Absolutely FANTASTIC post! You’ve really hit a number of important points here. By the way, I applaud your bravery in bringing up the subject of sports, because Lord knows – – people take their sports seriously!
I appreciate the fact that you didn’t just dismiss the positive aspects of sports, yet still address how much of an imbalance there is between athletics and regular academics, and the fact that most students probably aren’t going to go on to have careers in sports.
Of course, it must be kept in mind that you don’t need to actually go into a specific field career-wise for knowledge from that field to be useful for you to have. Even though I hated school overall, there have been subjects that have turned out to be quite useful or convenient to have knowledge in.
One particularly valuable subject, which you’ve touched on, was language-related skills. In school, I was rigorously trained on the topic of English. For several years, I had the topic of “Word Building,” in addition to regular English classes. I hated it. I felt my time was being completely wasted, as I spent much of my time “learning” and reviewing words I already knew. However, in hindsight, I see the value in it.
All that time spent studying things like prefixes, suffixes, and roots has enabled me to better understand familiar words, more easily learn unfamiliar ones, and has made Spanish easier to understand, as well. (I’m not remotely fluent, but I learned a little bit in school, and sometimes find myself needing or simply wanting to understand Spanish words and phrases.)
What’s more, it seems like English overall is a very weak topic these days. Interacting with people online, it seems like many people have serious problems with reading comprehension, and also struggle with basic knowledge that I take for granted. Homonyms and contractions seem to be two of the largest tripping points. “Your” vs. “you’re” is the one I most frequently see. For example, some people don’t know that the correct phrase is “You’re welcome,” and not “Your welcome.”
One particular time, I just about wanted to pull my hair out, because someone used “you’re” in a situation where they should’ve used “your.” The reason I was so aggravated is that “your” is constantly used for both meanings, yet one of the times when it actually would’ve been the correct word, that’s the one time the word “you’re” was FINALLY used! Ha, it was like a cruel joke!
“There,” “their,” and “they’re,” are another troublesome group. I’d be in for a nice chunk of change if I could get a dollar every time I spot writing errors like these. I know there’s some argument over this, but I do consider the phrase “could care less” to be another example; if you are trying to say that you don’t care at all, I am squarely on the side that says the correct phrase is “I COULDN’T care less.” To be clear, I know my English skills are not perfect, either. It’s simply that I’ve found people lack knowledge that I consider standard, and that school had the responsibility of teaching them. (English isn’t the only subject, either….)
The funny thing is, my mother and I were reviewing a college curriculum some time ago, and she noted how some of the classes seemed like filler that wasn’t even relevant to the topic, and just seemed there to make you work and spend more. English was one of those topics. For students who have grown up speaking a given language – – often as their only language – – and are living in a country where that is the dominant language, and have spent years of school studying the language, that seems a little redundant, doesn’t it? I agreed – – I would think you’d be pretty fluent after all of that! However, given the experiences I’ve had interacting with people, it seem that all those years of learning actually aren’t enough, after all!
An even more maddening problem that I feel ties into language comprehension (and the topic of comprehension as a whole) is that people are constantly using various terms, but seem to either not know or not care about the actual meaning of a word. Anyone who disagrees with your behavior or your views is a “hater,” “bigot,” or “-phobe.”
The irony is, those who frantically attach such labels to others often seem to fit the actual definitions of the terms far better than the people they are so labeling!
I don’t know if it’s a matter of ignorance, not caring, or deliberate slander, but the end result is that people end up being unfairly characterized and portrayed, and the people doing so to them end up coming off like whiny, overly-dramatic children. I recall one particular case when someone commented about one of the musicians in a band. The person was very measured and polite in what they said, and expressed respect for this person as an artist; they just didn’t feel that she felt right as an element of that particular band. Basically, something about it felt off to them. Yet, for a very calm, reasonable, respectful opinion, the artist in question promptly referred to them as a “hater.” She said something to the effect of, “That’s okay, I forgive you…HATER.” I don’t know if she thought she was being clever, cute, or what, but I was disgusted by her comment and the lack of maturity it showed. I don’t know how old she was, but she appeared to be into her 20’s. However old she was, I’m pretty sure she should’ve been past that level of immaturity by then!
Two other topics you mentioned – – theater and literature – – brought to mind a favorite book of mine, “And The Skylark Sings With Me.” In it, there’s a part where the author describes what it was like attending a Shakespearean play as part of school. He said that the teachers told the class how Shakespeare was one of the greatest (or the greatest) playwright who ever lived…which, by the time the play was over, the students knew was just another lie their teachers had told them! He noted that no real effort was made to actually explain things, and help the students truly understand and appreciate what was going on.
I’ve never attended any of Shakespeare’s plays, but during school, I was taught a bit about one particular play, “Macbeth.” The curriculum did a good job of explaining the plot, and also of giving some historical context, and the end result was that “Macbeth” sounded pretty darn interesting, and I quite enjoyed the brief excerpts I read. Even though I hated school overall, this was one part they handled well.
Another problem with how the arts (and how the curriculum as a whole) are handled is that a huge amount of the focus is on the stories and accomplishments of Whites, males, and those from the past, as though they are the only ones with great and worthwhile accomplishments. Greatness and value are not limited to those in the aforementioned categories – – not by a long shot. What’s more, I think the students would find far more relevance if modern-day art could be valued and appreciated more. There’s certainly plenty of garbage out there, but there’s also value to be found. Also, by emphasizing and appreciating the value of modern-day artists, or individuals in other fields of study, we’ll hopefully be able to inspire children, and have them realize that they could make history, as well. “Einstein” is a name that is now synonymous with intelligence, and outright genius. However, who’s to say someone born in 1980, 1990, 2000, or 2010 will not one day have that status, where you simply mention their name and people immediately think “genius.”
