Wednesday, February 26, 2020
US flag

The role of public schools, according to students

The Hechinger Report, in conjunction with the Atlantic, recently published an extensive series of reports about the public schools in America; their angle was to ask students what they actually thought schools were for, and many of the answers are eye-opening.

  • In the Atlantic, a few brief responses to the prompt, “What do you think the teacher’s role should be in students’ lives?
  • The complete “Student Voices” series on the Hechinger Report

For example, 11th grader Emilia Olson at the Palmetto Scholars Academy in North Charleston, South Carolina, answers a question briefly as follows:

What do you think the teacher’s role should be in students’ lives?

I think the teacher’s role is to engage the student and find what makes the student interested in the subject. It’s about finding passion, and I think this school does a really good job of that—allowing you to really search out what you want to do and find your passion. They don’t care if that’s in academics or art or sports. If you can’t find something that you’re actually interested in, you’re going to be living a life of lack, just going by. It’s the same with how I think the public-school system really fails with standardized testing. You’re just learning to take a test. You’re not learning to actually be happy.

Voxitatis has been writing about happiness in students for years. Quite frankly, it has become tiring hearing companies talk about how not enough girls study this or that subject in college, how music and fine arts programs are being cut in elementary, middle, and high schools across the country, and how there’s a great—even a civil rights—need to test students ad infinitum.

The reason I’m weary of such news is that I, unlike many corporate executives pushing their latest tech tools on K-12 schools or many education reporters, have actually been talking to kids for years.

What matters is that they find happiness, that they do what they love. If a girl doesn’t want to pursue a career as a scientist, that should be fine. If what makes a young boy happy doesn’t involve calculus, I don’t want schools pushing people into calculus just because some politician or corporation wants more African-American or female math majors.

Each kid has to find his or her own passion, their own happiness, and schools can—and do—help tens of millions of them with that endeavor every day, no matter what the tests tell us.

I invite our readers to head over to the Hechinger Report to read the complete, and ongoing, series involving student voices. Hats off to the online publication for excellent reporting about the schools.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Most detailed images ever of the sun

A new telescope at the National Solar Observatory snapped the most detailed pictures of the sun's surface we have ever seen.

Feds boost Bay funding

Restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed received a boost in federal funding in the budget Congress passed last month.

Md. & IL bands perform on New Year’s in...

Bands from IL and Md. once again entertained thousands of people who lined the streets of London and Rome on New Year's Day.

Howard Co. sounds an under-staffing alarm

Teachers in a Md. district have filed a grievance over missing planning and lunch periods and, as a result, putting the most vulnerable students at risk.

Top 11 school stories of 2019

We find these 11 stories to have the greatest potential for influencing activity and direction in schools for the near future.

Girls’ volleyball champs in Illinois

We congratulate the Illinois state champions in girls' volleyball: Newark, St Teresa, Sterling, & Benet Academy.

A weekend of ‘band geeks’ across America

The musical Band Geeks was in performance at a MD high school, just as marching bands from across America named a national champion.

2 dead, 3 wounded in Calif. school shooting

Another school shooting has resulted in the death of 2 California high school students. The suspect shot himself and is in custody.

Mercury makes a transit; next in 2032

A transit of Mercury occurred today and was visible from the US, provided you had sunny skies. It was one of longest possible transits.

On the Naperville BWW racist incident

A racist incident at a Naperville, IL, sports bar indicates that the threads of racism are strong, perhaps as strong as ever.

IL bill could excuse absences to vote

A proposed law in IL could give students up to two hours during the school day so they could vote in the upcoming election.