Education Concept Paper: Unvalued Education Meg Pennington English 100
Education Concept Paper: Unvalued Education Meg Pennington English 100 Engl 100
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Date Created: 09/28/16
Warner 1 Madison Warner Meg Pennington English 100 31 December 2015 Unvalued Education in This Generation Being a United States citizen, there are many laws that must be acknowledged and abided by. Children who reside in the United States are required by law to attend school to ensure their literacy in order to interact appropriately within the social American system. People living outside of the United States, in countries where they are not granted the opportunity to grasp an education, would likely be surprised to hear that such a law is necessary because they may believe that education is a privilege. More surprising, many in the United States do not value education, but they view it as an obligatory step to land a lucrative career. In Simon Benlow’s “Consumerism Invades Education,” Benlow describes how consumerism has intertwined with education by insinuating that administrations view their students as customers and students view their education from a consumerist point of view (140). By being a consumerist student, they expect the phrase: “The customer is always right” to have meaning and that their desires (higher grades, easy materials) to be met (140). Motivated students have realized that teachers are not providing a challenging academic environment. This may relate to schools’ administrations pressuring instructors to teach “required” lessons that are featured on mandatory state exams, which are mostly facts to be memorized and not much critical thinking involved. Also, if an instructor fails too many students, they can be let go from their job, which results in many instructors lightening the course work and lowering the academic standards in order for their Warner 2 students to slide by. Students in high school have adapted to the spoonfed teaching methods that are present in formal education, so when they begin a higher education, they are unmotivated to find their own answers. In Daniel Bruno’s “Entitlement Education,” Bruno acknowledges that many of these spoonfed, formal education students “find themselves arriving at college less prepared and less motivated” (268). Due to the lack of critical thinking elements being present in formal education, students are prevented from developing a critical mind and personal agency. The commonly held notion of education is to complete the general formal education to land a successful career. In “What is Education?,” Petra Pepellashi observes this common assumption of education and exposes the point that the “structure of education revolves primarily around building skill sets related to work/career” (143). Pepellashi acknowledges that things would be much different if the education system of today resembled the vision of Thomas Jefferson, who believed that education, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, should be taught. His concern was that the democracy and liberty of America needed to be in the hands of educated people (Smith, 2). Jefferson strongly believed that, “The right to vote should not be granted to people who cannot demonstrate basic literacy skills” (Smith, 4). Pepellashi adds that Jefferson focused on “developing a critical mind in order to balance the interests of the common man and those of the privileged” (qtd. In Pepellashi, 143). However, America adapted to the Prussian model in which schools taught about elevated skill sets for “improved soldiers and workers” (144). The Prussian education system was developed in the 18 century when the Kingdom of Prussia allowed all citizens to attend for free but included eight years of mandatory school. The system taught students mathematics, reading, writing, obedience, general ethics, and Warner 3 duty to country (McGuigan). In the mid 1800’s, America adopted the Prussian education system because America needed skilled labor workers to operate in the booming Industrial Revolution. Businessmen lobbied the Prussian system in America because they wanted to fuel more business into their companies. Education was the key to becoming a skilled worker, which put more money into workers’ pockets and more money led to more products being purchased. America centered their education on consumerism and capitalism. Because America adopted this model instead of Jefferson’s, students accept the idea that the “purpose of education is to succeed as a worker” because authority says so (144). However, this education system does not provide middle and high schoolers with the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills due to a lack of tools to discover other worldviews. In higher education, even classes such as ethics and philosophy are authority bound, and some electives do not provide much direction to develop critical thinking. In order to succeed in higher education, students must actively read and participate in the classes. The consumer world today has paralyzed education by disabling students academically. These students have begun to view their college education from a consumer point of view in which they expect the materials in class to be engaging and the answers directly provided to them. In “‘Have It Your Way’: Consumerism Invades Education,” Simon Benlow establishes that consumer students have a difficult time understanding principles, which are established doctrines that are to be evaluated in the process of making meaning (140). The administration at Benlow’s institution sent out a memo regarding “National Customer Service Week” where faculty was advised to make efforts in “serving our customers” (140). This angered Benlow because the term “customer” implies that their students are paying customers that need to be Warner 4 satisfied with their education and he notices that there is a “slow and subtle infiltration of consumerism into education” (140). One characteristic that is clearly present in the consumer world is passivity, in which customers are encouraged to be inactive with the service being provided. “Our needs and desires are met by the work of others. As customers, we pay for someone else’s work, for someone else’s acts of invention, creation, and production. We don’t even have to imagine what is possible,” explains Benlow. Being a customer is based on intellectual inactivity where desires are now demanded to be met (141). “We expect someone else’s acts of invention, creation, and production because we paid for it,” says Benlow. Consumerist students cannot grasp the concept of education, in which they must be active in order to absorb knowledge. They only read