Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Educational Change/Essentials
All throughout the course of a child’s education, many things change. They go to different schools as they get older, have different friends, and acquire new teachers. Their interests change from playing with friends after school to sports ,and members of the opposite sex. The one thing that remains constant is the subject matter that is being taught in schools. Regardless of what school a student goes to, the same basic subjects will be taught and all of them are important as they contribute to the development of a student’s mind. While some subjects may be more valuable to students than others, they all shape the way a person thinks. Often times, students may ask, “When am I ever going to use this stuff?” What they don’t see is that they use it every single day whether they realize it or not.
Reading, Writing, and Speaking
Reading, writing, and speaking are essential for everyone to function on an every day basis. While reading is an activity that almost all children learn to do at a very young age, comprehension is a totally different story. Just teaching a student to read is not enough. They must be able to understand what they are reading. There are a few good skills that must be practiced while learning to comprehend what is being read (Colorado). Comparing and contrasting is a great way to get a student thinking about more than just what the story says at the surface level. Also, getting a student to try and figure out the theme to stories and solve the problems that may exist in the story is a great way to make them use their mind for deeper thinking (Colorado). Research now shows that low reading achievement more than any other factor, is the root cause for lower performing schools. Reading is considered to be the fundamental skill upon which all formal education depends on. Any child that does not acquire the necessary skills to read, will be at a disadvantage academically in all fields, however because of recent scientific research and the newly discovered learning disabled program in the Special Education department, new instruction has been developed to help these children read at level once the instruction is delivered by the proper skilled/ trained teacher (AFT Union of Professionals,2007).
The ability to write is an essential tool that students must be possess if they are going to be successful in school and in life. There are several areas in which writing is used in every day life. In the most basic way, people use this skill when doing something as simple as writing down a note (). Writing will be used in almost every profession imaginable in one way or another. Whether it is writing a letter to someone or just writing down simple calculations, basic writing skill will be used in the workplace (). According to the Belden Russonello & Stewart research and communications survey, Americans voted that writing skills are essential to get ahead today. Nearly three-quarters of Americans say that it is more important today than it was twenty years ago to possess such a skill (Belden and Russonello,2007)There is a high demand for higher education when trying to obtain employment in today's society as well. Along with higher education comes the responsibility of knowing how to communicate ideas verbally, as well as on paper. Writing enhances the development of many other activities as well. Writing helps build vocabulary, and also helps develop important reading skills.
Speaking is another skill that is kind of lost in the shuffle after elementary school. Public speaking is way too important for this to happen. It is completely irrelevant the knowledge a person may have about a particular subject if they can not verbalize their point. Public speaking is used in almost every profession. Someone can be a great writer but may not be able to present the materials in front of other people. One way for children to develop profound readeing and speaking skills is the use of phonics. "Phonics is a method of teaching reading based on pronounciation" (Leinwand 89). Helping the pronounce the words in order to read them also helps them to be able to say the different words correctly. It also gives them more confidence knowing they all they have to do is take the time to pronounce each syllable. It is harder for employers to find people who can not speak properly credible if it appears that they are unsure or do not have any knowledge as to what they are talking about.
Most individuals in today’s society do not realize how much mathematics is involved in their daily lives. A skill as simple as counting is using a math. Every time an individual counts, they are using the basic function of addition. From such a basic skill as counting to designing a computer, math is essential in life (Roman). Engineering is one field that uses math more than others.
|“||Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.||”|
Engineering has crossed our paths in one form or another. Engineers designed the cars that are driven to work every day. Engineers designed the highways and bridges that are used for our daily commuting purposes. Without the usage of math, these necessities that we take for granted would not be possible. Almost nothing that we have in the world today could exist without the usage of math (Roman). Students do not care for mathematics because they view math as difficult. That is why it is important for teachers to provide remediation for students who do not understand and make it their point to emphasize the importance of math, not to just teach it.
