A lot of the educational experience lies with the responsibility of the student to take the initiative in their studies and do what they need to do in order to learn. But sometimes the way information is taught kills motivation and interest, discouraging us from engaging.
Looking back on my education, I have much to be appreciative of, but I also have some grievances. While I learned a good deal about writing and literature, in other areas there was quite a bit missing that would have been better at preparing me for adulthood. Part of the problem was the way teaching was implemented, and there was also the issue of not being able to apply what I was learning to my everyday life. I couldn’t see the relationship of, say, mathematics to what I wanted to do with my life, so I was less likely to take it seriously.
The two areas where I flourished were writing and music. I struggled with the sciences and math. I also had no idea how to function in the real world.
I wish that the education system made the subjects applicable and taught me how to learn and retain information instead of rote memorization and test taking, which did not help me learn the way I needed to. Of course there were experiments in science class, so there was some hands on work, but if I couldn’t apply them to my life, then the concepts did not stay with me. The lectures were bland and despite being interesting (sometimes), they required memorization and constant recitation which frustrated me and proved to be more stressful than enlightening.
Then there was the practical necessities of life. For many students, school is their only form of education since the parents either are disconnected, working all the time to pay the bills, or, where I am from, on substances that made them unable to teach them valuable life skills. So I would have liked to see much more education on how to take care of oneself as an adult instead of memorizing vocabulary lists and equations.
Much of my high school experience was spent preparing for college, since it was expected that all students want and will be able to attend a college or university. But what about those students who do not want to? There are intelligent students dropping out of school because they do not learn according to the standards of public education and common core.
I wanted to be taught how to argue and think critically about my ideas and perspectives. I wanted to hear many different points of view and learn how to analyze them. I needed more emphasis on how math can be applied to my life by crossing it with other subjects, such as financing, fixing appliances around the house, and understanding numbers to build a relationship with them that was fascinating instead of terrifying. What does science mean rather than what does it say. How does history affect my life today? What can I use from mythological epics to improve my life and allow me to benefit others?
Standardized tests were exhausting and intimidating, and I often felt as though my intellectual worth was defined by not only SATs, but also by the grades I received on tests for which I needed to memorize and retain information I did not see as applicable. I almost always forgot everything I had learned after the test was over and the anxiety was ameliorated. If I received a low grade, I thought it was a reflection on my worth as a student.
When I graduated high school, I realized I was entirely unprepared for the real world, and instead of being ready to face it, I was mortified by the idea that now I was turned out into an alien environment where I was alone and still dependent.
Language learning has always been an interest of mine, and someday I will learn another language, or languages, but in high school I became so frustrated with the methods in which it was taught, that I gave up and quit without retaining anything.
So where do I go? With academics becoming polluted with political propaganda and agendas, I do not wish to go to graduate school. I think it would be a waste of time, just like most of my high school and some of my college. I was not engaged with the subjects I so desperately wanted to understand. I do not learn by memorizing facts. I learn through debate and disagreements. I learn by thinking about how to implement the concepts in my life on a daily basis. I retain information by using it regularly and using it to interact with others.
Social connections with friends are vital for me in order to stay invested in what I am learning. I need to discuss it, to debate it, to use what I learn to adjust my opinions and research the areas in which I am lacking. I know I am not alone.
I was starved of these opportunities in much (though not all) of my educational experience. I needed real world interactions to force me out of my shell. Now I am as diffident as I could possibly be, fearful of anything unfamiliar. I am trying to break out of that more and more, but it is an enormous struggle. I needed my education to teach me how to be a functioning member of society in such a way that I could have a basic conversation or debate about a little of anything, maybe in another language even.
Nowadays it is almost mandatory to go to college in order to get a good-paying job, making it so more people attend with student loans, to be sometimes manipulated, and graduating with thousands of dollars in debt with few jobs available that will pay the bills, not to mention the chances of getting a job are sometimes slim because so many people apply for the maybe two or three positions open at a company.
In high school, did not need propaganda or twisted truths about the world poisoning my perception of life and where we came from as a society. I needed to be able to see the connection between what I was learning to my life where I could use it in such a way that benefits me and reinforces the knowledge.
Truth and reality, stripped of all bias and feelings, are what I needed so I could see the world naked and unadulterated. Instead my ideas were contaminated for a long time with things that just weren’t in line with rational thought. I have recently learned that rationality is my greatest ally as far as understanding my environment and ruminating over solutions to improve my community. In high school and most of college, this cognizance was nonexistent.
From my perspective, we need an education system that promotes freedom, adjusts to the learning styles of the students, and teaches them how to rationalize their ideas rather than just memorize facts. I needed to learn how to use those facts to determine my perspective and enhance my experience in the world. Engaging with the material in a tangible way would have helped me succeed to a far greater degree, and being told that I did not need to live up to others’ expectations of me would have allowed me greater liberty in my decisions as far as where I wanted to go.
Does anyone else think this way, or somewhat similar in this way? I know that I cannot be the only one who is frustrated. I am extremely thankful for education, but I think there are ways to reform it to make it more effective and applicable. I will address these concepts often in this blog.