passively which enables them from learning anything, and this approach to education is lazy and is “a kind of paralyzing higher education illiteracy” (141). Consumerist students are waiting to be engaged and to encounter “smashy colors and extravagant tools for getting their attention” (141). In the consumer world, principles are nonexistent. Higher education requires principles to establish discipline, because students must understand that principles exist outside of their own desires. Benlow presents an example of principles in education: “One cannot do chemistry and simply dismiss algebra because it is distasteful” (141). Great professors are ones who make their students read “staggering amounts” of materials and then apply the materials actively. Consumerist students expect their education to be achieved with them being primarily inactive, resulting with them sliding by with little effort exerted. College provides the tools for students to build their education off of, but only the students who actively use these tools become critical thinkers. Warner 5 Many students attending college believe they are entitled to receiving high grades because they are paying an expensive tuition. In “Entitlement Education” by Daniel Bruno, Bruno presents the problem with entitled, consumerist students, “The biggest problem, as I see it, is that although students are able to graduate from high school (and even some colleges) with minimal effort, those students may find themselves cheated in the long run” (266). He brought up the example of the graduating student with a marketing major: “A college graduate with a marketing degree, but especially weak thinking or writing skills, may find himself disadvantaged on the job” (266). Many students dish out an abundant amount of money to receive an education, but yet, they graduate with an expensive piece of paper and a disadvantage in the workforce due to them lacking in academic areas such as writing and critical thinking. Bruno goes on to list the ways students could be cheated out of their education. One reason may be how students think their lives will be less because intelligence represents the quality of one’s life (266). He explains the difference between knowledge and intelligence, in which knowledge is pure facts and intelligence is the ability to use such knowledge (266). From grade school to college, the information taught transitions from obtaining facts to applying the information. Another argument stems from the lack of understanding references presented in conversations which enables someone from connecting with others (267). Also, as mentioned before, Thomas Jefferson made a point that living in a democracy requires all to be welleducated with the knowledge of how to read and write. Students who slide by end up getting cheated, but more importantly, they are: “Unprepared, who lack the basic study skills required in academic work, and who demonstrate little real commitment to their own education” (267). Bruno precedes to establish another point: that two problems appear when the “gradeinflated, entitlementdriven Warner 6 education system and the diversity of attitude toward today’s education” are combined (268). The first problem is that many motivated students are not challenged to the highest extent, because the rest of the education system is attending to the needs of the unmotivated students who scrape by through college being unprepared and are not aware of it. Another problem is that many of the students sliding by might not even realize it because “sliding by is all they know,” in which “those students find themselves arriving at college less prepared and less motivated” (268). This results with motivated students with better academic skills entering college and graduating on a higher academic level than those who have slid by through sixteen years of formal education (269). The working world is a competitive environment in which employers are requiring their employees to have a college education. With all the competition, many of the more prepared students who worked harder and developed critical thinking skills and better habits are landing the careers (269). High school does not prepare many students for the tough challenges in college, which makes it even harder to achieve an appropriate degree for an enjoyable, successful job. If high school provided a “more adequate education,” then students entering college would be more prepared for the “uphill climb” in front of them (269). Entitlement education has caused students to be cheated out of job preparation, quality of life, cultural knowledge such as references, and democracy, and to expect better grades for little effort exerted (266267). Education in America should be valued more by students since it is a privilege. Instructors should always challenge their students by offering clarity relating to the materials presented in the course rather than providing straight answers. Benlow wrote about how his professors, who challenged their students, made their pupils, “critical, reflective agents of our Warner 7 own becoming, rather than passive bags of desire” (141). Pepellashi addressed the idea that middle and high school education “doesn’t necessarily point one toward defining oneself and the criteria by which one chooses to live” (145). Expanding one’s horizons and exerting intelligence are rarely the reasons for students to pursue higher education. Instead, education is a tool used primarily to achieve a degree to land a career. Instructors should realize that their grade inflations and spoonfed lessons are enabling students from being prepared for higher education. In return, students need to wake up from their habits of sliding by in school and start to apply critical thinking to their materials. If students and professors started to view education as not only a requirement to landing a career, but also as a valuable pathway to intelligence, critical thinking, and expanded worldviews as Jefferson imagined, then it is possible that education would be pursued and valued by many. Warner 8 Works Cited Benlow, Simon. “‘Have It Your Way’: Consumerism Invades Education.” Mauk and Metz 140 141. Bruno, Daniel. “Entitlement Education.” Mauk and Metz 266269. Mauk, John, and Metz, John, eds. The Composition of Everyday Life: A Guide to Writing. Brf. 3 ed. Boston: Wadsworth/Cengage, 2010. Print. McGuigan, Brendan, and Bronwyn Harris. "What Is the Prussian Education System?” WiseGeek. Web. 02 Jan. 2016. Pepellashi, Petra. “What Is Education?” Mauk and Metz 143146. Smith, George H. "Thomas Jefferson on Public Education, Part 1." Libertarianism.org. 3 Apr. 2012. Web. 02 Jan. 2016. Warner 9
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