Education has become a hot topic lately. Almost as hot as American Idol. But few are talking about the students, and maybe that’s because their reality is rather sad. For some students, their teachers are too busy striking and protesting to actually teach. For other students, they are being passed through by a system that moves too fast to take care of those who need the most help, and the rest are just trying to walk across that graduation stage in June of their 12th-grade year. No matter what stage or educational level, the same issues rise up, and it’s time for a true reformation in our educational system.

Recently, on March 28, President Barack Obama said some rather controversial words. “Too often, what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students,” the president told a crowd during a town hall hosted by Univision, a Spanish-language television network.

The president went on to add, “One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math.” He went on to clarify that “All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting.”

I don’t agree with President Obama a lot, but here he is exactly right. George Bush really made a huge mistake with the No Child Left Behind Act, causing schools to think more about teaching to a test then to a classroom. By putting pressure in the wrong areas, it’s created a rather nonproductive educational system. Bush abandoned conservative ideals to continue a Jimmy Carter vision for the world, by holding fast to the National Department of Education.  

Education works better when the government steps back and communities take charge. In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan promised to demolish the Department of Education set up by President Carter in 1979, only to back-pedal once he took office. Since then, America’s educational system has become a nightmare. With bureaucrats running the show from Washington, D.C., how can they understand the needs of multicultural communities and make effective decisions?

Concerning the issue of testing, how does that prepare the student for anything? Most jobs don’t “test” their employees individually on a regular basis, but instead allow them to work in group projects with an open amount of resources to draw from. Most careers allow for Internet usage, research and collaborative decision making. Tests promote isolation and a one-size-fits-all philosophy. It is projects that create a well-rounded student.     

Standardized tests take a few hours out of a 180-day school year, and then Washington uses just those hours to evaluate an entire year’s worth of learning. That’s ridiculous. And what is school really for, if not the foundation for creating a productive worker in the numerous areas of our capitalist system. Be it in art, mathematics, science, technology, acting, sports or any other area in which people make a living, schools are supposed to prepare kids for that next stage of life.  

Truth be told, Obama’s statements show that he is serious about creating a new philosophy in our broken system. If he follows through, let’s hope he will see that he can create a better system by giving school boards, educators and principals the power to see what is most relevant in their districts. Private schools do this, and many parents have found that government free education is a more beneficial. Local private schools like Oaks Christian, Thatcher and St. Bonaventure have shown that students can excel and be “college ready” without having Big Brother making sure there are enough No. 2 pencils and Scantron tests.              

With our schools falling behind the rest of the world in numerous areas, sports programs being cut, and teachers being pink-slipped left and right, it is time to reform the system. It isn’t working. And any good teacher would tell you that if it isn’t working, it’s time to go back to the blackboard.   

paulmoomjean@yahoo.com