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Arionna Crispin

Marisa Enos

ENG 111

25 March 2018

Standards, Guidelines, and Damaged Educations

There have been many times throughout the last 20 years of my life in which I sat in a

classroom, surrounded by students of all learning styles, where we were taught in one distinctive

way. Thus, disrupting and harming the education of my peers and myself. Education is evolving,

and there is incredible diversity in the minds of those trying to learn. Although this seems to be

common knowledge, students are still being expected to learn the same way.

There are multiple different ways to learn new information, as well as different

categorized types of learners. But what happens when an educator chooses to teach in primarily

one category? The educations of the students who are categorized differently begin to suffer.

They struggle with the information and struggle to understand what is being taught. Learning

new things is already difficult. Robert Leamnson, Biology Professor and author of The

Biological Basis of Learning, states, “Making a new idea familiar means stabilizing labile

synapses in a quite different part of the brain. As with all of us, students find that it takes little

effort to ‘run through’ well established brain circuits, but enormous effort, even momentary

discomfort, to fire up previously unused regions of the brain and work those new synapses until

they stabilize. Learning new things, in short, is strenuous” (72). If learning new things is already

taxing on students, it must be nearly impossible when one is not being taught in a way that is

helpful to their learning style. Because students are forced to deal with the extra struggle, they

may give up and stop paying attention altogether. Matthew B. Crawford, author of Attention as a
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Cultural Problem, wrote, “Attention is the thing that is most one’s own: in the normal course of

things, we choose what to pay attention to, and in a very real sense this determines what is real

for us; what is actually present to our consciousness. Appropriations of our attention are then an

especially intimate matter” (43). Students have a choice to pay attention in the classroom.

Leamnson and Crawford could both agree that when they are not being taught in a way that is

beneficial to them, it is almost guaranteed they will choose not to pay attention. Why would they,

when the odds are against them? When all students in a classroom are supposed to learn

identically, their education is impaired.

It seems students are expected to learn through memorization, or the act of “depositing”

as Paulo Freire, author of the “Banking” Concept of Education, puts it. He said, “Education thus

becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the

depositor. Instead of communication, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which

the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the ‘banking’ concept of education,

in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and

storing the deposits” (1). Memorization is key in the “banking” concept, which is not an accurate

way to learn. The “banking” concept also seems to correlate with standardized testing and

assessments. Cathy N. Davidson, author of Customized and Participatory Learning, states,

“National standards and assessments have replaced other measures of learning, including those

gauged by classroom teachers themselves. Indeed, public education has been privatized to a

shocking degree by NCLB (No Child Left Behind Act of 2001), since private testing businesses

are now frequently hired, at taxpayer’s expense, to construct outcomes but do not necessarily

gauge real learning. It is an intrusive, forced model of education, and it is no surprise that we

face a decline in teachers willing to stay in public education” (51). Instead of being focused on
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students learning, institutions have made standardized testing and assessments their main

priority. Students are all expected to pass the same test instead of being taught in way that helps

them truly learn the material. Freire would agree with Davidson that the national standards and

assessments are intrusive and forced, as he personally views it as oppression. When memorizing

information and passing tests are the main focus of an institution, the education of students

becomes severely damaged.

With the spotlight on memorization and passing national standards, educators are not

addressing the needs of the students – including their need to learn constructively. Davidson

makes the point, “Many of the current conventional institutions of learning (both K-12 and

higher education) do not fully, creatively, or completely address their students’ needs and

interests. We continue to push old, uniform, and increasingly outdated education products on

young learners at their – and, by implication, society’s – peril” (51). Instead of embracing the

evolution of education and the uniqueness of students’ minds, all students are treated the same

way and expected to the learn the same way. Learning must be a compromise between teacher

and student. Freire suggests, “Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-

the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: Teacher-student with student-teachers. The

teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, by one who is himself taught in dialogue with

the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a

process in which all grow” (7). People are responsible for one another, especially when it comes

to education. Kwame Anthony Appiah, Philosophy Professor and author of Cosmopolitanism,

expresses, “Human beings have fundamental needs and interests in order to have a dignified

existence, the sort of human existence that’s really worth having. Surely one thing that we ought

to hope for is that we should accept collectively the responsibility of making sure that everybody
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has those necessary things” (34.) One of those necessary and fundamental needs is a proper

education – one in which a person can grow, learn and develop. Though Freire and Appiah see

learning as a joint responsibility, it is also believed to be a private matter. Leamnson notes, “If

learning is indeed a matter of brain development – synapses stabilized through use – it becomes

equally clear that it cannot be effected by anyone but the learner. Education, in most cases, is a

noisy and public enterprise. But learning is essentially private, even when it takes place in a

public and highly interactive environment. Things can be studied collectively, and profitably so,

they are nonetheless learned privately” (71). Even though education is based in a public setting,

learning happens privately within the brain. It would be greatly valuable for teachers and

students to work together in the learning process, as they can benefit from collectively studying,

and it would encourage them to privately learn. This cannot happen when the interests and needs

of the students are not being addressed.

Human beings, including students, are different. They have unique qualities and

exclusive ways of learning. Institutions must accept this to help students evolve. Appiah

mentions this, going along with his belief that everyone is responsible for one another, “First,

we’re responsible collectively for each other as citizens are, but second – this is what

differentiates cosmopolitans from other kinds of people who are universalists, who say

everybody matters – cosmopolitans think that it’s OK for people to be different. They care about

everybody, but not in a way that means they want everyone to be the same or like them” (24).

Educators must acknowledge that every student is an individual who learns differently and may

have different needs. One method of teaching may not work for every single student. Davidson

has a similar thought process, as she reveals, “Learning is no longer one size fits all, and we need

to learn to appreciate and foster learning all its sizes and varieties. The hard part – and, arguably,
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the single most important skill for educations – is finding ways that individual learners with

individual skills and interests can share with others who possess different skill levels and

interests” (52). Though figuring out how to manage all styles of learning may prove to have

some difficulty, it still must be done. It is an essential skill to master when the education of the

future generations are at risk. Everyone is different, and they should be treated as so, especially

in the classroom.

There are a variety of ways in which people learn, but institutions seem to focus on

memorization, “depositing” information, and national standards. The needs and interests of

students are not being met, and the uniqueness of students and their minds are not being

acknowledged in the classroom. Students are all expected to learn the same way, and it is

harming their education.


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Works Cited

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. "Cosmopolitanism." Exploring Connections - Learning in the 21st


Century (2013): 20-35.
Crawford, Matthew B. "Attention as a Cultural Problem." Exploring Connections - Learning in
the 21st Century (2013): 37-48.
Davidson, Cathy N. "Customized and Participatory Learning." Exploring Connections -
Learning in the 21st Century (2013): 49-54.
Freire, Paulo. "The "Banking" Concept of Education." Univeristy of Missouri - St. Louis (2013):
1-12.
Leamnson, Robert. "The Biological Basis of Learning." Exploring Connections - Learning in the
21st Century (2013): 66-73.