Not allowing accelerated learning impairs student learning in general
The student believes he possesses ambition like no other. A passion for learning and a history of the world that he can use for a more productive summer. Wishing to fill the dead space he knew he would waste from past summer experience, the student asks his school if he can take a world history class over the summer.
There were plenty of online options, and it would help the student both learn more about the world he inhabits and help him to achieve his goal of taking an AP class in his freshman year, that being AP European history.
An ambitious dream, yet one that is possible if the student is dedicated to reaching it.
However, the school does not allow the student to go through with his idea. Instead, they reveal that it is school policy that students cannot take high school courses or receive high school credits before actually enrolled in high school.
This student is nameless and faceless, but this story is a true story, and just one of many similar stories that happen across the United States, stories of young people who have had their potential cut short because of failings in the United States education curriculum.
In a Washington Post article by Jay Matthews, Matthews reveals that there are only nine states that explicitly permit gifted students to accelerate their learning, and that Louisiana outright bans it, not allowing students to do things such as skip grades or enter kindergarten early, which could help gifted children get a leg up for their future academic careers.
Other than those states, most states let the matter be held at a district level, and the results are very against accelerated learning. This mostly comes from a fear that younger students would not be able to fit in with older peers, and would feel left out, administrators say. This has caused a high barrier to access even in states that do allow accelerated learning.
However, many people have said that students thrive in age-mixed classes, and have research to back their beliefs up. Two alternative schooling methods that most greatly advocate for age-mixed classes are Sudbury schools, a form of private schools where students are only taught classes they ask teachers to teach them, and can spend their day reading, watching TV and surfing the web, and Montessori schools, a form of charter schooling where students choose the classes they would like to take, can move about the classroom freely, and, as previously stated, have age-mixed classes.
Montessori schools call age mixing their "secret weapon" (David Brown). This is due to the belief that young students working with older students help them develop better social skills at an earlier age, and that older students learn to be more nurturing and, once again, develop better social skills.
Studies have backed these beliefs up. Charter schools, including Montessori schools, have been shown to increase annual earnings by over $2,000, and have a 7-11 percent higher graduation rate, according to the Mathematica Policy Research Facility. That's a massive difference, and it makes it clear that the current system needs to be changed.
These things, age-mixing, freedom of classes, et cetera, seem like things that only students drawn towards academic interests, and most people would just waste their time there, such as what happened with education movement in the 1970s.
However, this is once again not the case. Ian Mikardo High School is a high school in England that sought to educate those who had been deemed unteachable. All the attendees at Ian Mikardo had either been expelled or arrested. After graduating, none of the students at Ian Mikardo went into police custody. In addition, 97 percent of them went back into the workforce or went on to receive further education. The school did this by: having no punishment, not restraining the kids in any way and forcing them to empathize with their fellow peers, and in extension making them understand the importance of being accountable for your own future.
As the world evolves, it becomes clear that the way young kids are taught to understand it has to evolve too. If we keep a system based on age, rather than aptitude or dedication, we will not be able to be as productive as a civilization.
Change doesn't have to happen immediately, and it doesn't have to happen in an already established way, and it doesn't have to be severe. But change has to happen. Education is the tool that is necessary to inspire the future of humanity to become powerful forces in the worlds of math, physics, biology, art and literature.
And in the face of the potential of post-singularity, we need people to be involved and creative. But we can't have that if we refuse to let the advanced advance. I know what it feels like to be unable to achieve an academic pace I want to. I was that nameless, faceless person from the beginning of this article. Perhaps rather obvious, but an important thing to note. I know what this social paradigm feels like, and I've had direct impact from it. And I know many others have, too. Now is the time for change, for all future generations of humanity to come.
Dominick R. Zangara is an eighth-grade Sherwood Middle School student in Megan Wilson's social studies class.