Response to “Let’s Really Reform Our Schools”
Anita Garland expresses her opinion about the current condition of our schools and ways to change them in her article, “Let’s Really Reform Our Schools.” Simply put, Garland feels that our schools are in terrible condition in regards to the school’s main focus. There is too much emphasis put on the social aspect of school, instead of what she feels should be the main focus: education (Garland 655, 658). She proposes several reforms in the article, including changing the attendance policy (who can and cannot attend school), wearing uniforms, serving healthier meals in the cafeteria, taking away competitive sports, and taking away the prom. Garland feels that if these changes were made, school would become a more appropriate environment for hard work and learning.
This article tackles a rather large subject. Each one of Garland’s proposed reforms can be a topic for its own article which, consequently, allows the article only enough room to cover the top layer of each change. She didn’t seem too interested in discussing the pros and cons of her ideas. I do strongly believe, though, that most of her changes, if carried out, would face much opposition. The ideas about the healthier food in the cafeteria and wearing school uniforms would probably have been received well. However, changing the criteria for who can and cannot attend school, ending competitive sports, and taking away the prom would open the door to angry peoples and new problems to replace the old ones.
The most controversial reforms Garland discusses is changing the current policy of mandatory attendance for students. According to Garland, “we must stop forcing everyone to attend school; we must stop allowing the attendance of so-called students who are not interested in studying” (655). The typical trouble-making students would no longer be allowed to attend school. While this may reduce the detention statistics, it will certainly make a lot of parents angry. No parent would be okay with finding out that their child was no longer able to attend high school due to their behavior. Garland does not offer an alternative for these students. So, instead of forcing these kids to go to school, we leave them free to do whatever they want to do all day, every day? Worse yet, we would be sending numerous young adults into the world without diplomas. There are enough students who slip through the cracks and go through life without diplomas by their own choice. Enabling more kids to do that is ludicrous. Perhaps, instead of blaming and punishing the students for their difficulties controlling their behavior, we need turn our attention to the teachers and parents and question their methods of handling these troubled adolescents. Garland insists that these “troublemakers” don’t want education, but maybe they just need to be taught discipline just as much as they need to be taught English (Garland 655). Kicking them out of school will not fix that.
Taking away competitive sports from school is just plain unfair. Granted, they are given a little more attention than, say, orchestra or band, but activities that allow kids to accentuate their physical abilities is important. According to Garland, “school athletes quickly become the campus idols, encouraged to look down on classmates with less physical ability” (656). Maybe I’ve seen that in the movies, but that was never the case at my high school. We celebrated music students and debate teams going to state competition just as much as we celebrated sports teams going to state. The students who excel in sports don’t necessarily have the talents that music students or scholars have, and to take away their outlet would take away the opportunity for possibly finding their niche in life. Again, that’s not helping the kids.
Finally, the prom being removed isn’t going to help the students to get a good education. Not to mention it would be taking away a time-honored school tradition. Garland does bring up a valid point when she says there may be a lot of “unplanned pregnancies and alcohol-related accidents” that occur on prom night (657). But on the other hand, taking away the prom isn’t going to keep kids from having sex and drinking. If they aren’t being raised to make good choices, they’ll do it whether there’s a prom or not. The parents of these kids need to take responsibility for their children’s upbringing and teach them that prom isn’t all about extravagance and irresponsible partying. I understand Garland’s concern about high school being too focused on social activities, but high school is there to help kids grow into adults, which includes education and social adaptation. They’re not robots, after all. They are kids. From the beginning of time, a typical kid’s priority list inevitably has “have fun” on it. Don’t we want to teach the kids that life is fun too? The prom is supposed to be a fun experience, not an agonizing experience like Garland makes it out to be.
There is no doubt that our school system could use a tune up in some areas. But, making these drastic reforms that Garland proposes would do more harm than good. Making smaller changes and making those changes in moderation will be the best way to ease people into new ideas. Making school into a sweatshop overnight is going to turn so many kids off of wanting to go to school. The social aspects of school are used as a lure of sorts to make kids want to go to school. The more kids we have outside the school doors during the day, the more problems we’ll see with them getting in trouble by the law and giving themselves more long term consequences than getting detention once in a while.
Garland, Anita. “Let’s Really Reform Our Schools.” Reprinted from pp. 655-658 in Langan, John. English Skills With Readings. 5th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002.
Howser, Adrienne. “Response to ‘Let’s Really Reform Our Schools.’” Jim Roth’s Website, 21 May 2008, ol.scc.spokane.edu/jroth/Courses/ Writers'%20Resources/Help%20From%20Me/NEW%20ORGANIZATION/ SAMPLE%20STUDENT%20ESSAYS/Summary-Response%20Examples/ Garland--Adrienne%20Howser.htm. Accessed 6 July 2018.