Where did we come from? Why is the sky blue? Why are there clouds in the sky? All of these are questions that most people will ask themselves throughout the course of their lives. That is why science is another important subject in schools today. Without science, these basic questions of life could not have been answered. Science gives people an understanding of the world and why earth functions the way it does. Without science, there would be no way to calculate time. Along with every other subject already discussed, science is used in one way or another in most professions. Without science, how would doctors be able to treat people who are ill? Engineers use science along with math to design the tools that we use on an every day basis. Math and science compliment each other in discovering some of the mysteries of the world.
Literature is a subject that many students feel is unnecessary in school. They could not be more inaccurate. Literature greatly benefits people. First, it expands the imagination. Great literature can take the reader back in time or to some magical world. Next, literature provides the reader an interpretation of the world from someone else's point of view (). Everyone perceives the world in a slightly different way. Literature is a way in which to use the mind to look at the world through someone else’s eyes. Most people just view it as a source of entertainment and of no educational value. When your mind is forced to think in a different way than what it is accustomed to doing, it sharpens the brain and increases the imagination ().
Most people view history class as being forced to learn a bunch of facts that have no meaning to there life. History is so much more than just learning dates and facts. It is what is done with that information that is important. Instead of just learning that something happened, it needs to be taken into consideration why something happened. It is then that history becomes useful in the world today (Ragland 3). History is useful in today's classrooms because in many cases we have seen that history often repeats itself (Leinwand 77). Even essentialist thinkers believe in a mastery of basic knowledge, a main component being history (79). As we look through all angles, history is a large part of education in all aspects and is one that should not be left out of education. When students know about what has happened in the past, they can use that information to help make decisions. Students can then truly understand history and use it in their lives.
The arts are not studied as much in school as the rest of the subjects but it is still very important. Art provides a way through which to communicate to people who may not even speak the same language as the author (Dickinson)! Art can be used to tell a story or just make a statement that everyone can understand regardless of what language someone speaks. Art also makes people think more deeply into it than a lot of other subjects do. When looking at art, it could take a very long time to get what the author is trying to say. This makes the viewer think critically about it (Dickinson). Some schools have taken time and money away from the arts to be able to focus more time on the core subjects. A study published in 2003 by Graham Wilkins et al surveyed over five hundred elementary schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia and showed that taking time away from the arts may be counterproductive. Schools that spent more time in the core subjects and less time in the arts did not have significantly higher tests scores than the other schools (Wilkins). The researchers also found that spending more time in the arts may be related to higher test scores but more studies would need to be done to support that idea (Wilkins). The arts are equally as important in the overall development of students by making them well rounded individuals. Students are typically more active in an art, music, or physical education class, and that activity and break from the typical lecture style class may help increase students' attention and decrease unwanted behavior from some students.
Some of these subjects are going to be more valuable to some than others, but all of them are essential in developing one’s mind. The goal in education is to produce as well rounded of people as possible. Different students will succeed in different areas, but they need to have a general understanding of all the subjects. They are the future of the world and having the privilege of teaching them must not be taken lightly!
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- A Union of Professionals. "The Importance of High-Quality Reading Instruction." 2007. http://www.aft.org/topics/reading/index.htm
- Belden and Russonello. "The 2007 Survey on Teaching Writing." March 2007. http://www.brspoll.com
- Colorado, Colorin. “Reading Comprehension Strategies for Content Learning.” 2007. http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/14342
- Dickinson, Dee. “Why are the arts so important?” New Horizons for Learning, 1993. http://www.newhorizons.org/strategies/arts/dickinson_why_arts.htm.
- “Help your child learn to write well.” April, 1993. http://www.ed.gov/pubs/parents/Writing/index.html
- Leinwand, Gerald. "Public Education: American Issues." Philip Lief Group. Facts on File, Inc. 2007.
- Ragland, Rachel. “Changing secondary teachers’ views of teaching American History.” http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/hww/results/results_single_ftPES.jhtml
- Roman, Harry. “Why math is so important.” http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/hww/results/results_single_fulltext.jhtml
- “Why read literature?” http://www.memorial.ecasd.k12.wi.us/Departments/LangArts/dnelson/amlit/beginyear/amlitwhyreadlit.htm
- Wilkins, J., Graham, G., Parker, S., Westfall, S., Fraser, R., & Tembo, M. (2003). Time in the arts and physical education and school achievement. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 35, 721-734.