Success in K-12 Education

Education plays a major role in the success of the society. Most people associate their success with the kind of education they got in elementary school. Schooling, therefore, has become an almost mandatory part of human life, and those who do not go through the schooling process are thought to be failures in life. However, this observation may not be always true because it has been realized that there is a significant difference between education and learning. Whereas education takes place within a classroom with a teacher giving instructions to the student, learning is a continuous process that goes on throughout the life of a person and can take place in any place and at any time. Thus, some people believe that schooling is an outdated way of learning that should be replaced with deschooling and homeschooling. This paper defines and describes success in K-12 education.

Success in K-12 education means different things for different people. Person’s background, or in the case of this essay my background, has determined how success in K-12 education is viewed. My upbringing in the Durham City School system and my professional experiences as an educator have given me a very critical perspective of public schools. I grew up attending schools in the city of Durham that were segregated and in poor conditions. However, I managed to graduate from high school in 1992. The level of instruction in the classroom was horrible, and I at times felt like teachers just wanted us to conform to their ideology. As a student, I was not allowed to think critically nor was I allowed to question or challenge the status quo. 

Sadly enough, now that I am an educator, I do not think things have changed since I was a student in Durham. Educators that I have worked side by side with, be they colleagues or supervisors, have exhibited the same philosophy of educators that I encountered as a student. In many ways, I believe it is worse now. I work with professionals that are resistant to change. In addition, they believe that students should conform to whatever they are taught and that it is not student’s task to think critically or to challenge the status quo. 

My experiences as a student, as an educator, and later as a graduate student led me to believe that schools are set up for students to leave the public education system “schooled.”  The system expects students to conform without questioning the authority. In addition, being schooled means that students are brainwashed into the social and political beliefs of ritualistic ideals from the past and present in the United States. While being schooled, all students have been exposed to the hidden curriculum that does not allow for critical analysis of subject matter or societal issues (Illich, 1970). Not all of the issues that I will explore throughout this paper can truly be recognized unless schools break away from their past practices. 

In K-12 education success begins with deschooling our public education system and our society. Current universal way of educating students using a factory model of moving them grade by grade and believing that every teacher is dumping relevant information in student’s head is a very ancient school of thought (Darling-Hammond, 1997; Illich, 1970). Once we, as a nation, rethink what schooling is, then we will have two other indicators for success. One indicator for success will be that students will be coached to think critically. They in turn will have the ability to develop this essential skill to think critically. This student’s ability will have a positive impact on the society (Chen, 2010; Illich, 1970). Another gauge of achievement will be that each student will no longer be on a conveyer belt of education. Instead, students will be looked upon as unique individuals, and their education will be based on their interests and individual needs.  


I share the opinion of Tettegah & Hunter (2006) when they argue that “for most men the right to learn is curtailed by the obligation to attend school”. It is as simple as that. People go to school to learn the information that someone else has termed important so that they lack time to discover new information on their own. Whether people realize it or not in this country, they have been schooled. We all have been conditioned by the norms and day-to-day expectations of schooling. To take this notion even further, we all have certain perceptions about schools that we cannot shake. Some of these perceptions are that we should follow all the rules given by the teacher and we are not to question their authority. 

We have all been institutionalized by the kind of education we were exposed to during the early stages of education. Furthermore, students in elementary schools are taught how to interact with the society in various spheres from politics and economics to social behavior. Put in simple terms, the Government and creators of education policy determine how somebody should behave and interact with the society. In fact, people are not given opportunity to realize their knowledge through their own interests.

Particular negative characteristic of institutionalization is that when it comes to job securing in governmental institutions and departments, those who went through institutionalization in schools are given the first priority. The ones who opted for homeschooling are treated with suspicion since their kind of education does not qualify them to work in governmental institutions. What is more, even private sectors buy this notion of institutionalization and treat those who are homeschooled in the same way as the Government (Illich, 1970).

What is interesting about schooling is that everyone probably would agree that schools need to change the status quo but they all want to hold certain things sacred. I hold myself to this same thought process. Educators behave as if they hold daily school activities, daily homework, grades, and some classes as sacred. This means that they would believe that paddling a child is appropriate. For me, things that educators hold sacred about schooling indicate that they have been “schooled” themselves. I am deeply convinced that there is a need to have a consensus on what things schools should hold as important so that whatever is imposed on students from generation to generation would be agreed upon.

