Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the American educational system has undergone much transition in response to our changing society. Though there have been many problems raised throughout the years in regard to what our school systems should be teaching our children, there have also been many developments.
In the final decades of the 20th century, education has continued to evolve in order to meet societys demands. The transformation of society has created numerous problems in the educational system. These problems consist of the segregation of races, religions, social classes, and politics.
In the earlier part of the 20th century, African-Americans were segregated within schools. They were placed into lower-class school systems with little extra-curricular activities, limited resources, and lower quality teachers. At this time, religion played a major role on the educational system in the sense that all types of religious groups were represented in the American school system, but they were challenged with how they could be loyal to their religions beliefs.
With the Pledge of Allegiance present, some people felt as though the values of Americans and the Creators beliefs should be taught in the classrooms. Of course, others felt that religion and school should be separate. As a result of disagreements such as these, many problems arose. Politics and business influence have been a long term problem for the establishment of a free and fair education opportunity. America has been called the melting pot of the world, meaning that within the nation live such an abundance of individuals from different aspects of life. Within the world, we find some societies less fortunate than other societies. Economic diversity is present within the United States as well. It is commonly understood that the wealthy are becoming better educated than the poor, and similarly that the wealthy have a better chance to survive in the economic growth of todays society. In Joel Springs book American Education, he uses several examples of the politics and economics surrounding education. Spring discusses the decade of the 1970s, in which businesses put such a demand on the educational system to create educational opportunities in the fields of science and engineering. During this decade, the nation was in an educational inflation period. College graduates with doctorate degrees were working in jobs with typically require much less educational background. (Examples: Driving taxicabs and cooking in restaurants ). This inflation occurred because the labor force put such a high demand on education, but did not expand to accompany this high demand. The inflation became problematic due to the fact that businesses were donating privately funded money to the educational institutions rather than the citizens in the communities with higher taxes.
Toward the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century, the American education system has continued to evolve with some new curricular modifications. In 1992, the Children of the Rainbow curriculum was introduced in New York. This revolutionary curriculum required elementary schools to teach tolerance towards gays and lesbians. Other new curricula proposals centered around sexual education, which intended for schools to teach about family values, abstinence, and sexually transmitted diseases, and methods of family planning. Another major issue that the American school system was dealing with was nutrition and eating habits of youth. In 2002 the U.S congress passed the Obesity and Prevention Treatment Act, to improve the eating habits in the nation , where more than 60 percent of Americans are overweight. Economic concerns and issues continue to plague the education system throughout the United States. The Head Start program has been established to provide early childhood education to give economically disadvantaged children early schooling, which seeks to allow them to compete on equal terms with other children. Similar to placing children on an equal plane economically, equality of opportunity is also a goal which continues to be addressed. The goal is whether a person is rich or poor, black or white, Catholic or Jewish, man or woman, everyone should be given equal opportunity to achieve the desired result of learning.
Perhaps the most significant development in the American educational system is the No Child Left Behind Act which refers to integrating secular character education into curricula and teaching methods of schools. President Bush believes that education should prepare children for jobs and provide children with necessary life skills. This act was enacted in 2001, and it is still very much a work in progress.
