Education in America


I.                    Introduction

a.       Education is very important to Americans since the first settlers came to the US.

                                                               i.      Puritans believed that education was extremely important

1.      Harvard University was founded in 1636

                                                             ii.      In the land of opportunity, it is believed that everybody needs a chance at an equal education system

b.      Unlike China, the education system is only loosely controlled by the federal government.

                                                               i.      Most education laws are made at the state level

1.      Every area has a local “school board.”

                                                             ii.      There is a federal law requiring mandatory education for children under 16 years of age

1.      Some states require education until 17 or even 18.

2.      Recently, there has been more and more federal involvement

c.       Beyond the public school system, there are also private schools.

                                                               i.      Estimated 12% of students attend private school for primary and secondary education.

                                                             ii.      As of 2002, the average private school tuition was $4,689 per year.

                                                            iii.      Private schools may or may not be associated with a religion, however about 4/5 are.

II.                 Basic Organization

a.       Elementary/Primary School

                                                               i.      Nursery school/pre-school/day care

1.      Starting at age 3 or 4

                                                             ii.      Kindergarten

1.      Starts at age 5

2.      Not usually part of public schools)

                                                            iii.      Elementary school

1.      Grades 1-4/5/6

2.      Usually starts at age 6

b.      Secondary School

                                                               i.      Middle school

1.      Grades 5/6-8

2.      Usually starts at age 10/11

                                                             ii.      OR Junior High school

1.      Grades 7-9

2.      Usually starts at age 11/12

                                                            iii.      (Senior) High school

1.      Grades 9/10-12

2.      Usually starts at age 14/15

c.       University System

                                                               i.      Associate’s Degree/Technical Schools

1.      Two year programs to prepare someone for a specific, technical, profession.

2.      Example might be IT, or nursing school

                                                             ii.      Junior Colleges

1.      Two-year preparatory schools

                                                            iii.      Bachelor’s Degree/Four-year (Undergraduate) colleges/universities

1.      Four-year programs.

2.      Usually don’t declare a major until the end of the second year of studies

3.      In many cases, must write a thesis to graduate

4.      Several types of universities

a.       Public/state universities

                                                                                                                                       i.      Might have as many as 45,000 students

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Most of the funding comes from taxes

                                                                                                                                    iii.      If you live in that state, annual tuition is around $5,000.

                                                                                                                                   iv.      Examples of famous state universities include the University of California schools (UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkley, UC Davis)

b.      Private universities

                                                                                                                                       i.      Large universities such as the “Ivy League” and “Seven Sisters”

1.      Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, Brown, Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, and Dartmouth

2.      Barnard, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, and Radcliff

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Liberal arts colleges

1.      So called because they require students to take classes in many subjects.

2.      Generally small, maybe 1000-5000 students on campus

3.      Whitman, Oberlin, Pomona (all 5 Claremont Colleges), Swarthmore, Macalester, Haverford

                                                                                                                                    iii.      $27,000 per annum average tuition

                                                           iv.      Graduate School

1.      Non-technical route

a.       Master’s Degree

                                                                                                                                       i.      Usually two-year programs

                                                                                                                                     ii.      May sometimes be combined with a doctorate program

                                                                                                                                    iii.      Must write a dissertation.

b.      Doctorate (Ph.D.)

                                                                                                                                       i.      Two-four years additional study after the Master’s Degree.

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Must write a dissertation.

2.      Technical route

a.       Law school

b.      Medical school


III.               Educational philosophy

a.       Well-rounded development

                                                               i.      Diverse class schedules

                                                             ii.      Extracurricular activities emphasized

                                                            iii.      Many must take after-school jobs and do chores around the house

b.      Should be independently driven

                                                               i.      Some programs, like the Montessori School system, develop a curriculum based on what students find interesting.

c.       Critical thinking is emphasized

                                                               i.      Students are taught to question what they read in books or what a teacher tells them

IV.              Problems in the American education system

a.       Inequality

                                                               i.      Money

1.      Poorer neighborhoods have poorer schools

                                                             ii.      Race

1.      Affirmative action

2.      High school degree holders by race:

a.       84% of whites

b.      72% of blacks

c.       80% of Asians

d.      52% of Hispanics

3.      Bachelor’s degree holders by race:

a.       26% of whites

b.      14% of blacks

c.       43% of Asians

d.      10% of Hispanics

b.      Rising tuition costs at private schools

c.       Low pay for teachers

                                                               i.      Starting income for an elementary school teacher is about $29,500.

                                                             ii.      Average wage for university professor is $60,000.

                                                            iii.      Average wage in US is around $45,000

d.      Generally poor elementary education level

                                                               i.      Consistently do poorly on international tests