What is Success? – Competition in Education

By Jessica Gulotta, SED 2017

Last December, in Greenville, South Carolina, a woman was trampled and injured in a stampede. There wasn’t a protest, or a fight, or anything that might typically cause a stampede. The cause of the stampede was mothers-protective mothers- trying to sign up their children for a new engineer charter school. This school was an elementary school; I don’t know about you, but I don’t know any six-year-olds that tell their parents that they want to be a biochemical engineer when they grow up. In Greenville County, parents are allowed to enroll their children in any school they wish, as long as there’s room. This has caused serious amounts of competition to get their children into what they consider to be the “best” schools.

Gulotta Illustration-01

Artwork by Jason Gan

Greenville County is a small example of how the competition in education is causing changes in the educational system. I am an advocate for STEM (science, technology, mathematics) education, but why are six-year-olds being forced into engineer and science elementary schools when they have no idea what they want to do yet?

This competition in education flows all the way up through high school. People now join clubs and extracurricular activities not because they want to have a more depth meaning of self, but so they can write it on their college applications. Colleges say that they look for “well-rounded” individuals, but how can students become true well rounded people, if from the age of six, they are in this strict competition of who can get into the best college, make the most money, and be society’s definition of successful?

I think that the true challenge has become to realize that, although society tends to define success by the job one has, the amount of money one makes, or the college that one graduated from, true success is when one’ presence in the world has so much value, that it has genuinely changed people’s lives. That’s how I define success.

*Jessica Gulotta is a first year student at Boston University School of Education, studying science education.

One Comment

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