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The Closed Doors of Education

Posted 04/15/2024 by Emanuel Morales-Gomez

Closing educational doors on students is shutting down a vital opportunity for them to grow. photo by Emanuel Morales-Gomez

Many are emphasizing that public schools are not allowing students to succeed or thrive after graduation due to restrictions that the education system has in place. 

School is meant to be a place full of growth and opportunity for students. However, many argue that this is not the case with public schools nowadays. There are many ‘doors’ that have been closed by restrictions that have been placed on education, and YouthTruth, a nonprofit organization, reported that 54% of high school students feel as though their studies are “irrelevant.” Schools have turned into factories that produce monotonous citizens, and furthermore, they extinguish student uniqueness, growth, and curiosity. I am a firm believer that schools have closed too many doors and it is time to make a change in the school system. 

The first closed door is graduation requirements. One of the notorious ways that schools limit students’ individuality is through graduation requirements. According to Denver Public Schools (DPS), for high schoolers to graduate, they need to complete 4 units of English and Math, 3 units of Science and Social Studies, 1 unit of Physical Education, 1 unit of Arts or eligible Career & Technical Education (CTE) arts, 0.5 units of Comprehensive Health, and 7.5 units of approved electives. While these requirements are meant to prepare students for “acceptance requirements at postsecondary institutions,” they are not preparing students for their careers or lives outside of school. These requirements create a disconnect between students and the education they are getting because students are not able to take classes that will help them in their future endeavors. For example, students have to take mathematics all four years of high school. However, after the first two years of math, these courses teach nothing important for many students’ careers, especially for those who may go on to study law or English. Due to the requirement to take math all four years of high school, many are limited from engaging in courses that are useful and vital for their careers and lives. I do believe it is necessary for students to know the basics of different subjects, but we should not be forced to take years and years of a subject that is not vital for our success. 

One idea that has been a topic of conversation for years (that I agree with) is that schools should have a maximum of three years for the core subjects: Math, English, Science, and Social Studies. I also think students should also be required to complete 0.5 units of Financial Math and 0.5 units of Civics because it is proven that these courses do prepare students to face the real world and help them to understand how to thrive in it. After that, the only other requirement is taking 8 units of electives so that students can explore different interests or hobbies that they may have not known they liked before. 

The second closed door is the weight that the current school system places on tests. Students are set up for failure through the classic grading system. In school, tests are weighted more than projects and assignments because it is a better representation of students’ knowledge. However, these tests only create more anxiety and stress for students, causing them to not show their knowledge properly. Amelia Danielson, a sophomore at TJ, noted that, “while I understand why teachers weigh tests more, I don’t necessarily agree with it because not everyone tests well.” She believes that one solution to fix this problem is to “weigh assignments and projects more” so that students’ grades do not only rely on tests.

 A solution that I think will help students represent the knowledge they have acquired is through performance-based assessments (PBA). The National Education Association (NEA) reports that PBA allows students to “demonstrate knowledge and skill through critical-thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and the application of knowledge to real-world situations” without the hassle of stress-enducing tests. This solution allows students to accurately show the information and skills they have retained that they may have otherwise not shown on tests. Moreover, I expect that this solution will allow teachers to recognize what their students need.   

The third closed door that has been detrimental to students is online blocking. One of the most recent ways schools have restricted students is through the blocking of websites. Students have to be wary about the availability of desired information when they search for it on the internet because there is a chance it may be blocked. Schools are limiting access to information students need to have access to for their learning and/or simply just to satisfy curiosity. Blocking certain potentially harmful and/or inappropriate websites makes sense. However, there are many websites that are blocked that are needed for students to use for school. Danielson, who has experienced this problem before, stated that “DPS blocking so many websites makes it harder for [her] to research topics.” 

Students’ perspectives of the world are being limited instead of broadened. This limitation causes students to not get the full picture and to lose out on important research skills that are vital for their future endeavors. A solution to this is schools only blocking websites that are deemed inappropriate for students. After that, students should have access to the whole internet and have the opportunity to report websites that they as well may deem inappropriate, allowing for students to learn important research and self-advocacy skills. The world is turning digital and I believe that we should prepare students to safely and responsibly navigate the internet. 

Schools are meant to spark curiosity within students and encourage their interests. However, the measures that many districts take to restrict students goes against their mission. Due to public schools failing to support them, students are forced into a more narrow, limited worldview and not given enough resources to succeed after high school. If we want students to succeed, it is time for schools to start opening doors instead of closing them.