In this paper I am going to present an theoretical school district, school, and a classroom as examples of the ideal that our educational system should strive to achieve. The philosophy my schools will be based on is one of equality. Every single child will have an opportunity to receive the best possible education. However, we will never lower our standards for the sake of equality. Each child will be pushed to his or her personal best, not an average standard.
Before talking about what goes on inside the schools, I'd like to mention the district itself. There will be no alternative school choices, bussing, or deliberate desegregation practices. Each school will be remarkably similar to the others in the district so that every child may receive a similar education regardless of the neighborhood they live in. When students are separated to different schools for any reason (academic talent, wealth, interests, race, gender) they fail to interact with different types of people that they will undoubtedly encounter in the "real" adult world. In addition, I feel that is very important for children from the same neighborhood to attend the same school in order to increase a sense of community. Finally, as the Case Study of Boulder Valley points out, school choice takes valuable resources away from teaching and places them in school competition (Howe 144).
Within a typical high school, there will be many different kinds of students. Likewise, there will be many types of different classes. There will be students (similar to me when I was in high school) whose main focus is getting into a quality university program. For these students, there will be a rigorous set of honors courses. Any student may enroll in these courses; the advertised amount of extra work they require will keep out the students who don't belong in them.
For the majority of the students, those moving on to community colleges or lesser universities, there will be a set of classes that will teach the same subjects as the honor courses, just not in as much detail. There will also be a third tier of classes below this one which will serve the needs of those students who are not academically up to standard. The students in the lower classes will not be allowed to "slack off" and graduate with a sub-par education. Their classes will be more rigorous than the average classes in an effort to bring the students back up to the standard. Some students just need more time to understand concepts. These classes will allow them to learn at their own pace.
Art, physical education, music, mechanic, construction, and technology classes (or non-core) will be offered. All students will be required to take at least a semester of each to introduce variety in their education. The required classes will include very basic material. For example, the construction class will be a project course in which the classes work to construct a simple house. It will teach children basic skills like carpentry, wiring, painting, etcetera, that will come in handy to most of them someday and which a surprising number of adults are incapable of performing. In addition, the children will gain an appreciation of the work that goes into constructing buildings and will hopefully gain some respect for the workers who build our country. Each of the basic, non-core courses will be similar to the construction example in the methods used. Obviously, those students who wish to pursue one of these areas further will be allowed to. The advanced classes will only have interested students enrolled so they can move at a faster pace and cover much more material.
There will be no tracking groups that students are tied to. They will be allowed to choose many of their own classes based on their own desires and needs. Giving them the choice of classes makes them feel more active in their education and, therefore, more interested. I remember feeling much better learning when I got to high school and was finally able to choose some of my own classes. In addition to the various semester classes mentioned earlier, each child will be required to study two years of English, Social Studies, Mathematics, Science, and a Foreign Language. I feel it is important for each child to be exposed to a broad range of disciplines, but not be forced to pursue any of them if he or she is not interested in it. In this way, every child will understand the basics of many different concepts, but will only learn advanced material in those subjects he or she deems important. In this manner, each child will receive an education fitted to his or her own uniqueness.
Students with special needs will be treated in the same way as the other students. They will be allowed to choose courses that work well with their own unique talents. Bilingual classes will be offered, but students will only be placed in them until their English skills improve to a level in which they can be put back in the regular classrooms. I agree with the Center for Equal Opportunity when they state that leaving children in bilingual education programs for too long causes the "extended segregation of non-English speaking students" (CEO 1).
There will be tutoring centers open for students who need extra help in their classes but do not wish to drop to a lower level of the class. There are many students, like the one I am currently tutoring in Algebra 2, that are more than capable of doing the required coursework but have trouble learning in a group setting. Having the tutoring center as an option allows the students another method of customizing their own education.
Continuing on, I would like to observe what happens inside of the individual classrooms. Each class will meet three times a week for an hour each time, and a fourth time for two hours on a block period. During the short classes, a lecture format will exist. In contrast to Paulo Freire, I believe that students can learn a great deal from the banking concept. But, I do agree with him that it should not be the only method of teaching. Therefore, the block periods will be filled with more problem posing education activities such as labs in science classes, group discussions in English, or activities in math classes.
Of course, in my own utopian school system, I would be a perfect teacher. I would be very goal oriented and efficient. These traits will help to serve the majority of the students. However, I realize there are some students that need more caring, sympathetic teachers. So I wouldn't be the only perfect teacher. Two separate things can both be perfect, but still be different. Therefore, any teacher that places the students' well being and success at the forefront of their agenda, will be a good teacher in my system, regardless of their individual habits.
My traits have evolved throughout the pursuit of my own education and they will probably continue to do so as I attempt to educate others. Many of my ideas came from the schools that I was raised in. Very few of them came from readings from philosophers rather than observation. Because my experience was good overall, my utopian school system would be very similar to the one I was raised in.
There will be no "hidden curriculum" in my schools. Everything that we attempt to do will be well documented and published to the parents and students. For example, we will teach students national pride and ethical behavior, but we will admit to doing so. In addition, teachers will promote a sense of friendly competition among the students. This competition will be subtle and definitely will not interfere with the education itself. It will give students a little extra incentive to do their best and prepare them for a world which is nothing more than a big competition in itself.
To sum up, my school system will be one that pushes every student to achieve the most that is possible using his or her inherited talents. Diverse students will be given customized educations so that they can emerge as different, yet wonderful, people. My schools will never attempt to produce only one type of molded student. The differing talents that students entered with will all be celebrated and taken to new levels by the time of graduation. Students will leave my schools as diverse groups of individuals, each perfectly adapted to fit a unique niche in our society.