Over the years, the education system in the United States has undergone numerous reforms. Nonetheless, despite the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954, which promised integrated and equitable schools, there are considerable differences between charter and public schools. The learning institutions have been segregated based on social status and race. The public schools have suffered massive budget cuts and a shortage of teaching staff, with some of them experiencing closure (Ravitch, 2014). Due to inadequate resources, public schools struggle to meet the student’s social and academic needs, with most of its learners being children from low-income families, particularly students of color.
The placement of students in the country’s best schools has also been linked to creating more inequalities in schools. The criterion disregards the learner’s existing excellent performance, critical analysis, and leadership skills. This has barred many students of color and low-income families from joining specialized schools (Hewitt, 2017). Inadequate school resources have left teachers grappling with limited time and heavy workloads, negatively impacting their mental health. There is a need for more reforms in the education sector to boost the quality of learning in schools.
The Purpose of School
The purpose of school is to educate and nurture children. Through education, learners are taught basic skills such as reading, writing, and arithmetic to complex problem-solving skills. They are also enlightened about the traditional values and ethics which are acceptable to society. In this case, the children may learn the importance of honesty, compassion, and hard work, among other values. Schools also expose students to how society works and help them discover their role in it.
Additionally, schools are responsible for nurturing children to assist them in realizing their talents and abilities (Murrow, 2017). They introduce diverse subjects and activities to children and make them identify the areas where their interests lie. The knowledge of a child’s aptitude helps them acquire more skills and expertise in the area. The learning institutions also provide safety, food, and relationships with caring people and offer knowledge, socioemotional and cognitive skills that improve the children’s lifelong resilience. Therefore, schools offer a warm and conducive environment that allows a child’s psychological and spiritual growth.
Learning institutions create universal access to education for all students. They present equal opportunities to all children to acquire knowledge regardless of race, sexuality, social status, and gender. Horace Mann’s aim for schools was to create a universal curriculum that would foster national and sociological unity. Mann, also known as the Father of the Common School, advocated for universality in learning institutions to eradicate class and religious differences. Based on Mann’s belief, the institution’s purpose is to preserve and uphold a democratic society (1957). Additionally, Kozol states that the role of schools is to enhance a student’s love of the country, home ideals, and appreciation of traditional values. Knowing the nation’s values can help students identify and prevent any threat that may compromise them (2009). Therefore, schools offer a common ground for all learners irrespective of their backgrounds and build awareness of their country’s ideals.
Schools promote a child’s social growth through the creation of meaningful relationships. Learning institutions provide an avenue where learners can establish relations with caring adults and their peers. This influences how they relate and connect with other people and form relationships in the future. Schools foster positive ties between the students and train them to work in unity with others. John Dewey maintains that schools are mainly social institutions whose purpose is to simplify the prevailing social life. He also states that schools should grow learners out of their home life.
In this case, they should serve as an extension of a child’s home by incorporating activities that are familiar to the learners. The institutions also need to deepen the moral values that a child has been taught at home and establish themselves as forms of community life where real-life experiences of home and society are provided. Dewey cautions schools against limiting their role to offering knowledge and lessons and teaching habits to students (1897). Hence, the role of learning institutions is expansive and involves demystifying the complicated social life to improve the children’s understanding of it.
How Students Best Learn
A positive and conducive environment promotes effective learning in schools. Creating a positive school culture where teachers, parents, and students have shared goals and values boosts learning. Students are more likely to excel if the institutions offer a caring and inclusive setting where they are all respected and listened to regardless of race, religion, and social status. Good teacher-student relationships characterize a positive learning environment. Teachers are responsible for establishing positive relations with their students at an individual level to understand their unique needs and devise approaches to fulfill such requirements (SanBdoCitySchools, 2018).
Good student-teacher relations help learners express themselves freely and seek clarifications and academic assistance from their instructors when necessary. Such relationships also help students share any personal or educational challenges that may hinder their learning process with the teachers, therefore getting the support they need. In addition, positive teacher-student ties build trust, allow for continuous learning and improvement (Murrow, 2017). Teachers may encourage students to move from their comfort zones to realize their potential. Thus, students learn best if they feel that they are appreciated and supported.
An Interactive learning process considerably improves student engagement leading to positive outcomes. In most cases, teacher-centered strategies are more prevalent in learning institutions around the world. They involve scenarios where teachers present learning materials to students with minimal or no involvement in the teaching process. However, students understand better in an interactive setting where they actively contribute to classroom activities (Achieve The Core, 2018).
The interactive environment allows students to enjoy classroom activities and acquire new skills, increasing their ability to act intelligently under new circumstances. It also prevents boredom and provides an in-depth understanding, enabling the students to apply what they learn in class to the outside world (Dewey, 1997). Additionally, promoting collaborations among the students can considerably enhance their understanding. Collaborations allow students to learn and share with their peers, thus improving their knowledge and skills because they can easily relate to them (The Charles A. Dana Center, 2021b). Thus, students are more productive in an interactive environment where they can freely contribute and seek clarification.
Students learn best in an environment where their psychological and sociological needs are met. According to Dewey, fulfilling the psychological demands of students is the basis of a productive educational process. Ensuring that the emotional well-being of students is regarded helps to build autonomy among the learners. It also promotes relatedness and competence, resulting in improved outcomes. Similarly, the student’s sociological demands should also be satisfied in school.
