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Mike Rose Curriculum Used in American Schools Essay



The boundaries that Mike Rose is talking about are the life circumstances that we find ourselves in for instance growing up in a family where no one ever attended college which is the case with Mike Rose and this further impacted negatively on his education. To begin with, Mike was taken to a remedial class after there was a mix-up of the tests with another student with whom he shared the name Rose (Rose 10). Coming from a background where parents were not so conversant with the education system that they had enrolled their son into, this almost made Mike spend his school years in remedial classes until his high school teacher saw the potential in him.

Explication of Mike Rose Background

“The basic human conflict – that we are both simultaneously heroes and prisoners” (Rose 115). Regarding this statement, Rose does not discredit that we as individual have the capabilities of achieving in education but at the same time our achievements are a function of our society, that is the environment that we are predisposed to in our early childhood years which also determines what and how we achieve in education.

Could this be the boundaries that Mike Rose is addressing in the book Lives on the Boundary? He talks of the boundaries in two forms, those held by the individual, for instance, the individual’s zeal to achieve in life and therefore put more effort into schoolwork and the boundaries created by the sole fact that we are from a particular background. To further exemplify my point, an analysis of Mike’s background would help us draw the application of the social boundary in the book.

Boundaries in the American Education System

Born to a family where people did not know what college education was, Mike has a better recount of the challenges that are faced by students who attend college in America otherwise called the underprepared. Normally schools grade students based on their chronological age with the assumption that the students have many interests in common than differences. Mike thinks that a school consists of a mixture of learners and educators who do not care to find out the background of each learner when they are teaching them in the classroom.

Therefore, Mike concludes that when students fail to achieve in education, it may not be because the students are not bright enough to pass but maybe because of their social background which the students come from in addition to other contributory factors like the methods used by the facilitator in the classroom, the attitude of the teacher towards the student (Rose 17) and the attention given to the student by the teacher, just but a mention of a few.

For instance, Mike gives the example of Mario whose childhood experiences are composed of negative things, and therefore during class time when Mario is supposed to be concentrating on his studies, he is busy painting pictures conveying his negative thoughts. Here, the line is drawn of how our different backgrounds can impact us negatively to the extent of making us not achieve fully in education because when such a student whose background is so negative is compared to a student whose background is good, the student from the disadvantaged background does not stand the chance of getting good grades in school.

Reasons as to why students fail to achieve in school regarding the experiences faced by Mike

Another form of boundary that is brought out clearly in the book is the bureaucracies that are in the American education system. Many of us will agree with me that a student can fail in an exam but this does not mean that the student is an underachiever. The standardized tests that are administered to students to grade them do not give students room to show their other potentials and capabilities.

Maybe the student did not read the topic on which the standardized test was based and read on other topics from which the test was not based on. Should that be the basis on which American schools should be determining who the achievers are and are not? These boundaries of the educational system in America do not give a true picture of the abilities of the students.

What happens to the underprivileged students like Mike whose backgrounds show that there are poor and needless to say that they struggle through the education system where the classroom consists of both the privileged and the underprivileged (Rose 20)? It’s not a parable anymore when Mike concludes that the school is a mixture of learners from different backgrounds all evaluated on the same platform of standardized tests.

Application of Mike’s experiences to my educational situation

Besides Mike’s contribution, I also think that standardized tests do not fully measure the student’s performance. Basing my argument on my own experience, many are the times when members of my class and I prepare for an exam which only lasts for one hour not forgetting that we have studied for that particular course for a whole semester. Thus, this experience has taught me to see an assessment of my achievement as a gamble, that is, if the teacher tests on areas that I have read, I pass the exam and I a teacher test an area I have not revised, I get a bad grade.

I have a feeling that Mike though not wanting to attack the schools directly, through his book, was addressing the boundary created by the school system and he went on and became a teacher so that he could make a change. From the analysis above of what Mike meant by boundary, one would be blind not to see that the boundaries so talked about are typical of the American schools and how these schools in question help students to achieve their objectives.

For instance, though he was placed in a remedial class, through the aid of a compassionate teacher, Mike was able to come out of his cocoon that would have made him not achieve in life and achieve in school. It only took the encouraging words of the teacher for him to be encouraged and make it in school. I also find it necessary to say that Mike wanted to educate teachers in how they handle students lest the teachers themselves would be creating boundaries or limits for the students who could overcome them only if they are encouraged.

The rigidity of the teaching methods used in the American school system also presents a boundary when it comes to achieving in school work. “I would hide by the slumping down in my seat and page through my reader, carried along by the flow of sentences in a story.” (Rose 19) In the case where the teacher uses methods that do not captivate the students, the students will not effectively achieve good grades in school. The teacher’s inability to capture the attention of the learner becomes a limitation to the learner’s achievement. The learner has to be interested in the content taught in class for him or her to pass tests.