Ultimately, I was taught that the way to get people to pay attention, to be interested, and to actually remember what you teach is to make it relevant to them. When they ask, “Why should I care?” you need to have a good answer to that. As you pointed out quite well, this current educational system is about teaching people how to serve others higher up in the work force. It should be instead about helping people to reach their own full potentials; helping them become people capable of handled life, and capable of having a good, happy lives, and helping humanity as a whole have better lives. Currently, most of people’s energy seems to go to giving themselves and their families a so-so quality of life, and giving wealthy CEO’s fantastic quality of life! People get all these college degrees, yet in all their years spent learning, they still don’t seem to have learned how to be independent, and how to make their own paths and careers, rather than being dependent on companies offering them a job. People basically spend most of their lives either preparing for or working in jobs that they often don’t even like all that much, and wait until their 60’s to maybe start doing the things they actually want to do. That’s really not a very good balance. You spend most of your life doing what you “have to” so that you can MAYBE spend what’s left of it doing what you “want to.” Some people never even do get that carrot at the end of the stick.
On the topic of higher education, I was thinking about a couple of comments people had made about college students these days. One was that college students can solve complex mathematical equations, yet seem to suffer from a stunning lack of common sense and good judgment. Someone else noted how college students can’t seem to solve or figure out basic real-life issues, yet they turn into “freaking MacGyver” when it comes to doing stuff like getting or even making their own beer and liquor!
Those comments bring up two different points. One is that, for all the memorization and recitation, there’s a gross lack of actual understanding and wisdom. I’m constantly hearing “expert” opinions that seem to neglect common sense and basic facts.
The other point is that if you want people to learn things, you have to be able to motivate them properly. Make things relevant to them. When you actually want to learn something, that makes it easier to endure the learning process.
Of course, the learning process shouldn’t be something to be endured in the first place! Learning should be a pleasant, interesting, enjoyable experience – – one you don’t just undertake when you are forced to. This brings to mind two controversial topics related to education: paying children for good grades, and using video games as learning tools.
When the topic of a school paying the children for good grades came up, some people insisted that learning should be its own reward, and that children should learn for the sake of learning. Here’s the thing, though: when you learn, it’s usually for a specific purpose or use. Throughout childhood, you are told that you must “get an education” so you can do what – – “have an education for its own sake”? Nope; it’s so you can “get a good job.” Thus, there’s already a financial incentive being held out as the reason you should subject yourself to hour upon hour of “education.” (not to mention all the other stuff you’re often subjected to, like bullying and romantic drama). The way I see it, learning for its own sake should be reserved for things you want to learn for your own personal enjoyment. For example, I’m an animal lover, so learning random animal facts, like the fact that a cougars have an 85% success rate when hunting, is fun for me. That fact probably won’t be of much practical use, but it’s fun for me to know. However, there’s probably not much point in forcing someone to learn that trivia fact if they are not interested in things like that. Things like TV and movie trivia are also like that; I enjoy learning random “Naruto” facts, but I don’t think people who aren’t interested in the series should have to learn those things for no particular reason.
In a similar vein, outrage was expressed over one person’s offer to pay college students to take some time off from college to pursue ideas that they already had in mind. Again, “learning for its own sake” was presented as the argument against it. However, just as with grade school, the main reason given for spending all of that time and money and likely going into years’ worth of debt was that you supposedly need to do so to get “a good job.” This man was offering the students a chance to get a leg up, and take things a step further; rather than graduating and then hoping someone would give them a job, the students were taking an entrepreneurial approach, and working on their own ideas and creations. That’s the kind of thing that can result in HAVING your own business rather than just WORKING at one!
On the subject of using video games for learning, there’s what I read several years ago in this article. Couldn’t remember the site I’d read it on, so took a bit of digging to locate it again. http://m.livescience.com/5109-world-warcraft-video-game-succeeds-school.html
I think the nasty, knee-jerk way some people responded to the “unschooling” mom shows that they’ve actually come to believe that this is simply how things are, and how they must remain, and that they are closed off to other options. That’s pretty sad. Given how much time is spent on education, and the fact that education is really something that should continue throughout life, I think we should and must aim higher, and make it part of the joy of life, rather than a chore we just try to get through and over with as quickly as possible. It’s a bit like a saying about careers: if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Of course, that’s something of an exaggeration, I think, but the general idea holds true!
Our kids are in CRISIS.
I work with teenagers in an affluent suburban area.
They don’t comprehend what they read. They use calculators to multiply 10 x 10. The average high school junior has no clue what the word “diligent” means.
They write essays resembling those of a 5th grader. About how Albert Einstein discovered electricity.
In tests administered in reading, science and math to 15 year-olds globally, we are behind TWENTY NINE countries in math. And our kids’ performance in reading and science is not much better. And yet, American investment in education is unrivaled, globally.
Are you scared yet?
We lead the world in the consumption of illegal recreational drugs. And one of the chief sales outlets?
Our teenage suicide rate is the highest in the world.
EVERY DAY there are over 5,400 suicide attempts by kids in grades 7 – 12.
NOW are you scared?
The two places teenagers…
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