This Math Teacher's Take on What Needs to Change in the American Education System Is a Must Read

Leland Schipper, a high-school math teacher from Iowa, is challenging the structure of the American education system. In a poignant post that’s taken off on Facebook, Leland explained that in order for students to succeed in school amid the pandemic, we need to change an education system that’s been problematic since long before COVID-19 took hold.

“The fact that we keep buying the ‘Kids are falling behind academically’ narrative of this pandemic is the grossest example of how we have allowed a corrupt version of capitalism to alter our basic moral compass,” Leland wrote.

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While there’s a myriad of outside factors that contribute to how children perform in school – particularly in the new landscape of virtual learning – Leland highlighted how the current system favors students who come from means, rendering the playing field even more uneven during the pandemic.

“Kids are only falling behind on a scale the adults are defining for them–A scale determined by test scores and achievement measures that were designed decades ago to sort kids by their potential future impact on the economy,” he said. “This is a system designed to uplift the white and the wealthy, and when applied in a pandemic, it achieves its purpose with terrifying precision: filtering those with the most resources straight to the top.”

“Kids are only falling behind if we choose to measure them on scales that have been broken for decades.”

Given the fallout of COVID-19, there is significantly more stress placed on families. As a result of an uneasy year, kids are not only “falling behind” according to the broken system’s standards, but they’re also facing even more when it comes to their mental health, social skills, and overall well-being, regardless of how they’ve been getting their education this year. Rather than focusing on test scores, Leland suggests placing more value on the important life skills they are learning, like resilience.

“Kids are only falling behind if we choose to measure them on scales that have been broken for decades, and we refuse to change them even during a pandemic in which thousands of their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are dying every day,” he explained. “Kids aren’t falling behind. Kids are adapting. They are learning new skills. They are overcoming. Kids are surviving a pandemic that has shaken their world before they fully understood it.”

Because it’ll take more than parents and teachers alone to influence the educational standards currently in place, Leland is calling for a little bit of empathy and sensitivity, especially from those who control those standards. “Adults who say they care about them need to put away their measurement tools and show them some damn love and compassion,” he said.

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