Who Does Our Education System Work For?

Going to school in Montgomery County, MD. Photo from Martin Lender at HechingerEd.org

The Education System Works For…

1 Students motivated by competition
This one I know from personal experience. I loved races. I loved spelling bees. And I loved competing for top grades in the class. There were times when I didn’t particularly like the subject we were studying, such as math or science. But I loved proving that I could do it as well as anyone in the class. People who love winning can enjoy the test-based methods we employ in school, even if they don’t enjoy the subject, because of the competition inherent in the social environment.

The Education System Does Not Work For…

1Students who are easygoing or who dislike authority
A student who thrives on competition and on following rules will do well in our modern education system. A student who dislikes either of those — and there are plenty — has a tough time. They are hounded by teachers and vice principals, hounded by parents, and end up feeling caged in by the “system.” Autonomy is one of the essential psychological needs of human beings. Is the potential of thousands of children being wasted because we refuse to recognize an essential human need?



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Abe Collier

Abe Collier


“I do not understand one thing in this world. Not one.” — Marilynne Robinson, ‘Gilead’