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Education Ability Discrimination

I have spent sixteen out of my twenty years on this planet, in school. At age
four I entered preschool and now at age twenty, as I embark upon my third year
in college, school has become second nature to me. Besides my family and
friends, school has been the one aspect of my life that has remained constant.

In a general sense I hardly ever give it a second thought. Yet on a more
specific level, I am constantly buried under an exam for one class, or a
difficult lesson in another. It is only when I do begin to reflect upon my
formal education in a broader sense, that the topic of equality arises. And in
thinking about it as a theme that has run throughout my years as a student, I
have come to only one conclusion: Equality is a concept that is supposedly
taught to us as an early age, but ironically can never be achieved within the
very schools we attend. On my very first day of elementary school, my
Kindergarten teacher introduced herself to the class and shared with us what her
aspirations were for the upcoming school year. She listed such things as
counting, painting, and she even mentioned reading. Her assumption was that
everything that she had to teach us had not already been learned by some of the
children, and furthermore she assumed that everyone would have the ability to
succeed in all that she had planned. Although I can trust that all of her
intentions were innocent and that she meant well, she allowed our entire class
to begin its education on unequal ground. This was nothing that I thought about
at the time, yet I do remember feeling anxious about reading while my best
friend had already been doing so for a couple of years. This leads me to the
argument that equal opportunity does not lead to equal results (a question which
arises in E.D. Hirsch?s book, The Schools We Need and Why We Don?t Have Them).

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My best friend and I both had the equal opportunity to learn how to read, yet
she already knew how to, where as I had barely begun. At the end of that year,
when I did eventually begin to read very simple readers, she was already on to
chapter books. Yes we had equal opportunity, but she ended up being a more
advanced student with a very different set of results. My point is that equal
opportunity needs to be assessed from the start. Obviously every individual
grows up differently. They experience individual circumstances and form their
own points of view. What I am saying is that one can not assume equality from
the beginning of school, when inequality is something that stems from the moment
we are born. Thinking about inequality in this manner can seem very pessimistic
and cynical. That however, is not my intention. Inequality is a word that drags
along with it many negative connotations. It brings to mind ideas of perhaps
racial inequality, gender inequality, and so on. In the context of education
however, I speak of it simply as a given. That everyone is unequal for the sole
reason that everyone is individual – every person in this world is different
from everybody else. In my opinion this uniqueness needs to be more recognized
if our schools are going to produce better results. Looking back over all of my
years of United Stated History, I can not recount the number of times our class
would focus on the very subject of equality. We must have read the beginning of
the Declaration of Independence fifty times. It is the ideal that our whole
nation is supposedly based upon, ?We hold these truths to be self evident, that
all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain
unalienable rights, that among there are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness? (Thomas Jefferson, 1776). Perhaps this is completely true and
everyone is granted these rights, yet everyone can have the same rights and
still be unequal. For example I had just as much of a ?right? to enter this
world as any other newborn, yet we were not created equal if equal means ?the
same.? We do not live in a communist nation. Equality is truly an unrealistic
goal. Certain facets of the concept of equality are important to have, but if
everyone was created equal, the world would be both very inefficiently run and
extremely boring. I believe that schools should teach equality in the sense that
all people, while very different, have a much more general set of rights. For
example we need to teach that what makes people unequal is not their race,
religion, or handicap, it is there life experience and how they got to where
they are as a whole person. If everyone started out with the infamous ?blank
slate,? and the same genetic buildup, the world would be a pretty scary place.

I know that I was not born a genius like Albert Einstein, and therefore we are
unequal. He is not a better or worse person than I am, we are simple different.

This leads me to the subject of testing. Our country uses standardized tests as
means to measure the achievement or level of students. The results are used to
basically assess how well or how poorly the schools in this country are doing.

The results of these tests are not only compared internally, to schools in other
states and regions, but they are also put in rank among other countries of the
world. The problem with this is, is that the assumption is that again, everyone
is created equal, and that if they presumably receive the same education, that
they should all end up on a balanced academic level. Yet why are the assessments
of Boston students compared to those of students in Kansas City. Our country?s
school systems are run individually by state, not nationally. Kids in Oklahoma
do not have the same curriculum as kids in Massachusetts. And kids in Boston do
not even have the same curriculum as kids in Worcester. Where is the equality in
that? How can any variations lead to equal opportunity? Yet at the same time one
must realize that perhaps children in the south should not be learning the same
exact things as children in the north. We function in two very different
societies where learning the same exact things would be pointless. An important
lesson for a preschooler in California is not going to be learning how to zip up
her winter coat, while it is a relevant subject for children in Chicago. Why
would we want one centralized or ?equal? educational system when it is simply
not sensible or realistically doable. I agree with many, when I state that
education in America could be improved upon. My main reason behind wanting to
teach, other than loving to work with children, is a desire to make sure every
child gets the most out of school. Whether a child is special-needs or a genius,
she must receive a more individualized set of opportunities. Children should not
all be clustered together for most of their time in school. I believe that there
needs to be an increase in the assessment of individual children, so that when
they are placed in the group setting of the classroom, the teacher can recognize
each individual child?s pros and cons. It would be nearly impossible difficult
to teach one- on- one all the time, but that does not mean that a teacher has to
assume complete equality. Yes the concept of equality is brought many times from
the very beginning of education, but ironically enough, it is something that
students will never experience much of both in and out of school.


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