I must begin by commenting that education in America is not only swiftly changing but is also incredibly diverse in format and opportunities, so what is typical in one American community may be unheard of in another. Because I have worked in various academic settings, I have been shocked at...
I must begin by commenting that education in America is not only swiftly changing but is also incredibly diverse in format and opportunities, so what is typical in one American community may be unheard of in another. Because I have worked in various academic settings, I have been shocked at how extensively thoughts about educating children can vary from region to region and how greatly resources can vary even within the same state. That said, there are some differences that apply to most schools in America.
Our current educational system places a high priority on acquiring a college education. Even from around sixth grade, teachers and counselors begin talking to students about their potential career paths, and plans are constructed. Students take various placement tests, interest inventories, and achievement tests along the way and have at least some voice in their eventual career path.
In Jonas's world, students are wrapping up their educations around this same age. This is when they receive their Assignment, and while their talents and volunteer hours have been carefully studied, they don't have any voice in what their Assignment will be. They don't go to college to receive a broad education in conjunction with their specialized training; instead, they solely focus on the skills needed to perform that one job well.
There are also not any students who exhibit special needs in The Giver. Although Jonas's classmates excel at various tasks, there doesn't seem to be anyone who really struggles with learning, who exhibits uncommon behaviors, or who seems unable to find a typical career path. This is likely due to the release of newborns who don't thrive.
In America, the services available to students with special needs varies greatly depending on where those students live. Some districts have special schools established for students with special needs. Some schools integrate all students into the same classrooms and employ additional assistants to help each student (even 1-on-1) successfully achieve standards. Some schools have separate classes for students with special needs. There is no discussion of any type of educational modifications such as these in The Giver.
Educational settings also vary tremendously in contemporary America. Students may be homeschooled, enrolled in public schools, or attend religious private schools. The majority of American students are enrolled in public schools, yet even this type of education has become increasingly diverse. In fact, it is possible in my district for students to be enrolled in our public high schools and never set foot on campus. Students can enroll in online classes, attend the local vocational school, take classes at our local community college for dual enrollment credit, or show up to traditional classes at the local high school—or enroll in any combination of these settings.
There are no such options in The Giver. Because the entire society focuses on uniformity and compliance, allowing this freedom of choice to children and their families is not conducive to the goals of the community.
Education is so different between the two settings because the goals are so different. In Jonas's society, the focus is on creating compliant, peaceful citizens who can be trained to do one job well and thus keep their dystopian setting functioning. In America, the focus is to give a broad educational experience to all students in order to create diverse and creative thinkers who can help America continue to be a progressive nation.