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State mandated education is contrary to success of students

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Staff Writer/Photographer

As I watched the sad and anxious faces of Johnson County’s youth file into their respective schools on Monday morning my initial reaction was to take comfort in knowing that my daughter wasn’t the only one struggling to face the hours of test prep and/or testing that lay ahead. My second reaction was anger at the antiquated method used by public school systems all across America under the imposition of the state in an effort to determine which carefully crafted intelligence box (or lack thereof) our children fit neatly into.
Yes, the time for state imposed testing has arrived and the importance of performing well on these standardized tests is at an all-time high. Some educators have the stress of funding being tied to test scores whereas some students must contend with the pressure of knowing they may fail the grade should their test scores not prove their worthiness to move forward.
There are any number of reasons otherwise intelligent children don’t perform well on tests of this nature. Some children struggle with learning disabilities that prevent them from accurately portraying their knowledge and skill set in the given format. Even students without documented (or undocumented) learning disabilities struggle with anxiety leading up to the test and mental exhaustion following the test. It’s time to redefine the way we sculpt, measure and define intelligence.

My biggest problem with public education is that overall it’s a one-size-fits-all approach to learning. If students don’t fit perfectly within the socially defined realm of state mandated intelligence, they’re often left behind. I know, because I was one of those students and I fear that my daughter is too.
If the state wants everyone to fit into their box, why even bother educating the children that don’t? Perhaps they should just be banished to child labor camps seeing as the state cannot seem to find anything viable in the human brain that doesn’t translate neatly within an answer bubble. As ridiculous as that sounds, options are limited post-education for students whose skills don’t shine through in a traditional classroom setting.
When did we start to lose sight of the importance of skills other than English, math and science? Michelle Obama’s school lunch initiative is one example of legislation lacking common sense. It’s also a missed opportunity for tangible enrichment in the lives of students across the United States. Rather than looking at the growing obesity epidemic as an opportunity to shift the agricultural consciousness of modern students, the program simply cuts portions of the same preservative laden food that has always been found in school cafeterias. What if as a part of the new school lunch program, students learned to grow their own food? What if every single school across America (including those within urban areas) had a greenhouse and/or rooftop garden in which a portion (if not all) of the fresh food consumed by students was produced on site as a part of the curriculum? Not only could various lessons be encompassed within the process, the exercise students would receive while tending to the needs of their crops would only further the cause. Any surplus in the harvest could be sold to local restaurants and grocery stores (a concept similar to the JCHS greenhouse/aquaculture center) thereby raising money for the school.

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