Years ago, I would hate going to school in Britain, mainly because I didn’t see the point of it, and my experience of how things were done in school served only to vindicate those feelings. To be fair, I was quite optimistic about going to school during my time in America, so it’s mainly British schools that I’m concerned with here, but I’ve heard about the way things work in American schools. In Britain and America, school is generally seen as a drag, and though the adults may say otherwise, the children are absolutely right to complain.
To understand why, let’s take a good look at how schools deliver education. In school, children are given homework, graded on their work, and they’re expected to remember information from books that they would rather not read. No matter how hard teachers will try to rationalize that, I cannot see how that is of any benefit to children. In fact, homework does nothing other than create unnecessary stress on children who are way too young to handle it. However bad that sort of stress is for children, it’s even worse on teenagers, who, as scientific research has proven, experience stress more profoundly than adults do. Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, grades do nothing other than turn education into an obscene form of competition, and hold no link to a person’s intelligence whatsoever.
One of the major blunders of our education system is the very concept of homework, where a teacher asks you to do tasks that he or she couldn’t be bothered to get you to do in class, and punishes you for not doing it. We adults tend to make the assumption that homework betters students, when in actual fact, it is the educational equivalent of holding a kid at gunpoint and forcing him fill out otherwise meaningless pieces of paper. As my childhood experience has taught me, homework does nothing other than create a punishing regime that kills your enthusiasm for learning. No wonder there are so many morons in the world, because when you’re enthusiasm for learning gets killed during your childhood, you won’t have any interest in learning when you’re older, especially as your teenage years see you screaming for it all to end.
There’s something about school life I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, and that’s the outdated concept of starting the school day at 9am sharp. To this day, I have never heard anyone come up with an intelligent defence of a practice that so recklessly endangers the mental health of young children. Sometimes what makes a school day start badly is that the kids haven’t gotten enough sleep. If students were given more sleep, then that would give them more time to concentrate in class and plan their day before they arrive in class, and it would also give them more time to finish their homework if they didn’t finish it the night before. There are far more benefits to starting school an hour later than sticking to the old, outdated way of doing things, and once again, nobody I know has come up with an actual reason for showing up at 9am.
Oh, and another thing, art class in school is a joke. They act like they’re teaching kids how to draw, but more often than not, they’re teaching you how to draw the way they want you to. We all know that kids are naturally creative and love to draw from an early age (Pablo Picasso once said that “all children are born as artists”), but to say that school encourages creativity would be extremely naive. In fact, from the start of primary school, children are punished for making mistakes, despite the fact that making mistakes is an essential part of learning. If you’re not prepared to be wrong, then you’ll never be able to conceive original ideas, and you have no hope of being an innovative thinker. Instead of encouraging creativity, we subject our children to a plethora of subjects that mean nothing to them. By the way, who thought it was a good idea to make kids learn algebra at an age when they’re too young to handle any other form of advanced maths? I remember doing algebra when I was 14-16, and after I stopped doing maths in the sixth form, I forgot everything I ever learned about algebra, and I’m still reasonably good with numbers. All that advanced maths was pointless to me then, and it’s pointless to me now.
The final thing I want to mention about our horribly dysfunctional education system is its obsession with testing and exams. Every year, children and teenagers end the school year with some form of exam that you have to remember a shedload of information to pass. Exams are perhaps the single worst part of our education system, since they force you to memorize a thick book full of facts (which you’d much rather learn from the internet), and you are primarily graded based on how well you do on an exam that you are almost never prepared for. When you finally get you’re grade, you’re never told what you did right and what you did wrong, so no learning actually took place in those pointless, stress-filled hours of cramming. By the time I finished school, I couldn’t help but wonder, what was the point of it all?
I always wondered why the education system is like this, and as it turns out, it doesn’t even have to be this way. Finland consistently beats out all the other countries in terms of its education system, and not only do they not use grades, they also don’t use standardized tests (or at least not in the way we’re familiar with), and they’re considering replacing traditional school subjects with a new concept of “teaching by topic” (which includes vocational topics such as “cafeteria services”). If that’s not enough, in Finland, children don’t have to go to school until they’re 7, while we typically send our kids off to school when they’re 3 or 5, at a time when they might not necessarily be ready. Also, there’s a new school in Espoo, Finland, which eschews the bland, depressing look of the traditional school with a light, airy, and open school building that seems more akin to an art museum than a school, in they’re replacing the traditional blackboard with laptops. That’s exactly the kind of radical thinking that we in Britain and America desperately need.
Anyone will tell you that education is important, because it’s how we prepare our children for life. Hence, and I rarely say this, we have a moral duty to get it right for our children. We’ve been getting it wrong for so long, and the consequences are all around us. Many people grow up with a very grim outlook on life, and often grow up misinformed, are more or less open to misinformation, and I believe that at the core of these problems is a broken, dysfunctional education system built on raising children as brainless labourers rather than learned, intelligent, and active participants in society. How do we sleep at night knowing that our education system has children in tears because they can’t keep up with the draconian standards of people who couldn’t give a damn about their feeling, their dreams, and their passions in life. How can we expect our children to grow up right if we don’t teach right to begin with? Our education system needs a serious overhaul, for as long as we have an education system that kills any enthusiasm for learning, then our schools will continue to produce generations of morons, and thus the cycle of stupidity choking our society is kept going for at least another year at a time.