The US education system does not benefit students


Gagani Liyanawaduge, Design Editor

The American education system is extremely flawed. Students are not learning, they do not get enough sleep, and are bombarded with homework every day. The system leaves students with mental illnesses they have to deal with for the rest of their lives, and most schools haven’t reduced the stress caused by school even during a pandemic.

In high school, millions of students have to take standardized tests in order to attend a college or university. The system depends on standardized testing too much. Everyone takes the same test which shows equality, but not everyone has what they need to do well on the test. There is a lack of equity, giving everyone the same chance at success. 

Sam Magnuson, junior, believes that “standardized testing is not fair. It can come down to little things like lower or higher [income] classes…Lower class students don’t get the same funding and resources as those in higher income classes do for school.”

Students whose families earn a higher income are at an advantage because they can afford better education and even test prep for standardized tests. Standardized tests do not predict how successful a student might become in the future, so they are not reliable. Every student works and learns at their own pace, yet we have to answer hundreds of questions within a time constraint. Time should not be a factor in scoring our abilities.

Letter grades discourage students from actually retaining information. The letter grade system is ineffective and induces stress.

“I feel like it is helpful to know how you are doing in classes, but you should not have to stress about grades.” Magnuson said.

Students are chasing good grades, not knowledge. We are learning to get an ‘A’ on a report card, not to build skills for the future. The current grading system causes students to compare themselves to others and think that their worth is defined by their grades.

Many subjects are taught in school, but we are not taught enough life skills, not even close. Not all students have access to someone who will teach them about how to handle money or manage time properly. Personal finance is now a required class at South, but one semester is not long enough to deeply understand how finances work, or to learn how to buy a house or car. Personal finance classes should be taught throughout all of high school; students are out on their own in the world after graduating, and one semester of a finance class taken once simply isn’t enough.

Homework deprives students of free time and sleep and induces stress. I have been assigned about 15 hours of homework per week since the beginning of the school year. Adding the time I spend in class, a total of 50 hours is spent on school every week while my parents only work about 44 hours each week. A lot of the homework that is assigned is busy work, which is unnecessary and a waste of time. For example, students don’t need to practice 30 math problems, a few problems that could demonstrate multiple skills would be better. Students waste time stressing over and completing tedious assignments, and then the teachers have to take the time to grade them, so it would be beneficial to both parties if busy work was not assigned. For kids of all ages, it’s crucial that we have time to socialize with others and time to ourselves, but the amount of homework that is assigned makes doing those things more difficult. Some high school students have jobs or participate in extracurriculars as well, and balancing school with work and a social life is not easy. Senior Emily Schwindt maintains both a part time job on top of her school work.

“Most high schoolers end up doing homework at night because we have busy days and jobs, and doing homework at night after getting up early that morning is extremely hard to do,” explains Schwindt.

The recommended amount of sleep for a teenager is 8 to 10 hours each night. Less than one-third of high school students get adequate sleep due to early start times and the amount of time they spend on homework. Teenagers won’t begin to feel sleepy until around 11 P.M. and won’t wake up naturally until around 8 A.M. Most schools start school before 8 in the morning, causing students to lose a lot of sleep and only get an average of 6 hours of sleep during weekdays. Sleep deprivation leads to poor performance in school, car accidents, and mental health disorders. If homework amounts were reduced and schools didn’t start class until after 8:30 in the morning, students would get adequate sleep, be more physically and emotionally healthy, and drowsy driving would be reduced substantially. 

Up to one in five kids in the United States shows signs or symptoms of a mental disorder and school is one of the causes of this epidemic of poor mental health. We talk about mental health in advisory once a year, but that is all the school does to help students who are struggling with mental health. We have school social workers and psychologists, but most students don’t know how to contact them or are too anxious to reach out for help when they need it. Teachers are some of the people that see students the most often during high school; students spend more time at school than they do with their own families. We say that we need to talk about mental health and end the stigma around it, but schools aren’t doing a good job of that at all. In advisory, teachers try to provide us with coping mechanisms for stress, but they don’t try to prevent the stress from occurring in the first place. This leads to many students living the rest of their lives with mental disorders. 

“[Schools do not handle mental health well] at all. When I went to my counselor in middle school because I was having panic attacks, I was told to ‘do more homework’ as it would make me feel better, and ‘come into school earlier.’ They also told me it was just puberty and pushed me away.” Magnuson said.

The way schools handle mental health is not good enough. They act as if they care and talk about it a day or two during the entire school year, and then don’t address it ever again. Teachers and other school staff tell us to take care of ourselves, but don’t realize that they themselves are the cause of our problems.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected both students and teachers negatively in so many ways. Everyone is stressed out and some have had to mourn losses caused by the virus. Even after surviving the disaster that was 2020, students and teachers are forced to function as if it is a normal year. Nina Tasic, senior, feels like senior year has lost its importance.

“I’m kind of desensitized at this point and don’t care that much. I have never anticipated to be this excited to graduate, but I am—purely because it means I’ll be done with this.” Tasic said.

Students are barely getting through school because the workload is either the same amount as that of a normal year or even higher. Finals were changed to unit exams for most subjects, but that is the most our school has done to accommodate for the effects of COVID-19. Students are more unmotivated than ever before and schools still expect us to complete all of our assignments and get good grades. 

“In a matter of months, weeks even, our world turned upside down.” Magnuson said. “It’s stressing us out. Having to do Zoom [classes] is awful. We are unmotivated and tired. We have to stare at a computer screen for 7 hours and then do our homework online, it’s exhausting.” 

The American education system is broken, and so are the millions of students within it. School is supposed to help students learn and prepare us for the real world, but it’s doing the complete opposite. We are being torn apart from the inside out. To the system, we are only machines meant to memorize and regurgitate information.