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  • Writer's pictureMJ Rodriguez

No Child Left Behind?

Are our children being left behind?

Working as an educator for more than twenty years has opened my eyes to the nitty-gritty, where you live the life of teachers and students. I entered the field later in my life than most teachers, becoming a grandmother just a month before graduating college and starting menopause about the same time. I had always been involved with young people in various ways, such as teaching them in a church setting and acting as a counselor in youth camps. So I do enjoy working with youth.

I truly enjoy teaching the students. I enjoy preparing the lessons and finding resources to add to and improve my lessons. I enjoy working with other teachers and the administration, whom I admire and respect. I am thankful for the freedom students in the U.S. enjoy to attain a free education to prepare them for life. In the school setting, children can acquire knowledge to help them academically, but also gain social skills and other skills to help them be better citizens.

However, there is a huge hole in our education process. When one president passed the No-Child-Left-Behind Act, education changed. Of course, those in education longer than myself will say education changes almost on a yearly basis, and that I find to be true. I realize change can be good, that growth always brings about change, but all change is not good. When education methods are created that halt the growth of some students so other students can be on the same level as them, that is not good. All students do not learn at the same level, same speed, or in the same way.

This Act, however, demands that all students be assessed the same even though they cannot learn the same. Teachers have watched in despair while children cried because they could not possibly understand the testing required for them, and it had nothing to do with what or how they were taught and everything to do with their ability to learn. I’m no expert in the field of education, but I do see what happened in the classroom when this Act was enforced. Some have called it the ‘dumbing down of America’.

And all the while, children are being left behind. I’m referring to students who cannot, will not, do not want to attend college. There are many students who will never attend college, yet it seems the American education system is determined to channel them into a college somewhere. Schools are given low grades—yes, there is a report card for schools, at least in my state—when many of these students finally give up and quit school. I’m convinced that most of them would finish if the school was equipped to offer training in vocations where they would excel.

Yes, all children are created equal. That does not mean they are created the same. There is nothing wrong with a person not going to college. Some people choose careers in fields that require no college, and they are happy and successful. Factories have for years provided a means of living with good benefits to those who are not comfortable studying books. A short stint in a vocational school or an apprenticeship provides ample training for those who excel in vocations that do not require writing essays and studying Shakespeare. But there they sit in my classroom, reading literature and writing essays. I work with them, trying to help them learn something not required for them to learn to succeed in their lives. They hate it, because their minds aren’t suited for that kind of activity. I’m not against requiring students to move from their comfort zones and do hard things. But honestly, that student needs to be somewhere gaining knowledge for a trade s/he is created for. Shakespeare and writing essays are for college students, not plumbers and electricians, who, by the way, can make much more money than teachers.

These students to whom I refer are in the throes of discrimination. Yes, the education system discriminates against those who are equipped for something other than college. And it makes me angry. I am the only one of twelve children to graduate college, yet my siblings all have had successful lives without college. I just happen to be geared to study books, to write essays, and to study literature. While I graduated college with honors, I never consider myself better educated or more successful than any of my brothers and sisters.

Something needs to change so that, truly, no child will be left behind in our education system. Anyone have an answer? What do you think?

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