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Lizbeth Walla
Professor Morris
English 1A
13 October 2015
Individually Universal Education
In todays society, youd be hard-pressed to find a school where every student looks and
acts the same way and, most importantly, learns the same way. In fact, it would be virtually
impossible, seeing that America has become this so-called melting pot, blending the student
population with those from all across the world, each bringing their own background and history.
Teachers throughout the country utilize their own methods of teaching, some more effective than
others when directed towards such a diverse group of students. Mike Rose writes how its so
important to focus on each student and forming strong student/teacher relationships in order for
the student to reach their own full academic potential rather than sticking to a set guideline that is
the same for all students. Jon Spayde and Bonnie S. Sunstein write on their beliefs that education
transcends the classroom and that students can also be educated in the outside world. Both of
these assertions hold true so instead of choosing between the two, I think that we move beyond
this binary between individualized learning and outside learning. A diverse student populace
requires diverse methods of teaching, and I like to think of it as individually universal learning
since its based around the individual yet isnt blocked off to the rest of the world and the
knowledge that it can bring. I believe that the best way is to incorporate both focusing on each
student and exposing them to learning things outside of schools.

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Individualized learning should be incorporated because, to put it simply, holding
everyone up to the same benchmark just isnt fair. A few years ago, I had read a short story where
some talking animals had been tasked with an objective: to pick the fruit off the top of a tree. The
participants varied from a giraffe, an elephant, a lion, and a fish. I have forgotten what the
outcome was, but I remember that while I was reading the tale, I was struck by how
disadvantaged the fish was compared to the other animals. The giraffe had a tall neck, the
elephant with a long trunk, and the lion would be able to climb the tree. The fish however, had
none of those physical attributes that could help it get the fruit. In fact, it was unable to even
access the tree due to the fact that its whole world was the pond that it lived in. Going on dry
land wasnt an option. If the task was to retrieve a stone from the bottom of the lake, no doubt
the fish would have succeeded beyond what the others could do. Now, I could relate how this
fable is similar to many classes that Ive seen. There is a set standard for the class as a whole;
specific requirements dictate what students should do in order to pass the class. At first glance,
this seems to give the most equal opportunity to everyone. However, it is in fact one of the most
unequal ways to treat a student body. By declaring which guidelines make for a successful
student inherently discriminates against those who are unable to succeed according to those rules
but can excel in other areas of education. By putting a cap so to speak on what education is
also pushes down those who want to go further than what the declared standards are. Both these
examples affect the students negatively, and it also leads them to compare their own intelligence
and worth against others based on the rules given to them. I cant even begin to count the times
where I believed that I was wrong for a class because I didnt do assignments the same way as
other people or got a different test score (both better and worse) as the rest of the class. To
combat this, teachers and members of school administration need to take into account the

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personal traits, achievements, aspirations, and knowledge of a student and base their education
around them. This is where the importance of student/teacher interaction comes in. Teachers
should make an effort to get to know their students so that theyre able to form the right
curriculum around them and also so students can feel comfortable around them if they ever need
any assistance. Support from teachers is a crucial part of the learning process, as it can motivate
students to achieve higher in their studies.
Education isnt just about going to school. Spayde has said that the whole worlds a
classroom, and hes absolutely correct. Learning happens at every moment of our lives, and
were not always in class all day. There are some things that you just dont learn in class.
Something basic that Ive never been formally taught is how to tie my shoes. My mother just
showed me how to do it once and that was that. Also, things like the way people around you
think isnt taught in schools; you need to go out in the community and talk to people in order to
take in their opinions and understand what they have to say. In my junior year of high school, I
took an environmental science class and read all about how invasive plant species could
potentially damage the area. When I went out to volunteer at a park, I was able to hold some
conversations with some people from the volunteer organization, and I learned how the invasive
plants would not only damage the environment but also the people. Residents had made
complaints to the city about the state of its parks and the city would need to divert funding to get
rid of the invasive species and maintain the upkeep of the parks or else the citizens wouldnt go
there anymore. This additional information on a topic that I thought I was already covering pretty
well in class completely opened my mind to a new angle, and I believe that Im better educated
for it even though that knowledge wasnt gained at school.

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In order to fully realize a blend of these teaching styles, a couple of steps can be taken in
education, including abolishing standardized testing (and the recently incorporated Common
Core) and taking students out on more field trips. By getting rid of the same standard for
everyone, it lays the groundwork for individualized testing where the students are put on their
own scale when taking exams. When I was in elementary and middle school, I always looked
forward to field trips, and I used to think that it was just because I would be technically not be at
school. Now that I think about it, since field trips are educational in nature and I was never
missing school, it was the fact that I was outside the traditional classroom environment that
excited me. Field trips are great learning experiences and are refreshing ways to add to the
curriculum of a class and supplement what classroom knowledge is already there.
In conclusion, the best way to educate a diverse group of students is to utilize diverse
methods of teaching. In order to get so many different types of students to learn at the same time
requires both individualized teaching and learning outside of the classroom. Some students can
get held back if theyre always held to the same standards as everybody else and others would
struggle to reach those same standards. By treating every student as if they thought the same way
is unequal treatment, even though it sounds like the opposite. Also, there is so much more to
education that reading books and taking tests and all of the traditional activities associated with
school-based education. Everyday experiences can be learning experiences if one opens their
eyes enough and takes in the world around them. To truly push todays students to achieve their
own educational potential requires teachers to get to know each student and their individual
personalities in addition to bringing students outside the classroom in order to experience culture
and other ways of thinking that arent confined in the four walls of a scholarly institution.

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Works Cited
Rose, Mike. "Literate Stirrings." Lives on the Boundary. New York: Penguin, 2005. 90-102.
Print.
Spayde, John. Learning in the Key of Life. The Presence of Others: Voices and Images That
Call for Response. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2008. 65-70. Print.
Sunstein, Bonnie S. Reading Across Disciples. The Presence of Others: Voices and Images
That Call for Response. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2008. 70-72. Print.