Some say that a child who attends public school will grow up to become just another cog in the corporate machine – an unthinking, mindless conformist who is trained only to take standardized tests and is incapable of thinking outside the box. I think that’s a rather overdramatic view.
Sure, anyone who attended public school knows that it is indeed quite regimented: you’ve got your long list of school rules, you go to school at the same time every day, the bell rings at all the same times, you’re only allowed to wander the halls with permission, and you can only leave school when the bell rings or if you have permission.
But I don’t necessarily think the public school system’s schedule is what creates this supposed conformity. Getting kids used to a daily routine can make them more well-disciplined, but of course, there is such a thing as overscheduling your kids, and that is a blog post in itself.
They say that “teaching to the test” is part of what creates “conformity.” Not all children are good test takers, but are really smart in other ways. Some children are very good test takers, but they may not necessarily understand the material they’re being tested on. But in public school, children’s academic competence is determined by how well they perform on standardized tests – and because every student learns differently, that’s not fair.
The best of teachers recognize that standardized testing is a necessary evil, and they do prepare their students for the test, but that’s definitely not where their job ends. They ensure that each student is working to his full potential, and they genuinely care about students’ successes and failures. A good teacher does not encourage conformity in his students, but encourages them to think outside the box.
Teaching is probably one of the most difficult jobs there is, especially when you’re a public school teacher who has to worry about getting a certain amount of passing test scores to stay hired. I’ve heard that a lot of teachers wish they didn’t have to waste time “teaching to the test.”
Tests are indeed a good measure of progress, but standardized tests are too, well, standardized to be able to adequately test each student on his/her individual abilities – and public schools place far too much emphasis on them. Because of standardized testing, a truly brilliant child can get “left behind” if he doesn’t perform well on the test, and a slow learner can move along to the next grade if she happens to do well.
But I wouldn’t say that merely attending a public school turns children into little conformists. Not at all.