For instance, at the university level, my lecturer was used to teach through the lecture method. This type of method does not allow students to internalize what the tutor is teaching them as the students are only supposed to listen which in short makes them passive learners. I hold the belief that when the learning practice engages both the teacher and the learner in discussing topics in the classroom, it gives room for the teacher to clarify concepts, the learner to ask questions on areas that he/she would not have understood, and overall enhance the teacher-learner relationship.

In his early years in school, Mike recounts a time he felt lost in the classroom and the teacher did not show so much attention to him, to escape from feeling lost, Mike indulged in daydreaming (Rose 19). Many are times I also feel the same during lectures when I can not hold on to what the teacher is discussing in the classroom and I feel my mind wandering off to other things when the teacher is teaching. I thus fully concur when Mike emphasizes that the teaching method used by the educator can be a limiting factor towards the student achieving in education.

Well, I have heard mentors who have urged me to keep on going on in my life and to always perform well in school. My inspiring mentor is my mother who has urged me to always do my homework and who sat beside me when I was in grade school when I was doing my homework. I have not come across a mentor as passionate as Mike’s teacher besides my mother. This can be attributed to the fact that in the classroom, I rarely get a personal touch with the lecturer but not because I felt isolated like Mike felt.

I also acknowledge that a teacher’s encouragement to a student, believing in the student helps the student to pursue his/her goals; otherwise, it would be pointless for the teacher to teach students who he/she does not believe that they can make it in life. For instance, I can say that if I have the same encouragement that Mike had through his mentor, I will not have a hard time with all the topics that I view as hard, for I would be having somebody to encourage me and keep me going.

I can say that Mike’s mentor was instrumental in helping him pursue a college education and without him Mike would have been comfortable with the education he got in his remedial classes. Mike also brought out the issue of teachers being mentors to the students in addition to teaching them. It is worthwhile to note that Mike; teaching is a calling and not only as a profession. Teachers ought to be very careful and handle their students with utmost care for which requires more than being a teacher only as a profession.

Mike Rose urges teachers to take full control of the classroom by interacting with their students on a personal level and getting to know how the students can be helped. No wonder he gives numerous examples of his students in the classroom. Mike through his experience as an educator, teaches the students in the way he would have preferred his teachers taught him during his early years in school instead of classifying him together with his classmates as remedial students.

Personal Contribution regarding Mike’s views

To Mike, the idea that some students do not achieve the desired scores through the standardized tests should not be the ground upon which they are classified as slow learners. The basic point to Mike’s realization is that every individual in the classroom is unique and has his/her special ability to learn if only teachers take the time to help and understand each learner (Rose 150). This calls for a more individualized method of teaching where the learner is the main focus of the teacher.

This will enable schools to see a shift in focus from where a teacher tries to cover the syllabus in time to a shift where the teacher is concerned with the overall development of the learner and teaches the learner taking into consideration that each learner assimilates materials taught differently. This would help American schools help students more instead of judging them from the word go by the bottlenecks of standardized tests.

In the second last chapter “The Politics of Remediation” Mike, puts a lot of emphasis on the curriculum that is used to teach students more so English. He says that the curriculum in the school for teaching English takes away the interests of the students from learning. He believes that English is a beautiful subject that should be viewed beyond a learner acquiring verbal skills and also go beyond grammar.

In conclusion, Mike believes that if schools were not adamant enough and embark on changing the curriculum, the so called remedial learners would achieve different results with a different curriculum (Rose 189). Mike wishes that the American education system would adopt a curriculum that the learner can fully identify with, for education also involves social interaction and therefore learners should be presented with a curriculum that helps them identify with their social context.

Crossing boundaries which is the last chapter in the book refers to when an individual becomes successful in education (Rose 200). For instance, Mike became successful after he was able to achieve in education. However, he cautions that for a learner to achieve in education, he must have an interest in what is being learned in the school. The last three chapters are the bone of contention to schooling and testing in school regarding my experiences.

I hold the same views as Mike on standardized tests, that there are not adequate to give a full measure of a learner’s achievement in school and that the materials which are used in the classroom should be more familiar to the learner; that is placed in the social context of the learner.


To underestimate Mike’s contribution to the American educational system would be to discredit great remedies in helping learners in achieving their goals in school. Mike has brought to our attention that the curriculum used in American schools does not favor learners at all and many are the times we often point accusing fingers to learners when they fail to perform in tests. Little do we consider that the learner could achieve different results if all the variables were to change, for example, the methods of teaching and the attention that a teacher can give to the learner (Rose 117).

Works Cited

Rose, Mike. Lives on the Boundary. New York. Penguin Publishers. 1990.

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1. IvyPanda. "Mike Rose Curriculum Used in American Schools." February 18, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mike-rose-curriculum-used-in-american-schools/.


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IvyPanda. 2021. "Mike Rose Curriculum Used in American Schools." February 18, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mike-rose-curriculum-used-in-american-schools/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Mike Rose Curriculum Used in American Schools'. 18 February.

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