My Turn

Story published: 08-21-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Education is not a one size fits all endeavor

By: Lacy Hilliard

Tomahawk Writer/Photographer

If you’re the parent of an elementary school aged child enrolled in public school, than you probably hear the words ‘standardized testing’ and ‘T-CAP’ in your sleep. It seems that as time goes on, elementary public education is becoming more rigid and free thinking is becoming a way of the past.

While I realize that the state mandated curriculum is assembled by scores of experts and is formulated in direct correlation with the overall needs of Tennessee’s children; averages and statistics cannot possibly cater to the needs of each individual child. Every child is different and therefore every child has different educational needs. Education is not a one size fits all endeavor. Some children struggle in math while others have difficulty with reading. Some children are artistic while others are more practical. Regardless of their differences, little is done to mold the curriculum to the needs of the individual.

Teachers are not to blame. It seems that many educators see the wisdom in educating individually. However, because state mandated competency testing lies in direct correlation with public school funding, teachers are forced to spend the majority of their time preparing for questions like “A student wants to add 4 kg of water into the buckets. How should the water be divided so that Bucket X is lower than Bucket Y?”

It’s not that the questions on the TCAP are unreasonable. In fact, many of them are well thought out and require careful consideration. However, the haste in which teachers are required to prepare for these exams turns an otherwise productive learning environment into a proverbial conveyor belt of knowledge; each child coming out on the other end perfectly packaged and ready for state approval.

Does the state have absolutely no faith in teachers? Do lawmakers and politicians assume that today’s teacher has absolutely no idea how to educate his or her students? I’m calling the states bluff. I think most people that make the choice to go into the challenging and somewhat thankless career of teaching are passionate about education and have their own ideas about what works and what doesn’t. Furthermore, teachers that have stood the test of time have a deep knowledge of the way students learn. Is anyone asking them what they think?

It is not the job of the public education system to teach your child everything he or she needs to learn. Parents must play an active role in the nurturing of a positive educational environment. But because our children spend most of their week at school and after school working on school related projects, I think it’s time for parents and educators to take a long, hard look at whether or not this system is working. Or we can just continue allowing the state to mandate everything our children learn. Certainly, lawmakers and politicians rarely make mistakes so parents should be quite content to lay back and enjoy their regimented distractions as the government works to mandate our lives and the lives of our children.

My hope is that both parents and educators will begin to see the importance of an education tailored to the individual. The day standardized testing stops being the end-all, be-all of the modern education system is day I look forward to and for the sake of our future leaders, I hope it comes soon.