Government 1A Week 17 State Subsidized Schools and the Faults of Common Core

Prompt: Is there a difference between state-subsidized churches and state-subsidized schools?

Churches and schools are both places of education. Both are created to teach people, particularly the youth, a tailored worldview and discipline method. Both are about teaching people how to improve their lives, whether it be a financial or spiritual improvement. Something else these two places of learning share in common is they both have a hierarchy of individuals who decide what is being taught. In churches the preachers calls most of the shots, and usually they stay faithful to the scriptures. In schools the hope would be the parents are the sovereignty, but unless the parents are the ones paying for schools to remain open its doubtful they’re designing the lessons. “He, who pays the piper, calls the tune.”

In 1833 Massachusetts became the last state to stop government funding of churches, then four years later they became the first state to start government funding of schools. Did Massachusetts have too much money at the time? Was it just a coincidence? What I’ve learnt in this course is when it comes to government funding, nothing is a coincidence. The likelier reasoning behind this is the heads of state in Massachusetts realized the best way to have control over the masses is to have control over what the youths grow up learning. And the best way to do that is to buy the schools. Once they pay for them, they own them, and once they own the education the education becomes part of the monopoly.

State funded schools and state funded churches are very similar, but they do have some differences. For instance in most churches the scriptures or literature of study has already been written, governments can only change the Bible so much. But in state funded schools the government has the right to teach whatever they want. They bought the schools through funding, and so they call the shots. Schooling has transformed from a sought after education, to a feared and draining competition. I call it competition, because that’s what it seems to be. It seems to be a worldwide competition to see who can get the best test results, no matter how hard they have to work the students.

This is the true nature of common core, an education tailored by and for bureaucrats and state officials. If you’ve ever wondered why kids all seem to hate public school, why violence within schools is rising while performance level is dropping, or why alternative and home schools are getting more and more popular it’s because public schools are tailored more to benefit the state than the students. Students are labeled with and graded by numbers, which can make many students feel like their self worth is only correspondent to how well they do on tests. Standardized tests do not measure understanding, they measure memorization. But it is this memorization that makes the schools money, and it is this memorization that gives the government a leg up in the worldwide competition. Instead of letting the student follow their passions they are assigned what they will learn. After receiving their assignment they cram the information, then forget most of it after the required test is complete. This is neither an efficient nor healthy method to educate the youth. It puts an enormous amount of unnecessary stress and pressure on people that are already in a naturally stressful and frightening time in their lives. It promotes cheating, self blame and completely undermines any forms of creativity.

The suicide rate among ten to fourteen year olds doubled between 2007 and 2014. These are the same years many states adapted the common core education system and the rigorous tests that come with it. This is the first time in which suicide has passed up car crashes as the leading cause of death for middle schoolers. In attempting to make our education system more like the systems of South Korea and China (two of the highest preforming nations when it comes to standardized tests) we’ve also brought over the extreme pressure, trauma and mental deterioration that comes with the good grades.

In South Korea youth suicide is a national epidemic. According to the National Youth Policy Institute in Korea one in four students consider suicide. Their tests emphasize memorization instead of real life application, yet passing the tests can be the difference between a life of work and riches and a life of homelessness. This puts so much pressure on the students they hardly have any time to discover themselves or spend time with friends and family. A little more than 75% of Korean students starting in elementary school attend “cram school”, an after school program where they do little else but prepare for tests. It can last late into the evening, and as the name suggests crams the students with any and every detail related to the nearest test.

In Shanghai China students have some of the highest grades in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (or OECD), but suicide and abuse are an enormous issue. Teachers at the Hubei Xiaogan No. 1 High School in central Hubei actually hooked their students up to IV drips so they could continue studying after becoming physically exhausted. On top of any abuse from teachers with crazily high expectations, self harm is a depressing yet daily occurrence. Brook Larmer of the New York Times visited dormitories in Maotanchang, where she found metal mesh covering the windows of the dorms to prevent students from jumping to their deaths.

These unhealthy methods of education seem to get stronger in the US every year. In many states the students ability to go to their next grade is not based off age, but off test scores. Instead of juniors or seniors students seem to now be labeled as underperforming, acceptable, or advanced. The learning style, personalization, and environment the students will experience is completely dependent on the tests. Even if a student passes their class they may not be able to move on because of some mistake on a test. The results of this can be so heartbreaking to students that they can be moved to do the unthinkable. Marion Brady from Alternet tells the tale of how a nine year old boy from florida attempted suicide after failing the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test).  His mother explains how he attended a summer program and completed a retest, but still failed by only one point. He was absolutely crushed.

“I … ran down the hall to [his] room, banged on the door and called his name. No response. I threw the door open. There was my perfect, nine- year-old freckled son with a belt around his neck hanging from a post on his bunk bed. His eyes were blank, his lips blue, his face emotionless. I don’t know how I had the strength to hoist him up and get the belt off but I did, then collapsed on the floor and held [him] as close to my heart as possible. There were no words. He didn’t speak and for the life of me I couldn’t either. I was physically unable to form words. I shook as I held him and felt his heart racing. “I’d saved [him]! No, not really…I saved him physically, but mentally he was gone…The next 18 months were terrible. It took him six months to make eye contact with me. He secluded himself from friends and family. He didn’t laugh for almost a year…”

This is not by any means a one time incident. The national suicide rate is rising higher every year. Students, especially around testing time experience an extreme dose of stress, and the school nurses and counselors report their offices always filling up with physically sick kids on test days. As someone who has experienced this exact problem myself, and all the physical and mental drain that comes with it I can say first hand that the state funded schools and common core tests are killing as many as they are educating. This may not be the states goal, and there are many other factors at play working against students. But the pressure of common core testing is one of the big faults of our school system, and it’s up to the state to fix it. “He, who pays the piper, calls the tune.” If the state wants the tune of rising student suicide rates than they can ignore this problem. But if they want educated, happy, balanced and well-off students than the common core education system needs to be seriously rethought.




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