Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2019

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WHERE I STAND:

U.S. school system is in need of modernizing

Editor’s note: About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 62nd annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 29. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. This essay addresses the issues covered by the School Days group.

Click to enlarge photo

Student representative Max Foels, of Clark High School, poses during the 62nd annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center Thursday Nov. 29, 2018.

I approached the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum expecting to encounter individuals who, as high achievers, might have a preconceived belief that they already know everything. To my surprise, the people in my room — including our moderator — conveyed a unique perspective and a genuine desire to hear on another’s views.

In discussing whether standardized testing is a worthwhile method of assessing students’ knowledge and whether schools should encourage students to enroll in trade schools more, we reached a strong conclusion that our school system places excessive focus on grades and test scores at the expense of actual learning.

To clarify, our teachers generally do a good job of teaching, but the stress associated with cramming information to achieve good test scores and grades prevents students from gaining a deep understanding of concepts. In addition, students’ obsession with academic performance in core subjects due to the pressure of getting accepted into college disincentivizes them from pursuing their personal interests, using their creativity and developing skills like communication. Our education system’s evolution into a one-size-fits-all environment warrants deep concern, especially in a world where the job landscape is rapidly changing.

There are several solutions to improve the situation, but they require change on a national level, which is difficult considering how firmly our system is established. We discussed how some European education systems that emphasize the development of technical skills could be potential models for the U.S.

Whatever the best solution may be, it is vital that Americans recognize that our education system is outdated, and that our youth will continue to fall behind if we don’t address it.

Events like the Sun Youth Forum are immensely helpful to our progression as a society. Not only does it recognize the value of young people’s perspective, but it promotes civil exchange of ideas, which is invaluable given today’s level of ideological tribalism.

Maximilian Foels is a senior at Clark High School.