“I Hate School ”, For All The Right Reasons.

This certainly sounds repetitive to myself, but I can’t help but shake my head at our current school system here in the US. In the day and age of the internet, Google, and the smartphone, it is flabbergasting that we still utilize an archaic system to raise the leaders of tomorrow. What I am most concerned about is being left behind by all the advancements we have made in the past decades, losing out on efficiency because we use outdated tools. The future will require different types of thinkers, and right now we are not producing enough of these thinkers. We are used to a system where we spend seven hours in a classroom, memorizing information that we regurgitate on standardized tests, and forget right after. Critical thinking is often talked about and pushed as a focus, but students are taught to solve problems without a fundamental understanding of the concept, and the meaning behind their results.

This is something I have noticed in too many classrooms I have attended. High school and college alike, a majority of students prioritize the test material as opposed to the content of the class. The grading itself poses a problem on two fronts: make the test too easy, and you risk students dismissing the class as an easy A; make it too difficult, and actual learning is stifled as the testing becomes the priority. After all, your grade in class makes is sure proof of which type of student you are, correct?

What’s wrong with this line of thought?

Two stereotypes of students are the ones who excel academically, and those who look mediocre on the surface because the system doesn’t work for them. The students whose talents are not cultivated through the traditional school system seldom have many alternatives. Drop out of school, and you are statistically proven to have many doors closed to yourself. Some will do it, follow their dreams and succeed despite the odds. Most will simply join the ranks below this self-imposed financial glass ceiling and coast through life. In contrast, those who embody excellence within the academic system might end up acing a class while entirely missing the essence of said class. Forget the grades and the test scores, how do you evaluate experience? The students who excel outside of the school environment would like to know.

My experience transitioning from a reasonably good student to a 4.0 student, I have gotten more out of the classes I felt challenged me. I attribute this fact to many reasons, such as my aptitude for the subject, the way the professor taught the class, and said professor’s bias towards one method or another. Such classes had one thing in common: they challenged my way of thinking, forced me out of my element, and forced me to seek outside resources to learn. Forget the grade, the journey was all the difference. But what happens when your grade does not reflect the quality of your work? What happens when your unconventional idea is incompatible with your professor’s core beliefs? Is it then possible for your work to be objectively evaluated?

What can we do?

You see, the fundamental problem with our system is that it does not account for the times. Schools were essential when information was scarce and we needed a way to pass such knowledge. Now that we have more information than we know what to do with, the focus needs to change. We need to be able to filter through the information we possess and make use of it in a way that gets us to our end goal. This information however no longer needs to be in the form of the traditional containers. The internet cannot be overemphasized in this regard. The knowledge that one would pay thousands of dollars for a decade ago is now one click away, yet most of us refuse to take advantage of it. Basic supply and demand laws could not be applied any clearer. Once we had an abundance of individuals who sought the knowledge that we now have, and some even had to fight for it. Now, a growing number of students lack the desire to pursue that knowledge, let alone do something with it. This gap is something that schools should begin to address, especially since it will increase over time. There has to be a way to bring the interest back to this new generation of students, and it seems too few schools are attempting to do so. Some ideas that have been implemented are makerspaces. These collaborative environments provide a fun and innovative way for students to play around and test out their interests. How about instituting mentorship programs, so that students get a practical feel? But let us not stop there. We all learn in different ways, and we live in the perfect age to address this need. Let us all find ways to motivate students again, and get them prepared for the ever-changing times coming ahead.

And what about this ever-increasing college tuition debacle? I won’t even go there, for that is a whole discussion on its own.