Breaking From Tradition

Second-semester seniors are a lethargic group. They know where they are going to college. As long as they don’t fail, their acceptance isn’t going anywhere. Teaching them can be a daunting task.

Before our Spring Break, Mr. David Cutler assigned a project regarding fixing the educational system for our government class. We were to examine the role the government plays in public school education, and where its major flaws exist. We were then to ascertain what the classroom needs to become to inspire deep and lasting learning.

The parameters of this assignment was much looser than those from other classes.

Option 1 (BILL): Go online and learn how to compose a bill, which you will send to the teacher and the Secretary of Education.

Option 2 (OP-ED): Go online and learn how to compose an effective opinion article.

Option 3 (VIDEO): Go online and learn how to create a short documentary.

I am open to other ideas. Just ask.

The fact that these options were so different and so new piqued even the most indolent of seniors. Students spent their time poring over reports and articles to provide a background. And then they went to work.

Two students created a blog that “explores the current problems our education system faces, possible solutions to these problems, the challenges the education system will face in the future, and other issues surrounding education.”

This was more than an essay or a research paper. It was a wider approach to the broad field of education reform. It was also pragmatic. It looked like something you would find on the internet, rather than a black-and-white research paper.

This blog transformed into a showcase for other students’ work.

One student criticized the use of educational testing to judge schools.

Due to the FCAT there is no ingenuity in learning, and quite frankly teachers lose all freedom in doing their job. Teachers are forced to teach students how to pass the FCAT, instead of the course material that could be beneficial to them in a future. Projects and innovative techniques are not advocated because these skills are not required when the FCAT comes around.

Another student wrote a more far-reaching critique of education.

Without creative installments into a classroom, students become bored and disinterested in school, which is frustrating for everyone and no real learning is occurring.

The two students who started the blog even posted after the due date, which shows a dedication to the topic that is unavailable with traditional assignments.

An environmental science course at my high school’s assignments are writing blog posts that pertain to current events. This brand of homework simply intrigues and provides deep and lasting learning in ways that traditional work cannot.

Another student in the government class created a mini-documentary, which touched upon the mundanity of school and what the government should do to fix it. The student spoke with the headmaster on down to get to the root of the bone of contention.

As the world around the educational system revolves and transforms, schools stand still. They are not keeping pace—they are lagging behind. Assignments like these are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to transformation.

But it is a very good start.

I am a student at the Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I have a burning passion for sports and music.

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