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It’s Time to Stop Mass Producing Students

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

by Sophia Sullivan

As college application season comes to an end, my peers and I can finally reflect on the rat race that was the last eleven years of our lives. Many of us did everything by the book. We got the A's, filled out the endless worksheets, we even wrote some impressive five-paragraph essays along the way. Unfortunately, it would be a lie to tell you we were educated over that 11-year journey. We merely perfected the formula of our school system. In the Princeton Review commercials, they say the only thing you need to do for the SAT is master the SAT. This 30 second commercial is a reminder of the sham behind it all. All students have to do is become robots, regurgitate the proper comma splice, or find the value of X, and we become the poster kids for education. When education is not a 1600 or an A+, education is what scholars like Socrates and John Locke spent their lives promoting. It is the ability to think for yourself. To take the various facts, perspectives, and feelings around you and turn them into an idea worth risking it all.

The rat race begins as early as age three, making essential classroom rules for behavior, like not speaking unless called on, waiting your turn, and always following the teacher's demands, second nature. On top of behavioral conformity, we are pushed to give up our dreams of becoming rock stars and astronauts to fit into a black and white view of intelligence. For the next decade, we study a standardized curriculum built to continually reinforce the expectations from our childhood. The process of mastering this curriculum on such a grand scale allows for students to fall between the cracks unnoticed only to be later labeled as a slacker or unintelligent by the same system that abandoned them. While it is easy to criticize our school system, it is essential to remind ourselves of the era the system was built to support. During the 19th-century rise of industrialism, America adopted the "factory model" to mass-produce a controllable working class. Henry Ford wanted factory workers who kept their heads down and did their work, not intellectuals who challenged his power. Nearly a century later, the factory model remains supreme in the post-industrial era that no longer needs just another cog in the machine. By ignoring the disconnect between our school systems and the evolving job market, we are knowingly setting future generations up for failure.

One may be thinking that there is no problem with the system, our kids are doing well in school, and their futures will be just fine. Except, kids aren't preparing for a world beyond academia. Sure, the math classes have gotten more rigorous from the 19th century, but these advancements in the core curriculum only benefit students in academia. Without expanding and evolving curriculum to teach about our complex financial systems crucial for economic prosperity or coding, we are closing doors to their futures. Public education is supposed to be the great equalizer for all kids regardless of their socioeconomic status. Yet, we stand here in a system that favors affluence and one type of intelligence. The post-industrial society will produce a future full of life-changing technological advancements and prosperity for everyone. This future will not become a nationwide reality if we don't acknowledge the systems that only support the growth of a select few. Imagine if Einstein had succumbed to the mundane schooling system, only to retell what he already knew to be true. Without the passion, the hunger that fuels education, we definitely would not have watched Elon Musk send his Tesla into space or seen scientists create a Covid vaccine in under a year. We no longer need schools to populate menial jobs with human robots; we need to educate kids to be innovative, free-thinking individuals. Education is freedom. It gives each individual person the power to create their own future.

The effects of Covid-19 on public education provides us the perfect opportunity to address and fix the complex problems of schooling that have bled into every corner of society. Either we continue to use an outdated system that is leaving students tired, confused, and woefully unprepared for their future, or we pivot to stop schooling and start educating.


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