One Giant Assembly Line: Why Our Education System Is Just Like The Fast Food Industry

by Lauren Martin

A few years ago, the British found out there was horse meat in their hamburgers. They made a fuss, wrote some articles and press releases, yet McDonald's stayed open.

The same people who threw fits about the "bad meat” went back to eating the hamburgers, setting aside the previously horrifying truth because, well, McDonald's is cheap, fast and it does the job.

Across the pond, Americans were dealing with a similar debacle, only ours consisted of a leak of ugly truths coming from our education system.

It was a problem that we too would come to ignore because, well, schools are expensive, reform is slow and we don’t care if kids get jobs.

The fast food industry runs on the notion that if you don’t care how they make their food, then they can give it to you cheaply and quickly. If you choose to pardon their scams and their failures, you can feed your kids. They may be making your kids fat, creating health problems and addictions, but it’s food.

The rich, of course, don’t need to suffer the fate of ignoring, yet knowingly indulging, in the horrifying truths of the fast food industry.

They don’t have to feed their kids empty calories just to keep them from going hungry. They don’t have to choose sustenance over nutrition.

They can tell their kids it’s bad food, keep them away from it and supply only the best organic, hormone-free chicken nuggets and Tofutti yogurt. They don’t care if McDonald's and Wendy's are slowly poisoning America’s children because their kids don’t have to eat there.

Back in Europe, despite the news that their meat could indeed be filled with bacteria and horse meat, McDonald's reported its sales unaffected by the scandal. The Guardian’s Associated Press reported that Europe was McDonald's best performing region at the end of 2013.

The sad truth of these reports isn’t the disgusting addiction we have to McDonald's, but the horrifying evidence of the innate human ability to ignore things we don’t want to see.

We let travesties and faulty systems flourish as we sit idly by. Because we don’t mind poisoning ourselves and our children if it’s more convenient than it would be to change. We’ve learned to sit back and let faulty systems rule our lives because we’re too unaffected to change, or as Pink Floyd would put it, we’re all just “comfortably numb.”

Like the carnage of pig waste and horse meat we’ve seen encased in the chicken nuggets and patties, we’ve witnessed the truth behind our school systems.

We know the numbers, stats and realities behind the standardized tests. We know that, according to the 2011 National Assessment Of Educational Progress, two out of three eighth-graders can’t read proficiently, nearly two-thirds of eighth-graders scored below proficient in math, 75 percent of students are not proficient in civics and nearly three out of four eighth- and 12th-grade students cannot write proficiently.

We know the results and the life-ruining effects of our inadequate schooling system, yet refuse to address the problems head on.

We tiptoe around the stats and the symptoms of a dying system, throwing it on the back burner, usually coming up with excuses similar to ones we give to the obesity rates of this country.

It’s not the food, it’s them. Children left behind are inevitable and it’s not the schooling that’s keeping them there, but their behavior in it.

Schools are stunting children's growth

Education is as formulaic as a cook line.

For the fastest and most efficient results, schools churn out children the same way the McDonald's produces Big Macs. It’s an assembly line: patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, special sauce. One by one, each created by the same formula and sent out into the world.

There is no attendance to the individual patty, the quality of the meat or the special needs of the customer. The same formula is used for every patron.

Much like your orders at McDonald's, schools do not take the time to learn the needs of each individual child, rather they treat them all as the same type of frozen patty.

They are forced to keep up or flail behind. They are thrown away if they do not mold to a specific style of learning that’s been proven to keep kids behind.

According to Rahila Simzar in an article by "Forbes," “Reform movements in education tend to focus on a “one size fits all” approach in attempting to solve educational inequity issues.

Simzar advocates for the support of underachieving students and renewed curricula that encourage and promote different learning styles for different students. Because not every child is the same.

Every child is intelligent and creative, yet, as Albert Einstein put it,"if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Hormones in food stunt growth the same way schools stunt creativity

Not only can you not teach every child the same way, but forcing basic concepts down their throats and refusing to engage with them outside the rigid curriculum stunts their natural creativity and intelligence.

Children who enter school with minds ready to absorb everything they come in contact with are taught only the basics to “get them through.”

There is no support for the arts or culture, no broad concepts of time, space and religion. The natural wonder that children enter with is quickly hampered as they are told to stop “daydreaming” and finish their algebra problems.

In “How Should We Rebuild The US Education System,” Nikhil Goyal states, “American schools are failing, because they are suppressing children by forcing them into a compliance-based model of education.

Research shows that with more years of formal schooling, those very qualities [curiosity, creativity, wonder] are stunted tremendously.

Our curricula have become so rigid that we’ve forgotten about life experiences and other forms of learning that expand the mind more than standardized tests and times tables.

We should be exposing children to as much culture and art as possible, molding them into creative, passionate and well-rounded individuals.

Numbers, like sales, are first priority

The health of the customer is last on the list of quarterly goals for the McDonald's empire. They are about revenue, sales and quotas. They want to have their best years and make the most profits. They don’t care if their customers are filling up on toxic waste or frozen patties.

Like McDonald's and all the other fast food chains, schools are devoted to the numbers of their students, rather than the identity of them.

They are rigid in their systems and their tests, refusing to acknowledge the mental and emotional health of the children coming to them every day for the entirety of their adolescence. Rather than guiding them ethically, morally and emotionally, they just try to get them to pass.

There is no special attention paid to their emotional development or the growth of their ethical behavior. They are seen solely as numbers: test scores and national averages.

They are not seen as the complex, emotional individuals they are. They are taught, never guided.

Along with shoving equations and numbers down their throats, we should be throwing them culture.

We should be teaching them not just laws and theories, but how to be happy. How to find jobs that will fulfill them and invigorate them.

We should be showing them art and music. We should be teaching lessons in rock 'n' roll, Spanish literature and Buddhism.

We should be exposing them to every part of the world so they understand there is more to life than passing exams. Their worth isn’t dependent on grades and they can excel outside of the classroom.

Because numbers, like sugar and trans fat, are only making our kids bloated and insecure.

Photo Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Good Burger