Whether you saw it on Fox8 Cleveland or YouTube last fall, or more recently/likely on Tosh.0, the story about the sixth grader who received a one-hour detention for “passing gas” is true. This article is not to debate slapstick humor versus highbrow entertainment nor is it to discuss the (un)-importance of having/learning “class.” No. This article is to raise awareness to the real problem: our failed education system.
While we in the U.S. confuse young children about natural, bodily functions by not just hushing the “embarrassing” ones— but now disciplining those who childishly defy or outright do not accept mainstream mores— countries such as India, Thailand, China, and Sweden are not simply excelling in academics, but quickly monopolizing the world’s future movers-and-shakers. Take a look at this detailed report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
According to OECD’s latest tri-annual Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the United States education system ranked 14th out of 34 in reading skills, 17th for science, and 25th for mathematics. Dare I ask what your reaction would be if your child— who has open access to the best of the world’s resources— came home with a 58% in language arts, a 50% in science, and a 26% in mathematics? I venture to assume that your reaction would include a long parent-to-child talk, a parent-to-teacher conference, and inquiring assistance from the professionals at the Sylvan Learning Center.
All right. So what does farting/tooting/passing gas/etc., on a bus have to do with salvaging our failed education system? A lot. Without me going into a complete tirade about revamping the concept of honest adult roles and responsibility courses in grades 6-12, I will leave that for another time and skip to this basic truth: instead of the world’s foremost bright, inclusive, inventive, and progressive nations, we have sidewinder’ed our culture into the trammels of inanity and shame (whatever that is, precisely).
While you watch FOX/CNN/PBS/MSNBC/AJE, etc, tonight, take note of how many stories (and their cumulative time spent) are fixated on fatuous topics: kids farting on busses, a sad woman who has injured her children, a congressman’s sexting pics; and then compare that to the amount of time American media spends discussing how we as a nation are actively seeking means of succeeding in solving our country’s and our world’s largest problems: Diabetes, Rx-addictions, Asthma, Racism, Cancer, Homelessness, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, Spina bifida, Ethnic “Cleansings,” Anti-Semitism, Homophobia etc. Unless you are a strict PBS or Anderson Cooper (CNN needs to expand with more Coopers, Guptas, Zakariases, etc.) fan, chances are there is a distinctive gap in your findings.
Now that we honestly recognize the problem and its severity, we must now immediately begin to work on salvage and reclaim. Think FDR’s New Deal. And as the Alphabet Soup of FDR’s New Deal inspired reconstruction of a failed economy, an overhaul of our current SES-restrictive, test-driven and anti-scientific education system would reconstruct a failed education system. But how would we replace our failed system? How about through the same philosophy professed by The Statue of Liberty: Freedom. Huh? Stick with me here:
As rational, educated beings, we can all easily agree that our nation was initially founded on the simple concepts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness— all of which The Statue of Liberty represents, right? Or have we forgotten so soon that She is a beacon of America’s adoration for collective, innovative ingenuity between Free nations, demanding the world to give Her its “tired, [its] poor/[Its] huddled masses yearning to breathe Free?” If we have, click the hyperlink in this paragraph.
So again, how do we fix the American education system? Easy: we return to our original philosophy as a people. We abandon our silly, failed conventional intelligence bench-markers (brainless book-regurgitation tests, academic anxiety-sparking pop-quizzes, and pre-established, assigned group projects) and replace them with innovative, collaborative, self-driven and student-to-teacher-to-student lead projects respective to a given subject’s academic field.
And please— America— please let us finally embrace science! It is time that we drop our animosities towards science and make our children scientists. We rely on scientists for vanity (hair color, Rogaine), health (disease-prevention, vitamin-infused beverages), finances (try and tell the FED that economics is not a science) and almost any/everything else we use daily. Obviously, it is time that we give the scientific method our unadulterated respect and no longer exploit its power for profit and veil it in irrational suspicion.
It is as simple as that folks. Still do not believe me? Ask yourself: “when do I learn best?” I will gamble that it is one of— if not a combination of— you being in your own little geek-out world, exploring websites— or talking to direct sources in a quasi-Socratic conversation— or when you are diving into a good book— or possibly expressing an idea or newly learned concept through artistic means? Maybe it is when you are exercising in the morning or during the monotony of your morning wake-up routine? Regardless of what your unique learning scene is, or how you tap into it, you know that it has bred your favorite and most powerful learning experiences.
Why are we not harnessing this basic understanding and injecting its wisdom into our educational system? If we really want to become the world’s hope again— if we really want to be the leading nation in solving what ails us— we need to make this easy, 100% logical plan an immediate reality.
In student affairs, we pride ourselves as a freethinking, innovative field on a blazing quest of establishing the most efficient and positive learning environments, correct? Then it is time we collaborate with our faculty friends and try tooting new horns— and stop fartin’ around.
Tyler Martin recently completed his M.Ed. in Higher Education and is seeking a position in Student Affairs.