It is obvious that there is plenty of valuable knowledge to be explored by every generation, however students in elementary schools still learn about Columbus’ discovery of America every year. Learning about history is, no doubt, a positive thing in itself, but I believe that world history is much wider in comparison to a fraction that is taught in our schools. Yet what schools do is they expose students to the same knowledge. Maybe this is because the work environment requires knowledge of certain information so that it is a must for students to learn those things. In essence, institutionalization of education inevitably encourages physical pollution, social division, and psychological powerlessness. These three factors are fundamental in the process of global degradation and modern misery not only in America but also in other countries around the world.

Tettegah & Hunter (2006) observe that when students manage to leave the educational system without being brainwashed, it is possible to speak about individual success. When students leave the system, not only they know that George Washington was the first president of the United States, but they also understand that he owned slaves. In addition, they are also expected to understand that it is their constitutional right not to stand for the pledge of allegiance and that they are not communist if they do not do so. Therefore, schooling is a success if all students leave the system with the freedom to think for themselves and if they feel that they can challenge the status quo in society. If each individual student leaves public school with the feeling of being able to yell from any mountain top that “It is okay to break away from the norm”, they also would have the understanding that it is normal if others disagree with them. This means they would be able to accept other people for who they are.

Arguably, today schooling is still using the factory model from the past of pushing kids through in batches (Tettegah & Hunter, 2006). It is in schools that children are exposed to polarizing information about civil struggles and slavery related issues that were witnessed in the country. To a certain extent this information ensures that different races continue to co-exist in peace and unity. However, the information also has the ability to provoke hatred among people of different races. Considering that there are still individuals who dislike people of color and would prefer not to encounter them even at young stages of their life, it is possible that such people are born with racist genes. Equally, these racist attitudes could be originating from the kind of education people get while being schooled, which influences their perception on racism. This assumption may be true, but it is very likely that schooling plays a role in the way people come to see things as adults. Adults, therefore, need to be deschooled. This means that they have to educate their children on issues that matter most in their lives, rather than dwelling on ideologies and propaganda of some elitist education. They should thus consider going to college, take AP courses, and realize that there is something besides food stamps in exploring the world.


As it was mentioned earlier, the first step in moving towards successful education is to realize that the current system is set up for all Americans to be schooled (Illich, 1970).  Otherwise, there would be no business to spend millions investing in schools facilities. Public education is among highly prized sectors in any country and various governments dedicate substantial share of their annual budgets to education programs. But one can stop and wonder why governments spend so much on education when some parents are opting for homeschooling or even deschooling of their children and themselves.

I believe that the answer to this pertinent question lies in the concept of brainwashing. Brainwashing is a continued use of implicitly unethical and manipulative ways to convince a person or a group of persons to conform to the views of certain people (Rao, 2012). The concept has been popular in politics and military groups and is well known within those circles. However, it is also applied in education, where formation of curriculum by the authority aims at institutionalizing particular conformations by the society en masse. Rao (2012) argues that this is the reason why the idea of homeschooling that was discussed for the first time in 1970s, was objected by the Government upon its introduction. This has gone to an extent that irrespective of the efforts that have been made today, they still look at it as a way of enlightening people, who have been brainwashed for so long. Sadly, person who are brainwashed become slaves to the manipulator and when they mature up, they cannot see how certain ideas that they were exposed to were aimed at brainwashing them. Instead, they further perpetuate the practice by becoming teachers of those ideologies.

I believe that many students, especially those who come from poor backgrounds, instinctively recognize what education in schools can do for them. This particularly relates to the fact that schools stuff students with information making them confused and thus easy to be controlled. According to Leicester (2003), this confusion process succeeded in that the two became one. The author observes that the moment this confusion sinks in the brains of the students, a new logic takes over that the more confusion occurs, the better the result for the proponents of the system. 

The student in this way is “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. In this way, student’s imagination is “schooled” to the level of accepting service instead of value. Similarly, the service of medical treatment is erroneously taught as health care, social work is taught as community life improvement and service of police protection taken as safety, military poise for national security, and the rat race for productive work (Leicester, 2003).

The first step in defining success and relieving the society from the burden of being brainwashed is the realization that education should always start with deschooling the current educational system (Illich, 1970). Deschooling in education allows students to break away from the norms of the past schooling that was intended to keep white American ways in this country at the forefront. However, we are still entrenched in the norms of the past to the great extent.

Critical Thinkers

According to Jackson (1990), the ability of students to think critically and fully analyze the situation is essential for development throughout their lifetime. Critical thinking is important in trying to solve social and economic problems that people might encounter in their lives. However, it is evident that schooling does not provide many opportunities to students to exercise critical thinking. This is because the curriculum that they follow is already predetermined and answers to the problems are determined by examiners in advance.

