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Textbook Education

"has the American education system failed our youth?"

mckenna cole & noma kreegar, staff writers

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Some students feel that the education system has not set them up for success. What issues lead them to point fingers at a system they assume is failing? How do teachers weigh in on those concerns? The Tiger Print sat down with two members of the Blue Valley High School community to find the answers.


Student says American education system creates excessive stress

School, work, clubs, study, sleep, repeat.

If this is your schedule, you might be a high school student.

Our high school years are meant to prepare us for the responsibilities and challenges of post-adolescent life. But is such preparation really helpful? In a study conducted by New York University, results revealed there are high levels of chronic stress that our modern youth have to experience. The study concluded that such levels hindered their ability to succeed academically and foster their mental health.

Junior Alexa Campbell shared her experience as a youth in high school.

“I feel stressed every day,” Campbell said. “With all our classes and activities stacked on top of each other there is no break long enough to relieve all the stress. Even when you think you’re on top of everything, you suddenly remember a test coming up or an assignment that’s due the next day.”

In a poll of 113 students, 67 percent of surveyed students said they had a job. Campbell said she quit her job because she found it difficult balancing work and school.

“It was hard working until 10 at night, having hours of homework to do after and then waking up early in the morning for school,” Campbell said. “There was no time to relax, and I got the bare minimum of sleep.”

Campbell said she is counting on her GPA and ACT score for acceptance to college but doesn’t understand why a test gets to depict a student’s future.

“I am an awful test taker,” Campbell said. “It’s not because I’m not smart or prepared — it’s just pure anxiety. There is so much racing through my head and the pressure is insane. There are so many variations of ‘smart.’ [Turning] someone away just because they didn’t do too well on a test doesn’t make sense to me.”

In our poll, 39 percent of surveyed students revealed they had cheated on a test and 84 percent said they had used Sparknotes instead of reading an assigned book. Campbell claims the pressure of good grades and test scores is the major factor of this.

“When the main focus is on literal letters and numbers, you’re almost setting yourself up to fail,” Campbell said. “People are willing cheat their way through instead of actually working for it because all that matters is getting an A.”

 

Teacher argues that Blue Valley boasts opportunities that other U.S. districts lack

There are hundreds of teachers in the Blue Valley District, thousands in the state of Kansas and millions in the United States — each has their own stories, opinions and passions. It’s easy to throw around accusations that the education system has failed many of its students, but how do these teachers weigh in on those concerns?

Clark Winslow, a history teacher at BV, shared his journey into teaching and his insight on the issues students have with the system.

“It was never my plan to be a teacher,” Winslow said, “On a vacation to Florida, my dad passed away suddenly due to a massive heart attack when we were fishing. On that long, horribly painful ride home, my wife and I had a few deep conversations.”

Winslow said through speaking with his wife, who is also a teacher, he realized he was passionate about history and wanted to pursue a career related to it.

“Teaching may not be a high-paid living, but it’s a great life,” Winslow said, “Teaching allows you to do things that a lot of other careers don’t allow you to do, like sit around and talk about your passion.”

The average teacher salary in Kansas is around $45,139.

“If people couldn’t live on being a teacher, nobody would be teaching,” Winslow said.

Students sometimes assert that the education system is flawed and may have failed them in some way. Winslow said he believes that the success of a student is predominantly based upon their willingness to apply themselves to the content in class and their willingness to seek help outside of class.

“I understand we have an education system that doesn’t reach everybody, but I truly believe it’s the student’s responsibility to get the most out of their educational experience,” Winslow said. “If you get into a class with a teacher you don’t like for whatever reason, and you sit there with your arms crossed the whole time, you’re not going to learn anything. The responsibility for your education is yours and yours alone.”

However, Winslow has his own problems with the system.

“There’s this idea that you don’t need teachers in classrooms, and you can replace us with automatons, but here’s the thing — I do more than teach,” Winslow said. “I talk to kids about problems at home, problems with today’s society. I was talking to a student who has a pretty severe problem with the form of economic government we use — capitalism. That didn’t have anything to do with the classes I was teaching, we just talked about it.”

Winslow said that most teachers go far beyond the job title in today’s educational situation.

“Teachers wear a lot of hats, and I don’t think people who aren’t engaged in what we do on a daily basis would understand,” Winslow said. “Back in the ‘80s, teachers were expected to do one thing and one thing only — get [students] in the seats, cram information down their throats and get them out the door. That time has changed.”

Winslow also believes the U.S. education system is often taken for granted, especially when it’s compared to other systems around the globe.

“Even though our education system is what it is, people would kill, and I don’t mean figuratively — I mean literally — kill to have the educational opportunities that many people have in the United States,” Winslow said.

The BV district is full of opportunities for its students, but Winslow said there’s something different about BV.

“This is the best building I’ve ever taught in, and that starts with the leadership of this building. It starts at the top, with [principal] Scott Bacon, who’s an incredible leader,” Winslow said. “I get to experiment in my class, I get to see what works best with kids — you don’t get that in a lot of buildings. I would say definitely, not just in the district, but particularly in this building, there are a lot of advantages and opportunities that we have here that we don’t have anywhere else.”

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