A Francis Howell North student’s perspective on Back to Basics

Hello! My name is Grant Kilen, and I am honored to serve as Senior-Class President of the Francis Howell North Class of 2024. Francis Howell Families has extended to me a wonderful opportunity to author columns for their website. Today, I would like to address a topic that is very important to our district and its students: the educational movement known as “Back to Basics.” This movement, rooted in tried-and-true methods, has great potential to benefit the district’s students and prepare them for future success.

Lately, there has been increasing pressure to introduce novel and progressive concepts and ideas into public schools across the nation. These concepts seek to alter students’ education with the goal of promoting topics such as social-emotional learning, political activism, social justice, intersectionality, etc. While this may seem harmless and even beneficial at face value, we must first examine these novel concepts’ impact upon our schools’ top priority: the academic development of students. Oftentimes, many of these new and sometimes-experimental practices serve to distract from and take resources away from the basic fundamentals of primary and secondary education.

Many of these ideas may seem appealing at first glance, but upon closer inspection, simply do not belong in public education. What students need and desire are sound academic foundations in English, mathematics, social studies, science, and the fine and practical arts so that they can succeed in the world’s increasingly competitive industries. The practices of a school should be focused on that purpose; but, there has recently been a push all across America to further ideas which inhibit these fundamentals.

Education is best delivered in a unified, cooperative environment that encourages problem solving, scientific investigation, and the civil exchange of thoughts and ideas. When controversial ideas are injected into the classroom and the discussion of those topics is artificially shaped and restricted, some students may feel excluded and discord will result. As there is no benefit in stifling diverse viewpoints, a school ought to be a place in which all students’ contributions are welcomed rather than a filter which arbitrarily allows certain ideas while excluding others.

In pursuit of that goal, public education must be deliberate in the promulgation of unbiased, objective curricula. When students are given information which is free of opinions, they are encouraged to develop critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills. These functions are highly-relative indicators of success in both post-secondary education and the workplace, and accordingly, they should be exercised as much as possible. By incorporating curricula that promote logical and reasoned thinking, students are equipped with valuable skills applicable to various aspects of their future endeavors.

In the words of the United States Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, “every student should have access to an education that aligns with industry demands and evolves to meet the demands of tomorrow’s global workforce.” By directing our attention to the things that matter, we can better ensure that students have the tools they need to compete in industry and become responsible citizens. A focus on the basics is a focus on fulfilling the role of education to the fullest, without arbitrary and needless baggage.

The Back to Basics movement is so much more than a focus on academic excellence. It is also a push for discipline, independent thinking, critical reasoning and inquiry, and work ethics. It is not merely about focusing on the primary subjects. It is about prioritizing those subjects in a manner which promotes universal skills that students need for success; whichever path they take after high school. I am grateful that the district’s elected directors recognize the value of the Back to Basics movement, and I appreciate the district’s ongoing efforts to prepare my peers and me for success.