Conformity in Schools

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction to Conformity in the American Education System
  2. The Historical Context of Conformity in Education
  3. Standardized Curriculum and Its Impact on Student Individuality
  4. Standardized Testing and Its Role in Educational Conformity
  5. Psychological Effects of Conformity on Students
  6. Conclusion: The Need for Educational Reform

Introduction to Conformity in the American Education System

Albert Einstein once stated, “Education is what remains only after one has forgotten what one has been learned in school.” Growing up, school has always been seen as the start to the great adventure of life. Parents send their students to school with the best intentions that year after year, their children will become the intellectual and innovative minds of the next generation. It is this belief in the formal education system that parents predict that after twelve years, their child will be the perfect creation of conduct and aptitude leading to happy, thriving adults. However, the ancient institution of the American high school still leads parents to wonder if the needs and priorities of their students are being met. The present-day blueprint of the school system hasn’t been developed or changed since the Protestant Reformation. Although great advancements have been made to take off the 21st century, the advancements in the educational system have appeared to remain stagnant. For a century and a half, the ancient institution of schooling young minds has not taken the century’s twist to innovation. The perimeters for how the school system has addressed issues of universal conformity and individuality in teaching has not expanded since. Though the intentions behind certain restrictions are created to ensure that the general majority of students receive the best possible education that they can, there also leaves room to ponder if generalizing students instead of specifying their individual attributes in order to better prepare for the future is indeed wise. The American high school education system seems to promote a stellar approach of teach-and-test instruction that assists students to be motivated by incentives and penalties, when in reality, the nature of this methodology acts to redirect the desire of inquisitiveness towards indoctrination and subservience.

The Historical Context of Conformity in Education

The idea of obedience in the education system stems from orthodox notions held since the beginning of the school system itself. Highschool to most students in the United States is typically seen to be the introduction of the real world, where their classes and studies will be the guide to all the next important steps when choosing a career path. In current culture, the push to be an adult who is college ready seems to be the biggest push in most American high schools. However strong the push is to have prior knowledge of a career path choice before reaching the next step, the United States has set a general policy for most high school students to complete before their graduation. Most policies indicated that before a student can graduation, they must meet the specified number of universal credits of math, science, history, and English or another world language. Though these orders are given to a majority of the states, many administrators and students feel as though their dictated courses in high school are not pertinent to the field in which they hope to study further on in college. Shannon Knight, author of “Why Students Should Choose Their Own Classes”, argues upon the topic that, “The problem with our current education system is that students are spending too much time in classes that will get them nowhere and not enough time in classes that will actually help them in life and their careers” (Knight). By making students conform to state standards to be prepared for the next exam, project, and grade level, students finally at the end of their high school career eventually find themselves unprepared for their passions after graduation. This notion of having to submit to the designated courses that a student must complete in order to graduate is one of the highest governmental authority, therefore making any act to change or revolutionize the system imperatively difficult. By forcing students to partake in classes that they do not enjoy or at times understand, their needs to immerse themselves in different interests are not met, making their time feel invaluable (Knight). Knight would advocate that it is the roadblock of children not having the power to control their own education pathway that creates the leading reason as to why so many students leave high school as numbingly unfulfilled adults who have lost the ability to think creatively and innovatively like they did when they were children. Knight bases her claim on the illustrations of her own students, for example a young woman who wanted to major in journalism, but spent the majority of high school bound to a math class instead of a creative writing course that could have helped her become more prepared for her field instead (Knight). Indirectly, Knight expresses that by strong-arming students to take classes they feel no personal connection to, schools are directly poisoning the minds of the future with boredom instead of prospering stimulation.

Standardized Curriculum and Its Impact on Student Individuality

This example Knight creates of building students around a curriculum instead of a curriculum around students is a type of psychological imprisonment that Professor Peter Gray Ph.D., would call “normative influence,” where to avoid reprimands, students will chose to go along with what has been voiced, even if they do not agree with the rules being stressed in order to float under the radar. (Gray). In Professor Gray’s article, ‘“Why Don’t Students Like School” Well Duhhhh,” he notes how author of Why Don’t Students Like School, Daniel T. Willingham, lacks in his thesis to fully encompass the true reason why children feel a deep loathing towards the education system. Gray, however, introduces the idea that, “[Willingham] writes a book…and not once does he suggest that just possibly, they do not like school because they like freedom, and in school, they are not free, but brainwashed into conformity” (Gray). American high school systems strip students of their individuality, not just through the means of creating uniforms as most would assume, but by stripping children of their artistic drive to build time around the studies and fields that they hold to be of value, giving them no freedom of choice in their education. Where Knight simply introduces the problem, Professor Gray goes a step further to address the negative psychological impact that conforming students to a curriculum can have. Gray notes that by taking control of student’s career decisions at such a prominent developmental age, schools indirectly begin to restrict students to think for themselves, making a core lesson of their to development to rely on those who hold more of the authority and follow the standardized calibration that is set in motion for the majority, not the individual. (Gray). Gray would harmonize with Knight’s assertion that by forcing students to learn around the parameters of a system that does not rationalize their personal wellbeing, students will continue to come out of the school system drones to authoritative obedience, deficient in the capability to take ahold of their own future and thrive through their own self-guided determination to learn. It is imperative that in order for the current superfluous school system to be understood, it is justifiable to mention the greater psychological aspects that can form due to the lack of prosperity in engaging students with the deserved educational nourishment that has so blatantly been overlooked thus far.

