A Friend’s Rant About Schooling
I actually had a decent experience with the school system in my state. When it comes to Texas, however, I have often commented on how some of the practices and policies put into place are ridiculous. A few days ago, a friend of mine shared some reflections with me that I thought were interesting. I should note that I don’t agree with her proposal of “voluntary schooling”. However, I do agree that everyone should be held accountable for their schooling, that some kids should be “left behind” for as long as it takes for them to “get it”, and that the school system should implement real (that is, not politically, ideologically, or economically driven) reforms. At any rate, here is my friend’s comment (name erased to preserve her privacy).
I often times think back on the way I approached high school versus the way I approached college, and it was something like this: high school didn’t mean anything, so I didn’t try at all; college meant everything, so I gave it my all. In high school, I made Bs and Cs in Calculus. In college, I had the highest grade in my calculus class (over 100). In high school, I barely popped open a book. At A&M, I graduated summa cum laude. At UTA, I had a 4.0. Why the difference? Because high school did not feel like a place to learn. High school often felt like it was a joke. That there was cushion along the way to make everything fine and nice and wonderful, and it didn’t matter. Didn’t really matter at all.
I often think the thing that might have helped me most is for a teacher to sit down with me and admit the farce. For someone to say, “You’re right. The academic system here is a joke. None of the students take anything seriously. There is no hard core learning to be done. The teachers are spread thin and underpaid. It’s all hanging together via band-aids. But, you can nevertheless work within the ridiculousness. Now that we have admitted that it’s ridiculous, let’s move beyond that and get some practice in for when it’s not one big joke.” Someone admitting reality would have helped me.
And, frankly, it was not a single teacher’s fault. They seemed as helpless as the students in terms of the core of the problem.
What do I think the core of the problem is? Education should be free, but not mandatory. If it’s mandatory, and passing students on to the next level is encouraged if not pressured, then students are not there out of their own desire. They are there for the system’s desire. It reeks of being contrived. And what it needs is to be real. What there needs to be is real-world pressure. And pressure can only really be applied if a school could take or leave a student.
If a system allows kids to stay in high school who take education to mean nothing, I have no respect for that system, and there is no obvious reason for me to put forth effort within that system. High school should be as difficult as college and completely voluntary. You go there because you want to. You stay there because you are actually accomplishing something, not coasting. It’s the atmosphere that’s the problem.
That being said, I had fun in high school. I may not have found a reason to care about it, but it was fun. So, maybe that’s something – having four years of your life to devote to having a good time before the next four are devoted to actual work and self-improvement.