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Wednesday, October 7, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 37

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What's the real problem with education?

By Marcus Cardenas

Guess what, everyone? The government cares about our education again! Has it really been four years already? It's presidential campaign time, and that means education becomes a hot topic among our candidates and their speech writers.

George W. Bush's school voucher proposal is the latest bright idea that is promising to fix our education by financially punishing schools for failing to progress academically. If students fail, their school gets punished. The main debate on this plan is whether or not the money withheld from the school helps or harms the institution. My opinion? Wrong debate.

There is a deeper problem that both sides of the debate are neglecting. What I'd like to know is why these students are failing in the first place. What are the major flaws in the actual "educating" part of education?

The problem might begin at the elementary school level. Could it have something to do with the lack of emphasis on reading, writing (especially) and arithmetic, and the butting in of the era of digital information at such a young age?

A cause for concern could very well be the trading of the three R's for three W's. I don't care how big a part computers are playing in our lives right now -- that is no reason to stop drilling kids on multiplication tables, prepositions, and how to write complete sentences. We are shoving these kids in front of monitors and teaching them about search engines and Web addresses, but forgetting to build a strong foundation of the basics.

As students get older, they have to prepare more and more for standardized tests. Is this a misplaced priority? The curriculum for middle and higher grade levels are geared too much toward passing just one or two tests. When or if a student passes it, hasn't he missed out on some things? For one thing, the test is standardized, and the students taking it are not.

As a student who took the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills at several different grade levels, I found it distracting. I was taught how to cancel out certain multiple-choice answers, to look for clues in questions and, when you just can't think of an answer, to pick B. In other words, I was taught how to take a test instead of being taught the material inside.

And what about homework? Does it work? It's been around for a while, but then again, so was paddling. I consider both counterproductive. Homework is a misnomer; it's actually schoolwork that gets to be done in front of the TV. Schoolwork should be left in the school, and home should be a place you look forward to coming back to every day instead of considering it School II.

Remember field trips? They're still around. But how useful are some of these? Last spring my little cousin got to go to the movies with her class. That's nice, but there are a couple of problems. First, they went on a Friday, during the school day. Second, they saw the Rugrats movie. And third, that's all they did. They just saw the movie, and that was it.

Educational? Not likely. I think field trips are great; they are a wonderful way for kids to get excited about going to school. Come on, though. The movies? If they wanted to go as a class, they should have gone on a Saturday, and instead of using school buses, they should have been driven by their parents.

The biggest problem I see is in our attitude toward intelligence: Popular is good, being smart does not equal popular, and therefore being smart is not good. Many of us strive to be average, and that's just shameful. We like getting C's. C's are good. They're acceptable. We don't like curve-breakers and their A's, though -- that is very unacceptable. If ignorance is bliss, and we were all blissful, who would notice?

These are what I consider education issues worthy of debate.

Cardenas, 
a junior creative-writing major, 
can be reached at geminimeg88@hotmail.com.

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