Public Issues Forums of Centre County | Approach 4: Standardized education model not serving all

It’s not too often that you can say you had an opportunity to participate in a mock Supreme Court deliberation on a current national case.

In my high school AP Government and Politics course, I found myself immersed in the true nature of governmental affairs, an exposure that increased my knowledge of the real world and helped me decide if this was an area of possible future interest.

Experience is everything.

Although grades are important, I found that the classes I benefited from most were those in which I struggled to succeed, in which the teachers did not hold my hand. Those were the classes that forced me to expand my critical thinking skills.

For example, in my 12th grade English class we were instructed to write a 10-page research paper and give a 10-minute presentation on a topic of interest, arguing points to support our own thesis. While I struggled with the structureless freedom, I learned how to research more effectively, to develop ideas more precisely and to think in a more critical fashion.

This directly correlates to a greater understanding of real-world connections, something I wish my classes had emphasized more, thus making the information more meaningful than seemingly insignificant facts and statistics.

In my calculus class, my teacher did a good job relating the concepts to real-world business models, helping us to better understand the business world. In my economics class, however, I felt like the real-world connections were lacking. I learned equations and concepts, but I felt there was a disconnect in the application aspect of the information, resulting in a gap between what I had learned and what I understood of current affairs.

That’s what a high school education should be about — expanding students’ minds and preparing them for college or for a job.

Based on recent statistics, American students are not applying themselves as much outside the classroom as their counterparts in other countries.

Without the ability to apply knowledge to modern problems, innovation is practically inconceivable.

Frankly, I think this is a problem that stems from a high school perspective in which all students are supposed to receive a generally standardized education.

No matter what students say, they want their high school experience to be meaningful and they want to learn things they will actually be able to use in the real world.