I think that today’s schooling system makes many people become dependent on the Government, rather than becoming critical thinkers, who find ways to solve their problems. For instance,Jackson (1990) claims that children from certain family backgrounds are supposed to drop out of school by a state paid officer until the age of 17. It is possible for children who fall sick to be assigned beds in a hospital, which sometimes cost 6 dollars per day. This is an amount that some families from third world countries are barely able to make in a day. This kind of treatment only makes them become more dependent on state assistance and, in the end, makes them unable to organize their own lives based on their own experiences, resources, and critical thinking.

However, Jackson (1990) notes that some parents in the country have realized their predicament with schooling in K-12 education. Currently, they are positioning themselves and are challenging the status quo through critical thinking. Such parents are establishing homeschooling facilities in their homes where they can teach their children. They are also advocating deschooling, where new knowledge that seeks to demystify ideologies of schooling is sought through consortiums and seminars. Consequently, the author adds that poor parents and students also discover that assistance from governments and other institutions in form of community support cannot remove the inherent problem of dependence. They are, therefore, determined to demonstrate that families are in a position to be self sufficient, even if this is not the case. In this way, parents who chose to deschool their children can demonstrate to others the magnitude of fallacy, which schooling has been founded on.

Challenging the Status Quo

I believe that parents and students have a primary opportunity to challenge the status quo through deschooling. They also have an opportunity to come up with an educational philosophy that is desirable for them. It is evident that it is not only the education system that has become schooled, but even the social reality (Garland, 2012). The Government spent almost the same amount to school both the poor and the rich. Sometimes these expenditures surpass the range of the poor against the rich. Similarly, the whole society depends on a healthcare system, which is supposed to ensure its healthy living.

Additionally, Gura & Percy (2005) argue that schooling defines the view of the poor and the rich. It also tells them what is right and what is wrong. Proponents of schooling argue that if people treat themselves, they are simply being irresponsible since they should go to the hospital. Homeschooling and deschooling are perceived as unreliable methods of acquiring education, and whenever any community group is not supported by a political entity, it becomes labeled as subversive. For both groups the dependence on institutional management provides autonomous achievement suspicious. 

Therefore, I believe that there is a need for deschooling in every aspect of the society. This implies that deschooling should not only take place in education sector, but also in social norms and practices. However, nobody ever questions why people’s lives should be defined by some kind of schooling that is tailor-made to suit the interests of the political class. Garland (2012) observes that incorporating technology in the learning process reduces the burden of students, who spend many years in schools. In fact, 21st century provides unlimited opportunities for anyone willing to access any kind of information that is desired and, therefore, renders schooling as a duplication of efforts. Why do we say that students need 21st century skills when we are 12 years deep into the 21st century?  It is not the point that all skills that students are being taught should prepare them well for the future. The author further suggests that we need to move away from the conveyer belt model of educating students, and embrace technology in delivering knowledge to them instead. People should not depend on teacher-student relationship that has been in existence since ancient times.

Technological advancement presents unlimited opportunities for students to access the best forms of education. The Internet, social networks, media such as TV, radio, and newspapers provide students with information, which cannot be found in schools (National Academies Press, 2011).  

Respect and Treasure Diversity

According to Darling-Hammond (1997), schooling has been accredited to allow children from different backgrounds and families to interact in classroom settings. In this environment, it is thought that children get to learn the same subject matter and, at the same time, from each other. Therefore, it is through schooling that children from poor families can get a chance to interact with those from rich families. This has become possible due to public spending on education. Darling-Hammond (1997) observes that schools open ways for people to respect and value diversity of human beings. When children are sitting in class, the teacher does not discriminate while asking questions.

However, this kind of perception can be interpreted by some people as a form of captivity, which keeps people from disgruntlement. This is because children are made to believe that they have equal opportunities to become successful in life. On the contrary, National Academies Press (2011) reports that schooling is responsible for the widening gap between the rich and the poor. This is because the rich can enjoy more employment opportunities because of their ability to afford better education and get prestigious diplomas at universities. The poor are left alone to look for cheaper education elsewhere and, therefore, cannot compete on the same level with the rich.

However, National Academies Press (2011) observes that in order for a school to fulfill its purpose of instilling respect and appreciation of diversity among people in a society it must possess certain vital characteristics. The school should be ready to provide learning resources to anybody at any given time. This has not been the case because school administrations have rules and regulations that define who accesses which resource and at what time. Another requirement that is important for proper functioning of the school is that it should allow free sharing of information among students and between students and their teachers.

