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Curriculum cripples students

This editorial was written by Jennifer Gleason & Rebecka McAleer


Back in March, CNN reported on 35 Georgia public school educators and administrators who were indicted on a cheating scandal. It’s a peculiar report, given that educators and school administrators are often the first to preach about honesty and policies against plagiarism and other forms of cheating.

Middle school and high school students are groomed for standardized tests, final exams and graduation tests. Such focus on test scores groom students’ ability to memorize facts, but it does not nurture students’ desire to learn.

When these students transition into college, their transition becomes harder; they have spent the last 12 years memorizing facts, and not thinking critically. Their ability to analyze and form theses of their own is crippled. College professors are easily frustrated by students who were never encouraged to think critically. Independent research and experiments are only tried by the “advanced” students who were given the opportunities in high school.

Likewise, the five paragraph essay becomes obsolete by college, and for students that did not take honors and advanced placement classes, many students may not even have been exposed to different essay forms. In turn, students feel that they are getting the short end of the stick when they receive bad grades for underwhelming work. “I did the assignment, why is my grade still bad?” they ask.

The debate about the positive and negative effects of standardized testing has been going on for years. With a standardized test, students are encouraged to “memorize and regurgitate,” which teachers argue prevents actual learning. However without standardized tests, parents become distrustful of the educational system—because a standard implies there is a goal.

The truth of the matter is that everyone is right. Standardized tests are prepared for the lowest common denominator, without any flexibility for students with learning disorders or trouble with testing. They create a single point at which everyone is evaluated and given a “yes” or “no” answer for advancement to the next level.

This puts unnecessary stress on students who cram for one test for almost an entire year. As proven by the CNN report, it also encourages teachers to get good results one way or another, whether that means showing little Joey flash cards for a month or slipping him the answers mid-test.

Humans are not linear creatures, so testing them in a linear fashion is absurd. We educate teachers in the best ways to understand children and work with them according to their need. Why is it that they get so little say in the end about their students? Who do you trust more: The teacher who has known and cared for little Joey all year long through thick and thin, or the board member who fed a piece of paper through a machine—especially if that machine has no idea that Joey is dyslexic?

As university students, we cry foul. We are tired of being judged as incompetent and unskilled as a result of not being taught the skills we really needed. The system set us at a disadvantage. Let’s stop it before it does any more damage.

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