What’s Wrong with Education

Education today is fundamentally broken in that it assumes that all people are at the same skill level and mental capacity (as defined by grade level and age). The only “real” way to get a bigger challenge other then skipping a grade is to take “harder” classes (with harder meaning more work rather then a higher difficulty overall), an example being AP/IB. From what I’ve seen, AP is just cramming more content into a single year, rather then having the same amount of work with a requirement of a higher understanding, and IB just turns that into a program. If you don’t want to do that, your only other option is to teach yourself in your free time.

As a High School Senior myself, I’ve seen and experienced this firsthand. I’ve always wanted an extra challenge, and back when I had just turned 15 and back in Middle School (~4 years ago), I stumbled across this project called “Super Mario Galaxy 2.5". Having gotten the game it was a hack of (Super Mario Galaxy 2) a few months before, I was instantly intrigued. A little less then a year later, after lurking for a while, I decided to get involved and challenge myself to help in whatever way possible. Since then, I’ve learned so much about computers and technology in general that the one that that was keeping me in school became so low-level.

Every technology class offered at my high school (and I’m probably not alone in this) is so watered down — trying to cater to as many students (most of whom have never touched a computer in their life other then the occasional essay) as possible — that for kids like me who need a challenge, it’s worthless as a class. We haven’t had an actual “programming” class in 16 years, up until this year — Flash, Illustrator, and Photoshop were as far as it went, and that’s only a tiny slice of what the world of technology has to offer — and even then the teacher hadn’t done any programming up until this past summer.

Then there’s the core classes. Back in Middle School, I had a reputation for being able to understand the lesson in math before the teacher was even done teaching it, and then I would go around and help the other students otherstand who weren’t as good as me. Even classes like Trig and Geometry never taught me any useful applications (at least, in the context of the class). The most practical class I’ve taken in these past 3 years was AP Physics, which helped me better understand how game engines work and are made, but that was only because the teacher was willing to work WITH us instead of just spoonfeeding us a bunch of information and hoping we can remember it to regurgitate onto a final 8 months later.

That’s another problem with the way education is now — the fact that most teachers don’t want to put in the effort to help kids understand it, you come in one day, you go through an entire lesson which throws a bunch of information at your head, and you’re assigned homework that night to supposedly “apply” what you learned (which is complete BS) by doing a bunch of repetitive problems that change one thing and ask you to solve it again, or in the case of Social Studies or English, read a chapter, and then answer a bunch of questions at the end to make you “think critically” to be discussed the next day. RINSE AND REPEAT.

I constantly feel unchallenged to the point where I’m ignoring the teacher in class on my iPad on Hacker News, Twitter, the forums I’m on for console hacking (I’ve expanded from SMG2 to many other games on the Wii to helping develop an exploit for the Wii U for homebrew, though that’s an entirely seperate story), even some quality channels on YouTube, trying to consume enough good media and knowledge to satisfy the craving that the very class I’m in can’t provide, trying to pass the time until I can get out of this godforsaken school system that they called “mandated education”. The funny thing is that I have to use a proxy to access most of these because the district deemed them “prohibited content” and blocked them with a firewall.

I find it even more (ironic?) that some of the teachers here actually enjoy having others learn and want to work with the kids, but the content the district mandates be taught limits them from effectively doing so to the point where last year almost a fourth of the school left.

So what can we do to fix this? Well, step 1 would be to raise awareness and fix the misconceptions. Then you’d need to change what the district and education in general “require” to be taught. Then once the environment is possible to make progress in, teachers and students and even the admins need to work together to make it a better learning environment — for everyone. Because as it stands, we’re on a downhill track with no end in sight.

Another story that happened just this past week was that I was (for whatever reason) in ACC English and Composition, which I didn’t at all want to do (I hate English even though I’m amazing at spelling and my teachers tell me I have a great way with words), and I had to have my parents contact the counselor, almost going to the district level to get into a normal English 4 class because they were all “full”. You’d think they would care more about a student being in the (somewhat) right level of a class then about class sizes, but nope.

They also vetoed a class that I was looking forward to this year — we have this one well known teacher called Erickson, who runs a career, get-your-shit-together class and is the leader for our FBLA chapter — and he was trying to get a “Professional Internship” class for this year, to help give kids a way into the career they want, but they shut it down, which shows how little the school (and probably district) cares about preparing students for the real world (which is what “school” is all about).

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Anyways, there you have it, my somewhat personal views on what’s wrong with the educational system. I’d love to see what feedback and ideas other people have on this, I wrote this specifically because I’m fed up with how everything is now, and I’d like to start raising that awareness of how broken and corrupted it is (and this didn’t go at ALL into the politics of it).

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