Modernized Learning: Support Teachers, Student Debt, and Technological Integration
In 2014 Apple unveiled its newest iPhone, the iPhone 6. That phone, 6 years ago, was 32,600 times more powerful than the best computers on earth when mankind landed on the moon. Children now grow up with even more powerful technologies, entirely foregoing the ‘old ages’ of VCRs, floppy disks, and overhead projectors. We live in an unprecedented age of technologies, yet they remain nonexistent in most classrooms.
Beyond the crippling amount of student debt that comes with higher education, there are cracks all over the foundation of our country’s education system. Affordability, accessibility, equal opportunities, class sizes, teacher support, selective truths, and equality all fall under the drooping umbrella of public education. There is an alarming need to call out inappropriate social behaviors like sexism, racism, and nazi ideals. Shootings, dodgy answers, and half-truths erode students' ability to feel safe and secure. Classrooms and teachers across the country are underprepared for all of this, equipped with the same resources and (in some cases) reading materials they had in the 90s even though that technology and our children have moved well beyond that point in history.
Let’s examine these in a more concrete context:
Pre K Starting a child’s education as early as possible helps them start to socialize and build study habits which gives them an incredible advantage. As this becomes more of an expectation, issues with consistency and affordability prevent many families from these opportunities leaving their children at a disadvantage from the start.
K - 8 There is a lack of understanding when it comes to teacher’s responsibilities, the needs of the young, and the eventual passing of the country onto the youth. With so many different kinds of technology available at their fingertips, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain the attention of young learners. Children spend 6+ hours of their day in school, five days a week. Creating an environment that is engaging, educational, enjoyable, and modern for oversized classes with a lack of financial support is an arduous task that should be natively built into the system itself. Instead, bafflingly underpaid teachers have to work harder, longer hours and use much of their own money to overcome these hardships without reimbursement or overtime.
9 - 12 Young adults honestly seeking answers are constantly met with deferrals and selective truths. An unbalanced focus on abstract subjects with little understanding of general applications adds to the confusion of changing bodies, budding interests, new social situations, harsh realities of the world, and underrepresented topics. The unfortunate truth is that our educational system is not ready to provide a safe, reliable proving ground the young people need. Unable to find answers, they flock to the internet, closed friend circles, and social media to experience anything and everything they question on their own, all the while their trust in the adults they used to turn to deteriorates.
University Many shortcomings experienced at a university level are carried over from childhood education. Much like pre-education, post-secondary education can be geographically inaccessible and prohibitively expensive. Forced regurgitation of irrelevant data keeps students from learning vital real-world application and critical thinking skills. Instead of addressing the problem at its core universities maintain a “pass the test, get a good grade” mentality carried over from middle school. As if that wasn’t enough, many well educated, degree-holding job seekers (those who are lucky enough to be contacted at all) are told by their prospective employers that they lack the skills and real-world experience necessary to enter the workforce. Without supplementing their education, graduates find it increasingly more difficult to justify the amount of money spent on their degrees. These issues, coupled with a surprising lack of inequality in the admissions process, keeps many willing adults from furthering their education and potentially bettering lives.
Debt What kind of a better, brighter future can overcome crippling debt? The debt to value ratio of student loans is impartially balanced in debt’s favor, hindering progress and delaying the idyllic future of many students for an inordinate amount of time. An increasing amount of students contemplate bankruptcy to try to tip the scales back in their direction.
Parents, teachers, and administrators stand between youth and technology, with a very important job, acting as a liaison between the two. With a millennia of knowledge at their fingertips, children, with all their talents and passions, need to be shown which avenues they can follow to succeed. Humankind is naturally curious and will, when a question arises, seek for an answer. This curiosity should not be a point of contention, it should be an opportunity for innovation and trust. Teachers and parents have a chance to stand together and act in cooperation anticipating and encouraging questions, offering mentorship, and teaching subjects that connect to the real world. The wealth of educational knowledge we’ve accumulated through generations can serve as a brilliant cornerstone as we incorporate new technologies, new ideas, and new values into better forms of education. Higher education needs to be sufficient enough to place graduates in the workforce. If a majority of companies are requiring internships and supplementary education, then there must be a deficiency in the system. Businesses have used technology to move into the future and our schools have lagged behind. The age-old idea of listen and repeat needs to evolve into critical thinking and real-world application, restoring the promise that university-level education is meant to bring. That promise, the promise of a better and brighter future, should be real, available, accessible, and affordable for every citizen, regardless of who they are or where they are in life.
Teaching is one of the most underrated and underpaid professions. The fate of the world is literally on the shoulders of the people who educate our youth. We should be seeking and recruiting the best and brightest people to lend their talents and inspire the youth of tomorrow. But as it stands, there is not enough money or support to attract the right people. It is time to put our egos aside and trust that when our youth surpass us in knowledge and power, we will be in good hands. The system needs better salaries, more supplies, current technologies, and greater trust in our teachers if we are to attract better, more qualified people to this sacred position. We need to understand that our future is only as good as the money we invest in it.
Education is about more than now, it has the potential to open the doors to unimaginable futures. Our schools need to reflect the idea that we are preparing ourselves and our posterity for the vast possibilities of the unknown. We need to free our students from crippling debts and empower the creativity and innovation of our educators. Our educational system has to be adaptable and cutting edge, relevant and nonpartisan. It needs to move past racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia. It is time to step away from the shortcomings of the past, into the bright future of tomorrow.