Overcoming “what you’re supposed to do”

I was on cruise control in high school. I didn’t stray from the path. I didn’t challenge the system. I didn’t get into trouble. I didn’t think about the school part of school that much. I got As — with minimum effort expended — because “that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Throughout the entirety of my high school experience, I studied for two hours… total. And I wasn’t slacking. I took AP courses, missed less than two days of school, played a sport in every season, and finished with a 3.94 GPA. I applied to reputable colleges, got in, and attended one, because “that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

I’ve come to understand that our education system exists in a way that advances pre-determined groupings of young people, through pre-determined curricula, at a pre-determined pace, to produce pre-determined outputs.

Educators — ambitious, intelligent, well-meaning — enter this system endeavoring to teach and empower young people, only to succumb to its nature. It’s as if the system grinds down educators’ optimism and energy, grabbing them by the shoulders and pointing them in the direction of its ways, whispering to them, “do you see it now? That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Towards the end of college and shortly after, I began reading books, attending talks, and watching videos online about education and schools and society. I was shocked to learn about the history of schooling, about the hidden curriculum, and about the misalignment between the needs and drives of the student and the context for learning and becoming. I couldn’t believe it. How has no one done something to rectify this? It didn’t make sense.

Until it did.

Until late one night, with a book in my hands, I looked up and said to myself, “that’s what I’m supposed to do.”