Equal opportunities. Well-funded sports programs. Vast auditoriums.
Lack of discipline. Shallow learning. Vaping.
These contrasting factors illustrate the perplex nature of public school in the United States. As a former public school student in Massachusetts, I was exposed to the best and the worst of American public education. Particularly, I understood that these institutions must accommodate thousands of students, and consequently, they can easily become vehicles of distraction and obstruction, or sources of outstanding opportunities.
In America, public schools provide each student with an equal chance to study and excel academically. However, this does not mean that every student will take advantage of these opportunities.
On the contrary, I noticed that my classmates often lacked discipline. The guaranteed access to technology and other great opportunities was overlooked. Moreover, the very nature of the school promoted vast independence. Since the student body was overwhelmingly large, and the teachers were greatly outnumbered, personalized attention was rare. Since teachers seemed overburdened with hundreds of students, teaching was not particularly in-depth. In fact, I found that the content taught was shallow and rushed. Overall, academic expectations were low. Therefore, many adolescents could escape any negative consequences to unruly behavior or lack of work ethic. In fact, being in a public institution, a student cannot be permanently expelled. Meanwhile, in private schools like ANS, a student that exhibits poor behavior can be expulsed. In essence, I recall being shocked by the lack of discipline of the student body, as a result of the low-pressure environment.
“The academic expectations are low in the States…teachers just want you to pay attention,” says Andrés Bendana, who attended a public school in Texas last semester. “By just completing my work, I was guaranteed a 100 as a grade.”
Although the public school I attended did not challenge me academically, it did offer a variety of artistic and athletic programs. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that there are over 25 artistic electives in the school, ranging from photography to musical theater. At the same time, the sports programs are well funded and very well-developed. When I joined the Cross Country team, I was surrounded by impressive runners who had attended national competitions. In like manner, the journalism program was exceptional, given that it provided the staff writers with outstanding opportunities. For instance, although I was only in the school for one semester, I was given the opportunity to attend Boston Fashion Week with a press pass. Additionally, the school newspaper gave me the chance to cover the opening of a brand new genomics institute, attended by Governor Baker. Most amazingly, my team and I attended The Harvard Crimson’s Fall Conference. Generally speaking, the extracurricular activities were given great importance, which then developed the student’s interests and produced tangible accomplishments.
My experience in an American public school taught me the value in seeking out the opportunities that surround me. There were countless chances to experience and accomplish. Overall, in the American public school, there seemed to be two notable pathways: one in which the laid-back environment caused a student to fall into a stagnant, unproductive rhythm, or one in which the rich opportunities caused a student to truly excel in a particular interest.