Mark Twain indeed said it best when he said, “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.
” And it seems that this statement is being placed into obscurity more and more, going into the future. The era that authors like Twain were part of followed an education system that provided not only fundamentals of selected subjects, but also allowed students freedom to express themselves and most importantly, the ability to think critically. This system was not perfect, and for every one Mark Twain there were thousands who struggled to even be literate. but it was much more effective than what our current education system has to offer, which complicates the process of achieving high order literacy as well as discourages the act of critical thinking. To argue that young people should be taught critical thinking over regurgitating information that many would find unnecessary, it should be agreed that the bare fundamentals are indeed necessary. Young people should indeed learn the basics of subjects such as grammar, sentence structure, mathematics, science, history, among other things as organically as possible.
After all, great thinkers will be much more effective in their arguments when they are fundamentally sound. However, this is where the current education systems get very carried away. Our current education systems have become overwhelmingly mechanical in teaching the youth these fundamentals to where not only have said fundamentals become difficult to grasp, but have also been made complicated to understand in the first place. The result is an education system that fails at providing the youth not only the ability to think critically, but also the ability to develop the fundamentals necessary to think critically in the first place. The reason that this predicament exists are twofold. The first is the No Child Left Behind Act, which greatly affected public and private schools in terms of creatively and organically allowing their students to be critical thinkers.
Although the act was created with good intentions (it’s main goal was to address a youth’s ability to be completely literate by the time they become adults), the secondary effects speak for themselves, as it affected greatly a person’s organic process of gathering and retaining information. Standardized testing, an act that was considered unheard of in ages past, grew to unprecedented heights in the 2000s, and this has contributed greatly to reducing the organic process of learning. Another development that has reduced the organic process of learning are Common Core Standards. A follow-up of sorts to the No Child Left Behind Act, Common Core Standards have placed yet more sets of inorganic methods to, as the standards state “ensure college and career literacy no later than high school.” And like the No Child Left Behind Act, while the intentions of these standards are good, the secondary effects have proven the opposite. Literacy rates in the United States are at a stalemate, not rising or lowering in the fifteen or so years since NCLB and Common Core standards became standard fare in Public Schools in the United States.
In the times of all of these authors and thinkers that have paved the path for educators in the 21st Century, they learned their crafts organically. There were very few standardized tests or concrete standards pushed by small groups of people who think they know what is best for large groups of people. Perhaps, if the education culture returns to that form, we will not only see a brighter youth but also a youth who is able to think critically much more often.