This involves students’ positive relations with teachers and their peers, which impacts how they interact with other people. Human beings are social; thus, learners should establish friendships with their peers to share problems and happiness, making their learning process enjoyable (1897). Likewise, learning should be based on “doing” or hands-on projects because they assist in developing positive experiences. When students learn through experimentation, they are more likely to retain the knowledge and skills which may be used in the future. Experiential learning is also critical in introducing new concepts and clarifying particular aspects of subjects that many students may have challenges understanding (Dewey, 1997). Therefore, satisfying students’ psychological and sociological needs and integrating experiential learning may help improve their performance.
The Role of a Teacher
The role of a teacher in school is a culmination of multiple responsibilities. One of the most critical functions of a teacher is to impart knowledge and skills to students. Teachers transfer the knowledge and information on diverse subjects to learners to enlighten them on different aspects of life. Therefore, teachers are why many professions exist today because they help to grow individual talents and skills to maturity. This may be why different organizations in the United States advocate for preschool teachers to have college or bachelor’s degrees. Such organizations have realized the critical role that preschool teachers play in nurturing children during their initial stages of life.
They believe that college graduates offer high-quality education that bridges the achievement gap compared to non-graduates (Miller, 2017). In this regard, teachers create a critical foundation for the success of every student by acting as information resources and guiding them on how to utilize the information to achieve their goals.
Teachers play an essential role in mentoring and advising their students. They assume the role of parents in schools and inspire the students to work hard and become better versions of themselves. Good supportive teachers act as a mirror to the students and inspire them to visualize themselves as successful in the future. For example, an African-American teacher may increase the confidence of the students of color to put more effort into their studies because the learners may believe that they can succeed just like their teacher. Additionally, teachers may offer crucial advice to their students, whether on academic issues or personal matters.
In case of different academic challenges, teachers may offer a variety of approaches to solve the problem. For instance, if a student has difficulty understanding a particular subject, the teacher can provide private tutoring or suggest other strategies like working in groups to assist the student. Regarding other personal stressors, such as lack of fees, a teacher may recommend that the student applies for grants or scholarships.
Some teachers act as students’ advocates and help them overcome their challenges. They create strategies to ensure that all learner’s needs are fulfilled. In this case, some instructors may offer accommodation to needy students to guarantee a continuous learning process. For instance, Kirt Hartzler, the superintendent of the Union Public Schools in Oklahoma, led an effort to track down 64 students who had dropped out of school and convinced almost all of them to complete their studies. Furthermore, after realizing that their students needed more than just academics, the schools revamped to include sports, art, and music to cultivate their learner’s talents and skills.
They also offer healthcare access to students and their families and provide food, clothing, and daycare services to teenage mothers to enable them to complete their education (Kirp, 2017). Therefore, apart from teaching, instructors have a responsibility to help students overcome their difficulties and finalize their studies.
What Should Be Taught in Schools
Initially, schools were invented to teach basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, but other subjects have been introduced over time. Currently, there is a wide range of subjects and activities which have been incorporated in schools. These may include courses such as history, cooking, geography, sewing, and construction, as well as science, technology, engineering, and maths or STEM (The Charles A. Dana Center, 2021a).
A broad range of subjects was included to help students explore and realize their interests and talents. In this case, the Union Public Schools have introduced STEM subjects to all students to allow them to discover their capabilities (Kirp, 2017). Nevertheless, Mann believed that apart from teaching skills and knowledge, schools can be used as avenues for teaching democratic idealism. He also believed that students should be taught morals to benefit themselves and society (Mann, 1957). Therefore, there is no limit to what should be taught in schools, and the range of courses may continue to expand as more reforms are introduced to schools.
The aspects of a student’s social and religious life should be incorporated into the syllabus. Subjects like life skills guide students on how to establish relationships and solve individual problems. Moral and religious education should also be taught to help learners develop critical thinking, reflection, and discernment skills. The skills may assist students in knowing how to make good moral decisions. A child’s social life is the basis of all educational processes; therefore, all subjects taught in schools should be centered on it. Courses such as reading, geography, writing, and history should be relatable to students’ social lives.
The various subjects taught to learners should be correlated and thus not presented as different subjects. The study of arts, culture and communication have also been established as fundamental forces of development (Dewey, 1897). Thus, subjects like history, literature, and science are pivotal to students; however, they should be grounded in the learners’ social life to guarantee a clear understanding.
Education is fundamental in a child’s life as it equips them with skills and knowledge to build successful careers and improve society. The purpose of schools includes imparting knowledge, nurturing psychological and socioemotional skills, and teaching morals and societal values. Students learn best in a conducive environment characterized by a positive school culture that involves supportive staff, an interactive environment, and regard for learners’ views and diversity. Teachers play a pivotal role in students’ lives by transferring information, motivating and advising them on challenging issues.
They may also help needy students with food, accommodation, and clothing. Regarding the school’s curriculum, a broad range of subjects, including reading, arithmetic, writing, history, and science, are recommended. Any topic deemed as crucial to a child’s development and success may also be included in the syllabus. Therefore, education should be equitable to all learners despite social status, race or religion; it should also focus on the general well-being of students rather than test scores.
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