Thursday, June 20, 2019

Uyboco: The problem with education (Part 4)

Freethinking Me

“But, Andy, you went through school and you came out all right.”

I HEAR this often when I talk about the problems of our educational system. My answer to it is, well a lot of us came out “all right” depending on what you think that means. But I think that is a product of our lifelong learning journey and interacting with people out of school and meeting reality head on. Many people turn out “all right” despite having gone through school, not because of it.

School robs us of a precious time in our life where, instead of going through the process of finding out who we are and what we are passionate about and what we are capable of, we are made to sit still, be quiet, and copy notes, and do drills on things that do not interest us (and still don’t up to this day).

Much of school is a waste of time.

Dr. Kirsten Olson, president of the Institute for Democratic Education in America (Idea), recently released a book entitled Wounded by School: Recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing Up to Old School Culture.

She started writing her book with the idea of recounting joyful experiences in school of accomplished individuals but when she started interviewing them, she encountered more pain than joy. People told stories of hurt and disappointment that still lingered and affected their present lives. It was so prevalent that it became the new direction for her book.

In a nutshell, she lists seven ways that schools wound us:

1) Wounds of Creativity - students are not free to pursue their own passions and interests. In fact they are often told to suppress them in favor of more “important” things like Science and Math.

2) Wounds of Compliance - students are forced to follow rules, do homework and projects, and are tested on things that make no sense to them, in terms of their own learning needs and inclinations.

3) Wounds of Rebellion - instead of complying, some students rebel against the meaninglessness of the system. This hurts others and even the students themselves when carried too far, especially when it leads to drug addiction, alcoholism, bully-ish behavior, and so on. Students with this wound are often very angry at others, especially authority figures, and even at themselves.

4) Wounds of Numbness - the daily, robotic routine of doing tasks that do not interest them makes students to simply stop caring. They become zoned out, uninterested and unenthusiastic about anything.

5) Wounds of Underestimation - no matter how teachers tell you they are objective and non-judgmental, the opposite is always true. You only have to drop by the faculty room and eavesdrop about them talking about their students. This is not because they are evil but because they are human. But these judgments carry a heavy price, and they are often communicated to students subconsciously, unintentionally and non-verbally.

6) Wounds of Perfectionism - Students who are consistently high achievers become too hard on themselves. We laugh at stories of high achievers who are sad when they get a 98 instead of a 99, but these are true stories and they are actually tragic. Students who are like this find it very hard to recover when they encounter failure (of which life has plenty to offer).

7) Wounds of the Average - This is where most students feel they are. They are neither outstanding nor notorious. They do not have interesting stories to tell during reunions. Their teachers, and perhaps some classmates, don’t even remember them. They feel insignificant, even in life.

Yes, a lot of people recover from these wounds and come out “all right” but wouldn’t it be better if they did not have to be wounded in the first place? Wouldn’t it be better if their own interests and passions were nurtured and they go through life’s trials naturally instead of this artificial, forced curriculum, grading systems and standardized tests?

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