American education system failing, needs reform from ‘one-size-fits-all’

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The American education system is not keeping pace with its competitors. According to a July 2012 report by Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, American students are ranked 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading among 27 industrialized nations.

It’s no wonder why, over the last thirty years, our government has made several attempts to set a more nationwide curriculum. Whether this program is called outcome-based education, Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind or Common Core, these initiatives do not benefit all children. Instead, they streamline children straight into failure.

The future of any country lies with its future leaders and with an education system like ours, the future does not look bright. If we want America’s education system to thrive once again, we need to leave decision-making to those who know what is best for individual children: their parents – not the federal government.

According to Americans for Prosperity Kansas, the state of Kansas spent over $12,000 per child in tax dollars last year. This effort does not seem to be helping, and I see no reason to think it will. Personally, I attended two Catholic schools, one a non-religious based private school, and four public schools. I was learning things my freshman year in private school that were not even touched until the last semester of my senior year in public school.

Moreover, standardized testing does not reflect the full variety of student aptitude in the United States; it values only one narrow sort of knowledge. Individuals are different: forcing them all to conform to an average does nothing but cause harm.

If results are averaged, just as many students are being held back from excelling as those who weren’t able to keep up before. Our education system has become like trying to put a round peg into a square hole.

The concept that is missing in our education system is this: people are different, but we should all have equal opportunity to make something of our lives. Our responsibility is not to ensure that each child knows the same things, but to ensure that each child has the groundwork for a prosperous life.

For America to succeed as a nation, we need everyone, not just the brilliant mathematicians, but the welders and construction workers as well. We need those who learn in different ways and see the world differently. Instead of demanding that every child become a star athlete or engineer, we should allow people to develop their unique skill sets. It’s time to put choices back in the hands of parents and put an end to uniform standards.

Samantha Poetter is a senior in political science. Please send comments to