If Horace Mann walked the halls of my school or any other school in the United States,
he would be appalled.
As the founder of American education, he would expect us students to
engage in tense philosophical and constructive debates about history, science and
To be honest, if any student tried, everyone else would be thinking that’s not on the test.
Obviously we pupils aren’t to blame, Mann is.
The previously mentioned scenario is just one indicator of Mann’s failed dreams. The
system of enriched learning he wanted to bestow upon the young republic, to generate a vast skilled assembly of citizens, morphed into something entirely different.
Quoting from Mann himself, it seems he thought he was capable of creating the Eden of education.
1. the public should no longer remain ignorant;
2. that such education should be paid for, controlled, and sustained by an interested public;
3. that this education will be best provided in schools that embrace children from a variety
4. that this education must be non-sectarian;
5. that this education must be taught using the tenets of a free society; and
6. that education should be provided by well-trained, professional teachers.
Such principles would be strenuous to apply to the young republic, thus it’s understandable that Mann sought to emulate the education system of the Prussian Empire, an authoritative state and the pioneer of state compulsory education.
It’s no wonder why our classrooms follow their militaristic model, where school is a factory and curriculum is pumped into us students.
By the time Mann died, he was president of Antioch College, a private school for wealthy
students. How ironic.
Mann’s story reminds us two things: the pioneer isn’t always right, and what happens
when we “try” different education models.
I’m sure I’m not the only one concerned that our education system is built on the one of a diminished 19th-century authoritative empire. I must reiterate the following.
Education can not, under any circumstances, be treated as a social experiment filled with theorized models. I urge all to keep in mind that its effects are irreversible and prolonged for decades.
To give a proper assessment of Mann’s vision, let’s see our performance in PISA(the
Programme for International Student Assessment) which is an education index that measures students’ scholastic performance over a 15-year period, among OECD countries (Countries which make up 90% of the world’s economy). Out of 85 countries, the United States ranks 18th.
Eighteen out of 85 seems great, but it seems disappointing for the richest country in the world, along with having access to some of the most educational resources. debunk the fallacy that education quality “automatically” improves, as more money is poured in.
To give some context, the United States spends on average up to $15,000 dollars per student, with cities such as New York City spending about $38,000.
Canada, which ranks 8th on PISA, spent about $11,000 Canadian dollars (about $8,100 converted to USD) on average per student.
What differentiates Canada’s education system from ours, is their method used. Canada utilizes a progressive education system, where the student uses their senses to make deductions and interact with the curriculum.
This activates long-term interest among students unlike severe detachment, as shown in the previously mentioned scenario. But despite all this, the biggest
elephant in the room ensues in America’s education.
How meritless it is.
My own experience with the so-called “meritocracy” in our K-12 schooling, can be
explained by comparing two students, student A and student B. Student A was born into a
well-off family, whose parents make six figures a year.
In addition, student A enjoys their time by partying and drinking with friends. Student A doesn’t have an interest in academia or learning, but rather in a 4.0 GPA, and a high SAT score.
It’s why Student A has access to tutors and connections for their “extracurriculars,” ultimately gets them into their dream school.
Now consider student B, someone raised from a low socioeconomic background along with living on reduced lunch. Obviously, student B doesn’t have as many doors open as student A. This is practically the reality in many economically segregated areas, such as Long Island, where I’m from.
Miguel Cardona, the current secretary of education, commented on the economic disparity
“We have students who are hungry, you have students who are housing
insecure, you have students who struggle from mental health needs.”
To be honest I’ve got immense faith in Cardona, considering how he was chosen as secretary for being an actual educator, unlike Trump’s choice.
It’s simple to understand what drives disinterest among students because education in
the U.S. appears more like a business venture than an attempt at scholastic articulation.
From what I’ve seen, when more motivation is geared towards getting that 4.0 GPA or that 1580 SAT, less is put towards actually learning.
The tragedy of Horace Mann’s “Great Education” vision, points to the illusion of a pure
meritocracy where students of all backgrounds will thrive according to their specific talent.
While I concede these utopian qualities are impossible to fully achieve, it is not impossible to work towards them. I’m not pessimistic, though. I can see the glass is half full with initiatives taken by universities such as affirmative action.
As a high school senior, who was born in Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, to Barack
Obama’s Common Core initiative, I wholeheartedly say that I am disappointed with our federal government.
I am disappointed in President Bush, for an ineffectively reforming education with
the No Child Left Behind Act, which sought to boost improvement only by punishing schools that weren’t near impossible standards.
I am disappointed in President Obama for creating an education initiative, Common Core, which has shown no significant improvement, all the while leading to confusion among parents and teachers and draining $15.8 billion.
I am disappointed in President Trump for selecting the secretary of the department of education, to be Betsy Devos, most likely because she was chair of the Michigan Republican party.
President Biden I urge you to take more measures. As a child of educators, any reform
starts by working with those who inspire us students. Please don’t be numb like your
Roslyn High School student