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Sofia Silva


English 1S

14 December 2017

Predestined Lives Through Standardized Public Education

Our public education system is broken. Brown v. Board of Education made racial

segregation in public schools unconstitutional, overturning Plessy v. Ferguson which had made it

legal for schools to separate students by race as long as they taught the same curriculum but, over

time society has found a way to make educational segregation a reality. Segregated schools sent

a message of inferiority to the colored students and although society would like to believe that

educational segregation no longer exists, it is still very real. Our current educational system has

over time begun producing robots rather than empowered individuals. Robots who no longer

express passion and interest but simply get the job done. Robots because of their socioeconomic

status. Disadvantage implemented through a standardized curriculum that places a focus on math

and reading. The current education system places socioeconomically disadvantaged students on a

path of standardization rather than empowering the individual with a balanced education.

Citizenship is an alternative purpose for public education, which also serves as an

empowering commitment you have to society to be the most productive and self sufficient

individual possible. Our current public education fails to prepare students with basic life skills or

prepare them to fulfil their responsibilities as a citizen. Diane Ravitch, historian of education and

author, supports this idea in “The Essentials of a Good Education”, where she states, “The
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central purpose of education is to prepare everyone to assume the rights and responsibilities of

citizenship in a democracy” (109). As citizens we should be prepared to vote, do our taxes, and

serve jury duty, yet these are overlooked lessons in public education. School as a standardized

entity does not do an adequate job preparing individuals but rather teach them to become sheep.

They detach themselves from their work and simply conform instead of embracing individuality.

However, the goal of citizenship is undermined by our policy makers who place an emphasis on


As a result, standardization serves to disempower non-affluent students by placing them

in rigid test score based categories rather than enriching the individual with unique qualities. By

viewing students as a number rather than an individual, policy makers are able to remove

themselves and make detached decisions about education. Ravitch explains this emphasis in the

statement, “...public policy... concentrate[s] on standardized tests of uneven quality at the

expense of the more important goals in education like character and love of learning” (112). Here

Ravitch highlights the sacrifice of individuality we are forced to make when forced to

concentrate on standardized tests. Standardized tests are a faulty way of measuring a student’s

aptitude yet those test results are what policymakers use to make decisions about funding in

public schools. In addition to testing, there is also an overall goal of standardization in public

education. John Gatto, author and ​recipient of the New York State Teacher of the Year award,

wrote in “Against School”that he doesn't believe that the current education system serves an

enriching purpose but rather teaches us to be “servants” (121). He argues that there are

successful people who did not go through a traditional K-12 education yet become successful,
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productive members of society. Sadly, having a nontraditional education is becoming a better

option than being part of public education. The high focus public schools place on basic skills

simply disengages students from wanting to be a lifelong learner.

The lack of interest from the teachers and therefore the students makes for a poor and

disempowering education. Gatto recalls many instances in which he asked students why they felt

so bored in school and they replied,“...the work was stupid, that it made no sense, that they

already knew it” (115). This is a common answer. Students become bored with the repetitive and

pointless curriculum and as a result disengage themselves. Some may argue that it is a student’s

job to entertain themselves, however, as public educators you need to find the best way to teach.

Sometimes the best way to teach a student is through an hour long lecture but, not all students

are the same. While it is a student’s responsibility to focus, it remains an educator’s job to make

sure the curriculum is engaging. If a student feels they are unable to gain the knowledge they

need to form critical ideas then there is really no point in taking part in standardized public


Education should empower its students through critical and independent thinking. If a

student is able to grip concepts from a logical point of view and use their minds to create their

own opinions than perhaps they would be more interested in the curriculum. Jean Anyon,

professor of educational policy and social activist, wrote “Social Class and the Hidden

Curriculum of Work.” It is a consensus of observations made in five schools of different

economic backgrounds. In her observations, Anyon found a clear creative difference in teaching

methods in the affluent and elite schools. She describes work in affluent schools as “...creative
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activity carried out independently” (145) and in elite schools as “developing one’s analytical

intellectual powers” (148). This approach to education creates rational and independent thinking

individuals. It grooms them with privilege and confidence. Privilege given to them through an

empowering education system. An education system that taught skills and a mindset in which

students can aspire and become whatever they choose. An education system that is not available

to those of lower socioeconomic status. If all schools instilled life skills such as leadership and

individualism students would become more engaged and as a result empowered by education.

Anyon gives an example of this curriculum in which students were taught the value of their

opinion and to think in terms of agree or disagree rather than the harsh parameters of “right and

wrong” (149). If all students had access to this type of education, we could rid the world of a

standardized mindset. This is the goal of a public schools- to reach a level of teaching that is

considered the norm in affluent or elite schools. However, this “elite” way of teaching should be

the norm for all schools, regardless of the affluence of their family or community.

Empowerment is the only means students that have experienced discrimination have to

rise above oppression. If our public education system continues to teach students that they are

defined by their socioeconomic status they will never become empowered. It is a vicious cycle

that you can only escape from through education. Furthermore, you cannot become empowered

if the public education system is bent on teaching students of different socioeconomic statuses to

think and tackle problems in opposite ways. With the continuing presence of discrimination in

our society, it is important to implement an education system capable of empowering all

students. Students of color have been oppressed for hundreds of years and as we continue to
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grow as a society we must make every attempt possible to make our country inclusive and