Blognik Beat

A Call for Education Reform

By Alan Meskin

  • Print
  • Share Share
Alan Meskin

After finishing my first year of college and returning home happily to see my family and friends, I have been thinking about the level of education given at the university level and the preparation that secondary schooling gives in the United States. The result: we need to change the way we educate children in our country and elevate the standards across all subjects, primarily in middle school and high school. Not only do college courses demand much more time and effort of the student, they also place an emphasis on self-discipline, a virtue that is intrinsic in Russian education. I do not believe that we must give up “room for creativity” in our course schedule, as many supporters of the American system of education advocate for, but I feel that we must put the focus of our educators and parents on stricter studying methods and increasing the level of difficulty of classes.

Coming from a Russian immigrant background, as many fellow children of immigrants may relate to, I was put under plenty of academic pressure since I initially entered school. When the average classroom program was not demanding enough, my parents placed me in additional preparatory programs such as Kumon (a math and reading learning center) and CTY courses (Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth). Those extracurricular classes put an emphasis on independent learning and agility, which nurtured my academic interests and growth outside of the classroom. Meanwhile, some of the classes for the “gifted and talented” in my school were not challenging me enough, and only in high school did I feel more pressure and challenges from Advanced Placement classes. Now in college, I realize that there is a dramatic difference in the intensity of coursework between high school classes and average college courses. Even AP preparation does not demand as much as that of higher education. This brings me to my next point, that the Russian system of education should be looked upon as a beacon of inspiration, given the strict training and inculcation by educators.

Talks with my parents hint at a childhood filled with great demands in school as well as extracurricular activities, which are representative of the culture they and other immigrants instill in their children. Yet, it amazes me how the level of difficulty differs drastically. Take algebra, for example, which they completed in 5th grade, while in the US most kids begin to study in 9th grade. The trends in science education are comparable to mathematics, where children in the Soviet Union consistently took physics, chemistry and biology every year from the time they were 10 until graduation from school. Science in America is also taught in a poor manner with the students only getting a peek at each of the three main science subjects for a year in high school; that is not enough time. Unfortunately, the majority of American students are falling behind in standards our national government has dictated, so it is easy to see why college students struggle later on in courses that were never part of a foundation for such learning.

Education should be a top priority for our country, and its value both in the Jewish tradition and historically in the Russian society are meaningful for the Russian-Jewish community. As much as we can call on our local and state representatives to improve our education standards or however much we influence the town PTA meetings and voice our opinions on school curriculum, our families must continue to place literacy and pedagogy as the bedrock of success. Encouraging children to take AP classes, participate in extracurricular academic programs and enroll in college courses over the summer will guide them to continued excellence in college and beyond. Our country may be the greatest in terms of innovation and higher education, but if we do not direct more attention to the problems in secondary schooling we may find our grip on academic prowess slipping.

Alan Meskin, 19, is from Sparta, N.J., and is a freshman at Rutgers University, where he is pursuing a double major in biology and psychology.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: College, Education

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.