The goal of education is to develop the highest level of mental, moral and physical ability within students. Ethics are just as important as factual knowledge and physical well-being. Sadly, public schools in this country are against ethical expression of any kind. Ethics are a threat to the school system because they may encourage a need for change in the present standard of education, which is decidedly anti-ethical. In U.S. public schools, students are processed through a well-built machine designed to perpetuate the status quo. Any ethical conflict that a student might have is treated like a malfunction in need of repair. The present school systems prefers cold self-interest to any sense of compassion and I believe that self interest is not a form of morality that children should be taught.
Public school made me feel like a small and harmless individual, ranked somewhere in the middle relative to other students. On the standardized tests, I always did well on the verbal section but I had trouble with the math section. My mediocrity in mathematics cursed my chances of becoming the perfect well-balanced student that the system was looking for. I was restrained by grades because I thought that they were some profound measure of my life granted to me by the system. Of course, it is natural for an individual to have strengths and weaknesses, but the bulk of my daily life spent in that institution often left me with that feeling that I was average. Instead of being empowered by the school system, I felt a sense of helplessness to the problems of the world. How can I possibly change the world with my grade point average?
What the public school didn’t tell me was that not all historical figures of great importance were straight A students. I believe that moral character, a great deal more than intelligence, shapes history. The moral courage of people like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony and John Brown guided their ascent into history. These people were disturbed by what was going on and they believed that they could make a difference and they did. Who cares how they did in school? What public school did not do for me is give me the courage to believe that I can make a change. I was so distracted by my ranking with other students that I didn’t stop and think what I was capable of. They taught me that being average is O.K., but what if I want to be exceptional?
I believe my case is an example of what Jonathan Kozol calls “a twelve year exercise of ethical emaciation” (130). The school system does not want you to believe that you can make a difference. They see history as this faceless entity that just happens without regard to the personal audacity of the individual. It takes courage to stand up for one’s morals because the present system is inherently against it. Kozol comments that a child who stands firmly with his beliefs, “has placed himself in danger of satiric comment from his classmate and, still...