On Education-Emerson Essay
Imaging you are the only person at a concert; now imaging yourself surrounded by other who are just as enthusiastic about the concert as you are. One may give you a certain aspect of importance, while the other could make you feel like you belong to something bigger than yourself. The situation you prefer ultimately depends on your personality, that is to say, you as an individual. Present day America has become just that, a large gathering center for individuals from all corners of the globe; the great “melting pot of the world” to say the least.
With all the diversity of unique talents, ideals, beliefs, and traditions that can be found outside one’s front-door step, a few questions arise: why is individualism not sought after and praised in today’s curriculum instead of being generalized into groups as one usually is? Likewise, is our current system of education preparing young minds to be conformists while slowly killing the individual? Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the foremost intellectuals of the nineteenth century, theorized about an education system structured around the importance of the individual as its main foundation.
Emerson believed that “our modes of Education aim to expedite, to save labor; to do for the masses what cannot be done for masses, what must be done reverently, one by one: say rather, the whole world is needed for the tuition of each pupil”. To put it differently, he believed the pupil may benefit more from personalized curriculums than from an education system aimed to teach by the masses to save money, time, and labor.
In my opinion, from seeing the problems with our current Education system, I feel partially inclined to agree with Emerson and his idea to distance the education system from “teaching by the masses” and focus more on the individual For one, I firmly believe that today’s education system is more focused meeting the states standards and less focused on the student itself. The amount of standards an educator has to cover over the course of the year makes it nearly impossible to make individually customized teaching plans, thus the introduction of a curriculum in which everyone learns and works at the same pace.
This can come at a steep price because although exposing every student to the same lesson demonstrates fairness and indiscrimination, it may also have negative repercussions on the young and inexperienced mind. In an education system like this, the individual is not valued because he is not seen as one student but generalized and group with other, whether it is by age or grade level. In the classroom for example, we are taught the basic knowledge context that everyone is expected to know, very rarely do we see any encouragement for those who want to dive in depth into a subject or personalized assistance for those who desperately need it.
From my own experienced, I have always yearned to learn more about subjects I was interested in but if one cannot do that, then going to school becomes a chore. Statistics show that 8,300 high school students drop out each day (“High”). According to Buzzfeed, an online website, one of the top 5 reasons High School Students drop out is because they start finding classes uninteresting and the same can be said for college student. When the classes get dull they start centering their life’s around their jobs and eventually drop out to go in the pursuit of money.
We have statistics and the reasons for the large amount of dropout backing up the fact that there is something wrong with today’s education system, yet appropriate measures to adjust the education system aren’t being made; the personal interest and curiosity of the student are not being met to inspire ones desire for knowledge. In addition to the lack of time, the reason for why individuality is not valued is due in part to the poor teacher-to-student ratio which does not do the creative mind just.
Everyone needs space to think; however, we seem to be cramming in as many students as we can into one classroom, widening the teacher-to-student ration even further. One cannot master the lesson at hand if there is still a “shaky” foundation from the previous lesson due to the lack of sufficient assistance. With the fast pace that is required to meet all the requirements set forth by the United States, educators have little or no time to teach and assist those individuals who are in desperate need of attention, while at the same time neglecting to encourage, stimulate, and challenge those who fully grasp the material.
The curriculum just doesn’t allow enough room for a student to show his creativity or stand out as an individual. Is it just to teach the same material to someone who learns at a slower pace and expect him to keep up with someone who is naturally inclined to that topic? Most would say no, yet this is precisely what the education system is doing. Consequently and perhaps more importantly, by doing so we may also be pushing one student too much while holding another individual back. I am afraid that in an attempt to educate everyone, we may be putting the individual at risk.
Our current education systems have failed to comprehend that every individual is different and there is no one way to teach everyone. In short, we may be better off, as Emerson believes, to leave our traditional ways of teachings and focus on the individual. Furthermore, in my opinion the current curriculum is promoting conformism by establishing certain guidelines that encourage us to stay within the “normal” knowledge one should know. This strictness towards what is taught and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not allowed may be killing the young minds creativity and curiosity for knowledge.
In essence, creating a system in which “going with the flow” is acceptable, may be leading you into a lifestyle of mediocrity. One does not have to go far to find conformism being taught at a very young age. For instance, look at your local preschool center. At an early age one is taught to walk into the classroom in a line, almost military-like, sit down and face the board like everyone else, and are even encouraged to suppress ones true desires and pretend to pay attention to the instructor.
At an age where creativity and imagination is in its prime, the curriculum is already teaching one to stay within the lines while they color and goes as far as to indicate what color a certain object or person should be. What happens when a student chooses to color an object a different color? More than likely he is not praised for his creativity and his decision to stand out as an individual but scolded for not following instructions. The current curriculum might be trying to teach them disciplined but It is also preaching the idea that he is more valued when he “goes with the flow” than when he stands on his own.
Is it not those that defy the “norms” who create the foundation for new styles and those few who think “outside the box” who move our society forward yet that sort of thinking is not promoted in the curriculum. I take a look at myself, and my college experience and notice conformism is a real issue. I see fellow peers do the minimum required of the instructor to pass the class, with no intent to learn anything more than what is required; they have no aspiration to exceed their past grades and are perfectly comfortable being average.
Very rarely does one see someone who is well-rounded in a specific subject go out of their way and learn more than what the instructor covered. Even to someone like me, who prefers to stand out as an individual, waiting till next week to learn something as a class sounds more tantalizing than researching on my own. When the thinking, as to when one will be exposed to information, is done for us there is little to motivate us to take learning into hour own hands: “people who blindly follow rules are going along with the crowd and conforming.
They are doing what’s easiest and avoiding challenge and having to think” (Harrison). By not going out of our way of the normal “flow” of life and society we may be condemning ourselves to a mediocre lifestyle. James Cooper once said, “All greatness of character is dependent on individuality. The man who has no other existence than that which he partakes in common with all around him, will never have any other than existence of mediocrity”(cooper 1).
Overall, I believe that by having a general curriculum dictating when and how we learn, we may be more inclined to be satisfied with mediocrity and in turn conform to the “norms” of society. In conclusion, I strongly agree with the belief that educating the masses means slighting the individual (Emerson). The current Education system was intended to teach the masses, with respectable and admirable intents, but the system may have come too far and established an environment where creativity and individualism is a rare sight to see.
There are some deep concerns with “teaching the masses” that I believe should be dealt with immediately if one wishes to move along as a society and bring to the world a new era of radical and critical thinker; that is to say, people who challenge and change the way we view the world. First off, the education system should allow for a sufficient margin of time so the educator may make certain adjustment to the curriculum based on the necessity of the students at that moment. Enough time is needed so the pupil may learn his natural pace and build his knowledge on a strong foundation.
As for the intellectuals in the classroom, they should be given special modifications to the curriculum that may continue to challenge and grab his interest. Secondly, in an education system where everyone is taught the same, the speed and expectations of the classroom will almost always be that of the slowest person. This may be problematic because when you live your life doing only average work, you will conform to the idea that mediocrity is acceptable and life a life of mediocrity; never realizing your true otential. With all things considered, the ideal education system is one where its main focus is not inclined towards completing the curriculum, but one where teaching for the masses can inspire creativity in the individual by collaboration and competition with fellow peers. Overall, I agree with Emerson and I find it absolutely necessary for the education system to slowly distance itself from our present day curriculum and start focusing more on the individual to promote creativity and individuality.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 28 September 2016
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