The report further indicates that currently schools are regulated and instructed by certified teachers, who are in turn instructed to teach particular materials and they cannot go beyond this structure. Otherwise, they will deviate from curriculum and lesson plans they have for that class. Finally, to achieve diversity, a school also ought to provide opportunity for those with dissenting opinion concerning different facets of the society. This should include the freedom to voice their political and social views in public without being intimidated. Unfortunately, this has never been the case with modern schooling, where students are taught certain ideologies from elites in political or social class, which they are supposed to memorize and recite to their own detriment.

Lifelong Learners and Love for Learning

As self-claimed custodian of society’s knowledge, schools have to provide opportunities for people to experience lifelong learning through the development of love for learning. Chen (2010) argues that it is not true that people can benefit from the piece of information that they received in a classroom setting more than two decades ago. This means that there is a need to encourage lifelong learning among students while they are still in school. Nevertheless, Chen (2010) claims that this is not the case, especially with the structural learning, that children are exposed to in schools. For instance, regular tests and examinations that the student must pass at all cost become the antidote of learning when finally the student leaves school. The defined number of years that a student must spend in school regardless of whether that student is beyond that class is another intimidation to people, who want to be lifelong learners. In essence, schooling discourages people from learning and takes away all inborn passion for new knowledge.

However, Marko et al (2012) observes that earlier in life lifelong learning emanates from realization that learning should not necessarily take place in the confines of classrooms. It is rather a continuous process that takes place throughout one’s lifetime. Every situation and circumstance presents a person with a chance to learn. In the least, circumstances provide the opportunity to learn, but people must be ready to engage their passion to learn in that context. Field (2006) claims that lifelong learning is also promoted by current technological advancements and dynamic nature of work environment that create conditions, where learning does not require a classroom or a teacher for this matter. Learning should not be limited by factors such as place and time. Instead, lifelong learning should be a continuous process that takes place in the environment of interaction.

Impact on the Society

Jarvis (2004) claims that schooling has had a great impact on the society and its aspects. The grooming up of people into political giants, economic professionals, and social workers is a result of schooling. Most development milestones in technology are accredited for the schooling that people received. However, it is important to note that as much as schooling has produced notable positive outcomes for the society, the negative impacts are also devastating. Schooling has helped to perpetuate class among people, where those who finish schools are given first priority when it comes to accessing power and resources. It is evident from findings of Jenkins, Roettger & Roettger (2008) that the society has been wired to favor people who are deemed to be educated, even though their level of thinking may be lower if compared to the one of those who did not go to school. In fact, most successful business people in societies across the world either did not go through schooling or have dropped out of school to start their businesses. What this points to is that schooling has closed up people’s potential to advance themselves by confining them in classrooms, where they are exposed to knowledge that they may never apply in their lives.

Individualized Education

Most life skills that people possess are learnt outside the school. However, schooling is founded on the premise that learning is a result of teaching. Educational institutions put emphasis on children going to school to learn. They argue that it is not possible for people to learn important skills outside the classroom, which contradicts available evidence.  However, individualized education can bring to light this mythical education foundation. This is clearly seen in how many people are now turning to individualized education. Homeschooling has become a common phenomenon and children who are homeschooled perfectly connect with the society, in which they work.

Contrary to the popular belief within educational circles, learning is an activity that requires minimum supervision. This denies the perception that good instructions produce better learners. Rather than being a form of instruction session, learning is a result of participating in a desirable event. It is true that many people get to learn through participation instead of sitting in the classroom settings, where endless instructions are given out to them by the professor in a structured and manipulative manner. I believe that with the advancement of technology, individual education will play bigger role in ensuring that people get the kind of information that they desire.


In conclusion, success of K-12 education is ensured when a student is able to freely focus his/her individual needs. To further elaborate on this notion, success of educational system will be ensured when all schools in the country focus on continuous improvement for every child. I believe that this continuous improvement must be based on the fact that students must learn to respect diversity, be critical thinkers, challenge the status quo, and promote love towards life, in which students will be lifelong learners. By being critical thinkers students will learn to respect diversity and challenge the status quo. This will in turn promote love towards learning.

This success depends on schools’ ability to maximize learning potential of every child. Learning would be defined by the student, communities, and parents and not by a state agency.  The success also depends on schools’ ability to let go of the ignorant ideology of schooling, which prevailed in the past. Schools must have high expectations from all students, and not only students who conform to what adults want them to do. This means that individualized education would be the objective and we will definitely move away from the factory model which was popular in the past.

Finally, if schools are successful, then students will be globally competitive and, therefore, will have hope for the future. In addition, they also will have the ability to break the status quo. Breaking away from the cycle and having hope for success will certainly enable students to break through miseries brought about by poverty and racism.