At the start of the 21st century, educators are faced with a number of problems brought on by the social, political, and the economic challenges of society. Social problems are arising as a result of class segregation. The wealthier cities have higher- class public schools and private schools. In the poor cities there is lower structured schooling. In these areas, the teacher to student ratios is lower, there are more cut backs of extra curricular activities, and a lower number of resources available. This is still a major problem in 2005. The economic problems which we are facing at the beginning period of this century concern the population and the labor force. Schools are becoming over populated because of the need for money for expansion which is not readily available for all schools. Businesses and large corporations can provide large sums of money to support studies, research, and organizations. The power of the institutions lies in their ability to influence or control areas in which the schools spend money. This leads to the intellectuals who work for them, including college professors to be viewed as servant-like. Major goals and tasks in which educators are trying to establish evolve around equal opportunity which includes language barriers, children with disabilities, and multicultural education. Our society is growing at a dramatically high rate, and therefore, teachers have to be educated in many languages. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the English Language Acquisition Act of 2001 both propose the right of bilingual education. These acts give the right for immigrants to be proficient in the use of two languages. For instance: a Mexican or Puerto Rican child can be taught to be proficient in Spanish and English. Although there have been laws and bills passed in the past dealing with children with disabilities, we are now seeing more examples of plans designed for each student with disabilities. These are known as IEPs, which stands for Individual Education Plans. I have first-hand knowledge with this topic, as I myself have been diagnosed with a learning disability. In high school I was diagnosed with ADHD, and therefore, my parents, school officials, and teachers worked together to develop separate educational plans for my studies. I had progress reports sent home on a week by week basis, I had un-timed testing, and was exempt from certain academia general requirements. Passed in 1997, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act emphasized the need for children with disabilities to be put into regular classes, rather being segregated into Special needs classes. Another goal within the 21st century is to teach multicultural education in schools. This is important because on a global scale, issues of multicultural, ethnocentric, bicultural, and bilingual education will become increasingly important with the development of a global economy and the internationalization of the labor force. Schools and institutions are becoming larger and larger every year. The level of diversity among students is growing each year. Racism is often thought of as whites oppressing people of color. But this definition has brought up many problems because it is becoming more common to have one parent of color and one white parent. What racial group to these children identify with? What racial group are other people identifying these children as? Racial differences lead to violence in school systems. Some violence occurs because of existing negative stereotypes surrounding race; whites feel more negatively towards blacks, whites perceive blacks as lazy, whites believe blacks are receiving more attention from the government than they deserve, whites believe that blacks are too demanding in their struggle for equal rights. Since the early 1990s we have seen a rise in acts of violence committed in schools, although violence has been in schools since schools were established. One reason why violent acts in schools are more prevalent has to do with stress, as well as differences in opinion among different cultures, races, ethnics, and religions. When a large number of people all coming from different backgrounds are placed into one school, it is inevitable that there will be conflict. One major act of violence in a school is the Columbine High School incident, in which 2 students went into their school and killed 12 students, 1 teacher, and left 23 students wounded. These individuals had plotted for a year to kill 500 people and blow the school up. They were known as the freaks or the satin worshipers. They were considered to be suffering from depression and were social outcasts. Both individuals required psychological evaluation, and were taking high doses of medication for the chemical in balance in their brains. The incident at Columbine has been the most serious terrorist act on a school in history, though there continue to be other acts of violence within the educational system. In addition, there continue to be cases of planned terrorist acts that were ceased before leading to violence. One example of terrorist acts in the United States is an incident at Heritage High School in which six students were injured by Thomas Solomon, age 15. Solomon was reportedly depressed after breaking up with his girlfriend. On May 20, 1999 he took out his rage on six innocent victims as his high school. Another act of school violence occurred at Buell Elementary School near Flint, Michigan, in which six-year-old Kayla Rolland was murdered. The assailant was identified as a six-year-old boy with a .32-caliber handgun. Violent crimes occur in school in part due to the accessibility among adolescents to weapons. In many cases children have access to a weapon, particularly a handgun, within their own home. With lack of supervision, children experiment with these dangerous weapons, and may even take them out of their homes. Another contributing factor to violent acts among children is the role of the media and the way that television and movies portray violence. Every where you turn on television and in movies, you see someone killing someone or someone getting killed. Kids see the brutal ways, or the quick and smart schemes of combat tactics. They falsely believe that these types of behaviors are acceptable, because the next week they are back on the show demonstrating another episode of violent acts, with no consequences.
After reading Joel Springs book, and reflecting on some of the issues facing our schools, it is apparent that our educational system requires much attention among our nations leaders. While the system has transformed in many beneficial ways, we are still plagued by the growing problems of society. I look forward to reading another book by Joel Spring, and developing my evolving understanding of the educational system within the United States.
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