It’s almost become comedic at this point when the American public points out how behind the U.S. educational system is in comparison with other countries. Around the world, students get an active say in what they want to learn and the education they wish to receive. Meanwhile, the United States has maintained the same rigid curriculum since 1918, meaning that the way that classes are structured and taught has quite literally not been changed for over 100 years. The content of classes has, of course, expanded to include new historical events, new literature and new scientific discoveries. But the “core” structure of a history, math, English and science class has not been altered since most children’s great-grandparents were elementary students. This structure means that modern necessities are relegated to elective Information technology classes or after-school programs, and students are not developing important soft skills while they are most capable of learning them. The U.S. education system needs to get out of the 20th century in order to benefit the coming generations of American students.
The most obvious reason to reorganize how curriculum is structured would be to focus on necessities that modern students need to learn. While schools think they’re covering all the computer skills children need by showing them how to open a document or make a PowerPoint presentation, the reality is that the job market is now highly digitized. Furthermore, a focus on soft skills such as teamwork, problem solving and critical, creative thinking means that students could develop necessary soft skills that will benefit them in any job and will help them for the rest of their lives. The simple truth is that students aren’t learning collaboration and teamwork in group presentations which only necessitate regurgitating what they learned in class. The national curriculum needs to centralize these core skills, and this does not necessarily mean completely throwing out history, science and other core courses. Rather, it means that these core courses need to be revamped to include these modern skills.
Furthermore, it is ironic that in a society that pushes the importance of STEM education for all children, the school system has hardly been adapted to serve this goal. Robotics and computer science classes are being left out of school curriculums and are instead relegated to after school clubs unless the school happens to be very wealthy. It’s a terrible dichotomy to expect children to be able to go on to college with the knowledge of all these new programs and be able to operate them properly when even basic coding isn’t taught to the vast majority of children. If the U.S. expects the next generation of children to be ready for the modern job market, they need to take the time to create curriculums that will offer students the chances to build these skills. Children can’t be expected to be the leaders of this digital age when they’re still being taught a curriculum that was created before the atom bomb was invented.
Of course, while the idea of completely redoing the entirety of the American school system and making it a paragon of modern education is ideal, the fact of the matter is that this will not happen overnight. It will likely not happen at all, because money continues to go to all the wrong places when it comes to education. As important as sports can be for students, there is so much funding that is poured into high school sports programs that education funds usually lack. However, it seems ridiculous to support these programs when there is only around a 31.25% chance that a student athlete will receive an athletic scholarship, and an even slimmer chance to go pro after college. Investing in academics means that there will be at least a little more funding to create new classes and curriculums that will actually benefit the students.
American students are missing out on numerous opportunities while they learn in this stagnant curriculum. The fact that students need to search for out-of-school programs, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes — if they are even fortunate enough to have access to them — in order to get an education that teaches them useful skills for the modern world is nothing short of ridiculous. The U.S. government needs to draft a curriculum for all schools that will continue to teach important concepts while ensuring that these necessary skills and fields are also being taught. The standard should be that schools prepare students for the world that we live in, not a world that existed a century ago.