. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) now ranks the United States as 24 in terms of high school literacy, eight in researchers and 54 in education expenditures. The United States falls well behind countries such as South Korea, China, England, Canada and Japan to name a few. There are plenty of reasons as to why we fell so behind, but today I would like to focus on the issue of presidential administration shifts, state government rule over the educational system and the lack of social, ethical and emotional education. 

Each president selects their cabinet during their time of being president-elect, and the United States secretary of education is no different. The secretary of education deals with federal influence over education policy and institute or revoke mandated national testing. President Donald J. Trump took office in 2016 and nominated Betsy Devos as the secretary of education. Devos lacks experience in terms of working and or attending public schools along with having no experience in government. Instead, she has donated millions to conservative religious schools rather than helping fund public schools. Devos lacks the understanding of basic education policy issues and that was shown on full display during her hearing where many news outlets gave her a “failing grade” as she could not answer questions such as “Do you support public education?”. Devos and her family have donated more than $200 million to Republicans nationally, many of those donations to the senators who will vote on her confirmation. She has stated that they do not take offense to these suggestions that they are buying influence as they do indeed expect something in return. Devos could be the secretary of education for 4 to 8 years, meaning that her decisions will impact the future working class of the United States. She wants to divert money spent on public education, has no plans or visions and supports policies against the LGBTQ+ community and deems they are an inconvenience to school personnel. Having Devos in charge of the nation’s public schools will only harm students. 

Education is not a part of the constitution in any of its clauses, but the government ensures that education is available to all, leading to the state legislatures the delegated power to structure their educational systems individually with a few regulations such as national testing still being controlled by the federal government. This can lead to different states having different levels of funding for their schools, such as New Jersey having higher taxes than Mississippi, meaning more money is put into the New Jersey public school systems. In a system as diverse and large as ours, standardization is critical. We must be held accountable to how schools are being funded and how teachers are getting trained. I believe there is an unjust difference in the quality of public education in Massachusetts versus the public education in Missouri. A modern school reform where we begin to fund the schools equally and increase our nationwide education expenditures are vital in taking that next step to rise back into the top three best in the world. The states can still rule over the majority of the curriculum, but with more surveillance of what is taught and more regulation in terms of training teachers. Teachers should be trained extensively on social and psychological issues through clinics. 

The school system cannot approach reform with a “one size fits all” approach, as not all students are the same. We should be able to support all types of learners, and to do so we need to promote different types of professional development for teachers and teachers' aids so that we can align with all of our students' needs, not just the majority of them. Furthermore, I believe it would be best to introduce more real-world problems into the curriculum to keep the interest of the students and further prepare them for the real world. We must fix the school schedule as well. For example, having a class that lasts 90 minutes, but only learning in approximately 50 of those minutes and having free time for the rest of the class, defeats the purpose of the class. We must either shorten the school days, change the hours of school from starting as early as they do or have a purpose for the full 90 minutes. The United States must have a mission statement on what they want to achieve, and they must live up to it, adapt to the changes in society and fund both the schools and teachers properly to get back to the top. 

Kaan Jon Boztepe is a School of Arts and Sciences junior double majoring in philosophy and history. His column, "Kaanotations," runs on alternate Wednesdays. 


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Kaan Jon Boztepe

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