Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I knew it was only a matter of time before I would write a post about the education system in America. I’ve read posts on my friends’ blogs and numerous articles in the school newspaper, and deeply discussed the issues in my classes the last two years. Now I think I have enough questions, experience, and opinions to relay an intriguing article to you all.

My first idea for this post appeared in this TED video of Kathryn Schulz on regret. The statistic that has stuck with me for two months now is that the aspect of life that adults regret the most is their education. I’ve wrestled with that lying awake in bed, wondering what that even means.
The top eight most common regrets from the video.
Schulz explained that people wish they had more education, had better taken advantage of it, or studied different topics. Maybe I’m too young but I think of education as something you are given as part of growing up, and you’re thankful for whatever you get. Can you regret things you never learned? I’m realizing that college must be a bigger part of the regret because that is where a lot of decisions come in. Obviously it is easy to regret the choice that you didn’t make.
My biggest trouble is finding out what that means for me as a student in high school. This is where I should start complaining about how stressful school is for teenagers in America today. I am skeptical because there is a fine line between too much stress and being open about it and feeling a little stress and hiding behind the movement. Therefore I think I handle my school stress pretty well. But others don’t. I know kids that back problems from carrying text books, lacking social life/skills from lack of fee time, caffine addictions from sleep deprivation. Relief is hard to find with pressure coming from all sides: teachers, parents, coaches, and peers. Suicide is in the top three main causes of death in teenagers.
The movement I speak of is displayed in the film “Race to Nowhere”. I think this story covered on CNN is a good start to understanding what issues people have with school systems. It is a bold move for parents to remove their kids from standardized testing because it could have a big influence on their opportunities for education in the future. Most Chicago Public Schools rely on entrance exams to place students at different secondary and high schools, not to mention college.
I know from my experience that no kid likes those weeks standardized testing that take the place of regular classes, even if they are ridiculously easy. To me they are like a detention, sitting one room for hours on end, listening to the same generic directions, staring into the abyss of a computer screen or endless fields of white Scantrons.
I know that standardized tests are necessary for measuring schools against each other and determining their performance along with numbers such as average GPAs and graduation rates but I wish I had a solution. The fact is that weighted exams are teaching students to aim for high grades and not worry about getting there because we do anything to just achieve. That usually entails quickly memorizing of massive amounts of information (cramming) just long enough to regurgitate the answers on the test and then discard it to make space in our minds for the next batch. Unfortunately when you become good at that, you can be placed in a higher level class that expects you to have an honest interest in the subject, which you don’t because you don’t even remember the previous course material. So where does the cycle end?
Where does real motivation to learn come from? How can I get it? That is my next idea to stress over. This is never over - look forward to a part II.

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