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H. L. Mencken’s Analysis

Picture thirty desks, a chalkboard with a teacher standing in front of it, three students sleeping, eleven students on their phones, six students paying attention, and ten students daydreaming; this is a typical classroom in the public education system. In 1924 H. L. Mencken, a German-American journalist and a cultural critic, wrote about what he felt the objective of the public school system was. He stated that public education was a means to push many down to the same level and to put originality at rest. In agreement with H.

L. Mencken’s statement it is evident that in classrooms all across North America students are continuing to be taught in an atmosphere of an old educational model. This is not allowing students to open up to their full mental and creative potential so that they can aspire to become whatever they would like to be in the future. Supporting Mencken’s statement, the public education system is still operating on the foundations that were set after the Revolutionary War and this assembly line way of learning is distracting students.

The lack of funding from governments for school boards all across North America has forced schools to have limited courses available for students to expand their creativity which hinders their growth and way of thinking. In light of H. L. ’s statement dated back to 1924 and how students are being reduced to the same levels, the public school system is still operating on the foundation of the rules set after the Revolutionary War and has not been updated to aid the needs of the students of today.

In the article Against School written by John Gatto, he stated how Mencken believed that, “Our educational system is Prussian in origin, and that really is cause for concern” (Gatto 35). With this statement, Mencken means that the public education system was being used to train people to follow orders and produce in mass people who would work in factory or low level positions. Although Mencken’s message was written back in 1924, Gatto and many others such as Ken Robison agree that it still holds true to today’s public education system and both teachers and students are becoming bored with this old format of teaching and learning.

Students are educated by age group and not by intellectual discipline so many students who are of higher intellect or have a more creative way of thinking are forced to stoop down to the level being taught inside the classroom. Students are forced to sit at a desk for many hours of the day and read from textbooks with information which is obsolete and does not ring true to today’s world. A perfect example of this would be how the world of science and technology is changing at such a rapid speed that textbooks which are being used have information that is incorrect or is not relevant for students to learn today.

The public education system needs to be updated to modern times to allow students to expand their knowledge and creativity and not bring students down to the same level. In doing so, the public education system will help the students prosper so that they can aspire to become whatever they would like to be in the future. The assembly line way of learning is becoming so monotonous and stale that many students are distracting themselves with other means of pleasure to make it through the day.

Mencken said, “That the aim of public education is not to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence”, (Gatto 35) and we see this evident in classrooms all across North America. Students are becoming increasingly bored with the standardized way of teaching, where a teacher stands in front of the classroom and teaches the lesson plan, using an old curriculum model which has not been updated to meet the needs of today’s world. If you look into any classroom today you would find many students on their cell phones texting, sleeping, or being disruptive in class and they are uninterested in what is being taught.

More and more children are being prescribed medication for ADHD as stated in Ken Robinson’s Education: Changing Paradigms lecture for reasons that they are becoming distracted and disruptive in class (Robinson, Education: Changing Paradigms). The reason why students are becoming easily distracted in schools is the fact that the education system is not teaching them what is relevant in today’s society and the lessons being taught are not being taught in a way that students find interesting. The public education system needs to be updated to become more modernized to meet the needs of today’s students.

This assembly line way of learning does not help the students achieve what they set out to achieve and also, it does not refrain from the copious amounts of distractions the students have today. With limited courses available in the public school system, students are not able to see the different possibilities that are available to them in the future and they are forced to study and become what society wants them to become and not what they feel passionate about. If students had more of a variety of different courses available to them to choose from, they would be able to expand their knowledge and creativity.

Many graduating high school students are finding it more and more difficult to choose a program of study for university because of the lack of variety of courses available at the public school level. With some universities having more than seven hundred programs available to choose from such as Forest Conservation, Global Asia Studies or Ukrainian Language and Literature, students in the public school system lack the knowledge and confidence to choose a program that best suits their abilities.

Mencken stated that the education system, “Puts down dissent and originality”, (Gatto 35) and this is a major factor of how society wants to pre-determine what the students will be in the future. The industrial revolution way of learning is affecting the students of this generation due to the fact that they are very limited on what they can study in school and this leads to the standardized jobs society has available for the students.

This restricts the students from achieving a future job that they wanted and this shows that the public school system does not take into consideration the future of the students. Students of many different capabilities and different ways of learning are forced to do the same routine work which hinders their growth and way of thinking. As Mencken mentioned in the article Against School, “The aim… is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level” (Gatto 35). The public education system restricts the students who are creative and also students who think differently than others.

Students who enjoy hands on experience and learn better through building and exploring are forced to sit in classrooms and write standardized testing and follow the restricted model of teaching. Different methods of learning which students may find easier to understand a lesson are not allowed to be used since they need to follow what is set and taught in the classroom. If a student is having difficulty grasping a lesson which is being taught they are forced to keep up with the pace but end up falling behind since there are not enough resources available to help that student keep up to reach their full potential.

Students who are gifted are not able to reach their maximum potential because they are forced to work in the old educational model atmosphere. Many students who deal with anxiety issues are forced to write exams in stressed atmospheres which does not measure their true knowledge of a subject. The public education system is not working for students today and it needs to evolve to fit the needs of the changing capabilities of students today.

In conclusion, H. L. Mencken’s statement about how the public education system reduces individuals to the same level still stands true to this day. The public education system is still working on the foundation of an old educational model atmosphere and students are being reduced to the same way of thinking. This educational model has not evolved to meet the needs of today’s world. The way of learning is stale and students are distracting themselves from their education and finding other means to expand their minds.

Students are being forced to take limited courses and their knowledge and creativity is being reduced because of the lack of resources available in the public education system. The old educational model reduces student’s growth and students with different capabilities and different intellects are forced to do the same standard work. In agreement with H. L. Mencken’s statement it is evident when you look into a classroom anywhere in North America today you can see that the same standard way of teaching still exists in today’s society.

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