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Standardized Testing and Its Role in Educational Conformity

Standardized testing is one of the most crucial keys to understanding the extent to the pressures that the American education system places upon students. The question on whether or not standardized testing is still applicable for use in current classrooms is a question that has been long drawn out. Although Knight and Gray argue that the deep rooted problem in the current education system lies in the problem of stationary courses that offers no means of personal growth or exploration within and after high school, Erin Gohl, author of “Cookie Cutters and False Expectations”, states that the true reason why there is a deficiency of individuality in the school system is due to the weight of standardized assessments (Gohl). Gohl notes, “Our current system puts students at a disadvantage, preparing them for a future where they are only being assessed on the acquisition of knowledge using standardized curriculum- a “one size fits all” model” (Gohl). By stressing to students that a cookie cutter approach to productivity is the best scheme to measure future successes, schools are practically telling students that their attributes and skills towards certain classes are not important. Making students have to bank their future upon the outcome of a four-hour test shows how standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, pend upon a skill set that of commonality and not of personalization or individual progression (Gohl). According to the 2019 SAT Score Report statistic in Gohl’s article, the average score came to be a shocking 1059 out of 1600 (Gohl). Since standardized tests only assess students on limited skills that showcase little to no eccentricity, there has come with a growing absent mindedness that has taken over the enthusiasm to do well and replaced with a drawn out feeling of detachment. Rainesfornd Stauffer, author of “The Business of Standardized Testing”, agrees with Gohl’s claim that standardized testing is the root to the school system’s problem of conformity. However, Stauffer argues further that although standardized testing offers the opportunity of accountability and is the most proficient way for summing up the major teachings of high school, learning in order to test upon facts subtracts from the prosperity of academic success (Stauffer). Scott Sleek, author of “The Science of Sameness,” stresses along with Stauffer and Gohl how such standardization to build academically competitive and conformed adults can create a negative psychological journey for students’ brain maturity.

Psychological Effects of Conformity on Students

Where Gohl and Stauffer simply point out the problem and statistical evidence, Sleek addresses the psychological affects that conformity can cause the brain. In Sleek’s article, he observes how Christopher Firth and Daniel Meiklejohn, both neuroscientists at the University of Sussex, created an experiment in which a group of 28 people were asked to make a list of 20 of their most liked songs and then have two individuals recreate the types of music they would like. During a series of MRI scans, the individuals participating showed a “heightened amount of activity in their ventral striatum and right dorsolateral orbitofrontal cortex” (Sleek) when told that their answers matched what other volunteers were stating, would release high amounts of endorphins into areas of the brain (Sleek). By this action, the volunteers who saw themselves fitting in more with the majority would likely control their responses to keep doing so, due to the addicting sense of conformity with their peers. Similarly, standardization presses students to form themselves into a perfect mold, making the incentives of gaining high scores and fitting into a supreme percentile with their school colleagues a type of dependence. The concept to reduce isolation and implement a yearning to embark on the journey of individuality over a conforming culture is a battle that will not be won quietly. In order to revolutionize the minds of students and draw out their successes, standardization will need a reformation strong enough to bring to life the vicarious vivacity of education.

Conclusion: The Need for Educational Reform

In current culture, there are multitude of routes in which students can apply their knowledge and talents. However, students today face many barricades in the American high school system that keep them from being able to fully pursue their aspirations. While there is evident disagreement upon presuming the exact issue with the education system, it can be concluded that in order for young minds to thrive in a century moving towards innovation and diversity, a change is imperative in order to meet the interests and personalities of the students who will be leading the next generation. Though it can be argued upon the different suppressive structures that high school education embraces, it is discernable that high school students are affected by meticulous limitations barricading a sufficient education to motivate as well as provide students with the freedoms to soar beyond orthodox opportunities. In order to flourish in a new age of development, more compelling, modernistic actions will need to be taken in order to meet the escalating needs of students starving for the tantalizing piquancy of erudition and understanding.

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