A new approach to education is needed

Like nearly every other student at nearly every other public school in America, I have a lot of beef with school. Don’t get me wrong, I love my classes and teachers. But there are several failings of the current system; failings ranging from the level of curriculum taught to the attitude built in to students toward school. And while changes seem sorely needed to me, the following problems are ones that will probably take decades-or generations-to fix. The education system in America needs to change some of its fundamental curricular principles. Nearly anyone with intact mental faculties can graduate from high school and most can get into a state-school college, with very little work (which is usually mindless temporary memorizations with no long-term value and little long-term retainment of knowledge anyway) and seemingly scant “real-life” education. I don’t really mind if not every high school graduate can recite all the presidents in order. But they should at least know who the current one is, as well as the rest of the politicians who have an impact on their daily lives. Students should learn how to balance a spreadsheet and perform other “adult responsibility” tasks to an acceptable level throughout the course of high school, and those wishing to move on to higher education should be pushed to develop their own philosophies, viewpoints, and a higher level of thinking. I also find the fact that I would rather sit and watch The Office than go to school is a failure of the system. We’ve always been told–through Nickelodeon shows, kid-focused TV commercials, and even our own teachers–that school is boring, too much work, the earthly incarnation of Satan, and so on. A truly effective education system would be something focused on real, tangible, applicable sharing of knowledge, intellectual growth, and real-world applications. It should be something that kids should actually look forward to and have a positive association with. Does this mean no homework? Party every day? What I mean when I say “kids should look forward to school” is that students’ attitudes should be, from as early an age as possible, shaped and encouraged to view education as a positive, beneficial establishment, rather than a federation of terror. Students should embrace what they’re learning, not banally cram in facts in order to get a good grade in order to get into a good school in order to get into a good profession in order to…what? Make money? That’s important, but what good is money when you don’t really have a lot of permanent knowledge about the world around you? What good is a VIP trip to Europe when all you do while you’re there is try to remember facts you shoved into your brain for a few days so long ago in order to get an A on that AP Euro test? I often keep my head up in class, especially the AP ones, and watch other students. I often get the feeling of almost robotic imitation from some of them: scribbling down everything the teacher says and copying everything the teacher writes, without really taking in the information and processing it at a higher level. The latter is something I strongly feel teachers should emphasize; many of them do try. But for intellectual stimulation to be effective, it needs to be across the board. Every class and every teacher should strive to go beyond the facts to reach further conclusions. If a Western Civ class is studying the Middle Ages, under this system they would not just write down facts, but instead discuss and evaluate to make, as a class, a one-sentence generalization describing the overall pattern and aesthetic of the period, and then take down facts that back up those points. This gives them not only a deeply seated understanding of the subject, but, if coupled with a positive association with school, also makes them more curious and interested in subjects, and helps them discover their true passions. We, the current generation of students, at this point in our development, cannot be “re-wired” (in the words of Mr. Lazere) to appreciate education. But we can change our views on what education should be-interesting, stimulating, positive-and pass these things on to our children. Because, in the end, isn’t the progression of humanity what education is all about?