Thoughts on Education


Kate Hannon, Staff Writer

November 10, 2018

“Go to university, but for the right reasons. Education isn’t a gun held to your head: it’s a weapon in your hands. Go not because you’re afraid of getting a job but go because you love to learn, because you’re excited by ideas, because you believe that education is important for its own sake, and when you get there, pay attention, read everything you can get your hands on, cram yourself with words and figures and ideas, because that’s the one thing they can never take away from you.” -Laurie Penney

I recognize that education is powerful, so powerful, and that I’m very lucky to have access to a good education. I am a product of the American education system, able to write (mostly) intelligible pieces, with a basic understanding of most academic subjects, and most importantly, the ability to follow directions. But I am also a product of the American education system, having struggled with mental health issues, unable to deal with failure, and, worst of all, losing interest in learning. This is not just me. I am part of a larger cultural phenomenon, in which children and teens have been fundamentally changed by societal pressures to achieve perfect test scores and get into the best colleges. Education has become something we must simply survive in order to succeed in life, the unfortunate mean justified by the end.

This mindset is so dangerous because it’s so common, the idea that stress-induced sickness and coffee-fueled all nighters are the norm, that these things are healthy and safe for growing adolescent bodies and minds perforating the halls. They’re not. The system is fundamentally flawed, and it is vital that we fix the system and change the way we view school and learning. Perfect grades and test scores don’t reflect the effort you put into your work. They can’t measure creativity or new ideas and they don’t allow you to grow into new areas that you find interesting: they don’t define you as a person. This message is being lost by our culture, a culture where people attempt to quantify anything and everything about a student. In the process, they lose the ability to judge the ability and the potential of the student as a whole person.

Personally, it’s always uncomfortable talking about my criticisms of the education system, because the response often includes something along the lines of “but you like school!” It’s easy to look at the many hours and the work I put into school, as well as the largely academic focus of my extracurriculars, and assume that this is true. And maybe at one point I did like school, and I didn’t mind putting in the time to learn new things and explore new topics. School was a place where I got to learn, and I liked learning, so school was okay by association. But over time these things became less tolerable as I started to lose interest in learning new things and becoming an expert in different topics. What was the point of doing any work I wouldn’t be graded on? So for now, I’m doing the things I’ve always done, putting in the effort, because I am uncomfortable with failure and honestly just operating on rote, doing things a certain way because that’s how I’ve always done them. But I am terrified of what will happen in a few years, when I’m no longer being graded on my ability to memorize information. I fear I’ll lose any motivation to expand my knowledge.

I am frustrated too. I am frustrated with an education system in this country that has failed so many of it’s students in such a key way: it has not succeeded, or even really attempted, to foster a lifelong love of learning in us all. Schools must emphasize independent thought, creativity, and the individualistic nature of learning. We need to utilize project-based learning, create cross-disciplinary connections, adapt new technology, and take advantage of community connections- there are so many different ways we can try to improve how we educate our children. The most important thing is that we are trying new things. As long as we refuse to grow stagnant in the pursuit of improvement, the children of today and tomorrow will be well equipped to utilize our education and create positive change in the world.