Public education currently is a far cry from its former (semi)glory. The days of wood shop glass art and small size classes are slowly dwindling away as California public schools face
greater and greater budget cuts every year.
Until College, I have only attended public school. Now, I attend Claremont Mckenna
College, a very wealthy private school located east of LA; however, I began my education in
a free day care center in downtown San Francisco, then moved on to an elementary school
located on Treasure Island, only to then move once more to the San Francisco East Bay and
enter a fairly decent school district. While I was making my way through the public education
system, I latched on to the musical education that was offered at the third grade and then
afterschool sports and clubs in middle school and high school. Later, I submerged myself in
multiple honors/AP courses that were offered throughout high school.
I was able to graduate high school with enough extracurricular activities and honors
classes to be able to qualify admission to elite schools and universities. I believe this will not be
the case for my brother, a young boy who is 2/3 of his way through the 5th grade. Statistics on
budget cuts aside, if you weren’t aware of how public education is failing our nation’s youth,
this should provide you with a new perspective.
Elementary classes in my former school district have grown to the new standard of
around 35-40 students in one class, with only one teacher. In my brother’s 5 th grade class,
there are 36 students. One instructor is not enough to keep 36 energetic kids paying attention
to the lesson. Most of the time, much of the teacher’s time and energy is wasted on keeping
the kids quiet and discouraging side conversations. This does not suggest that today’s youth is
much “wilder” than generations before, but instead that classes—especially for lower grades—
lack their former structure and effectiveness as a learning environment.
School sponsored music education is practically nonexistent in my former school district.
If one wishes their child to learn how to play a musical instrument before the 5 th grade (an
option that is available sometimes) or more likely in the 6th grade, one must search for private
lessons. This singles out opportunities for lower income families—a very common demographic
of most public schools in California.
Moving on through middle school and high school, I have noticed that all my former
schools have severely limited their afterschool options and activities including funding for
clubs to function, sports, theater organizations, etc. These are some of the main activities that
colleges look for in applications: additional interests outside of an academic sphere that help
frame students perspectives and life ambitions.
My former high school has cut down graduation requirements. They are requiring that
students pay to participate in sports (eliminating again lower class families from participating
in which some situations, participation in sports leads to great scholarship opportunities), and
are further eliminating through budget cuts alternative language classes (such as German) or
arts classes (theater, glass art, wood shop). What I have personally seen and heard leads me
to wonder: how are young kids (like my brother) going to develop specific passions that will
drive them to go to college and achieve their dreams when their main means of expressing
themselves and exploring new things are gone?
We need to keep these educational projects, after school activities and sports alive in America’s schools. They keep students excited about learning and out of detention.