Education vs. Learning

Yale professor Erika Christakis resigned from her job after receiving hateful response to an e-mail she sent out about a controversial campus topic. Halloween costumes has become a debated topic on the Yale campus. Many believe that they can be offensive and stereotypical.

Erika didn’t believe that this was a big problem. She thought that it was against a student’s right to free expression. Her husband addressed the students who began to protest. One student even began to shout and curse at him while he remained calm and explained his and his wife’s beliefs on freedom of expression. Even at a prestigious college, valuable information is kept away from the “innocent” eyes of students. This holds true for high school as well.

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The education system also leaves out valuable information that we need to figure out who we are as people and what we want to believe. Education should focus on teaching us what will help us improve ourselves, not focused on putting labels on students. Schools today don’t respect the individuality of students. As students, we aren’t able to have creativity and follow our dreams of studying the arts. Children have no problem with being wrong. They just shout out answers and hope that they are right.

But as we move up into higher grades, we all become one uniform student that should do everything that we are taught to do. Creative and artistic people are thought to be “dumb” or “strange.”When in reality they are actually smart, just in a different ways. I know of many people in this school who love art classes rather than core classes. Schools tend to focus on subjects that include mathematics, languages, and sciences.

So, these students in our district are told by the counselor that they have to take these classes in order to fulfill their requirements to graduate. Most education systems have been the same since the industrialization era, when math and science became an important part of most jobs. The education system sees artistic classes, like band or shop class, as unimportant. As a result, a high school student is pushed into classes that they hate taking and may even bring down their GPA. This has grown to be a problem in today’s society were everyone wants to express their feelings.

Everyone learns differently. Some people with certain conditions, such as ADHD, learn while they are moving and interacting with things. Education shouldn’t be about getting from point A to point B in specific fields of study, but rather improving yourself to the person you feel that is most successful in your eyes. Letter grades tend to make students concerned more for the grade itself than what they should be learning from the class. It has been proven that students not being graded on an assignment will, on average, learn more in the long run than a student being graded. As a student that has to study for numerous tests, I try to cram as much information in as possible in a short amount of time.

Cramming makes our brains able to only hold the information for a short period of time. Also, there are higher levels in the amount of cheating in classes with grades. I have witnessed this done by many of my classmates, including the top-of-the-class students. Students who are fearful of failing, including high-achieving students, tend to choose an easier topic to lessen their chances of failing. Students loose motivation to want to complete their school work for them and focus only on the “prize” that they will get in the end. Rewards are even said to be punishments.

In the book Punished By Rewards?, Alfie Kohn explains his theory by giving examples of students that have the typical grading system. He explains a student who was once intrinsically motivated to do their school work. As soon as grades started to become of more importance, the student lost interest and found school work boring. He then goes on to explain that we shouldn’t “treat students like pets”, but we should look at changing the school curriculum. Grades also become a way of communicating the teacher’s thoughts on the student’s performance.

Because every teacher is different, this system in inaccurate. Grades are also a way for the parents to judge how their son or daughter is doing in school. Kids feel pressured by their parents to do well in school, and if they don’t, the parents or the students have to sit down with the teacher. During this meeting, there is usually the question: “Is there is extra credit to help boost the grade?”. This makes the grade meaningless to all the work put in the rest of the quarter. Grades shouldn’t just be about measuring the amount of knowledge students have in certain subjects, but an assessment of their own unique intelligence.

The education system ignores crucial information in our learning programs. In most classes, there are certain topics that aren’t included in textbooks because they are too “controversial” and may influence you to believe differently than everyone else. These left out topics are important to help us decide who we want to become as adults and what we want to fight for. Nowadays, you can go through high school and have no opinions at all. I say this on behalf of all high school students, we don’t know everything so stop assuming we do. We are like prisoners inside of a completely isolated box.

Then, once we are freed into the real world, we are hit by all these new ideas. Many of us will have no idea what we want to believe in. We “new adults” will become very confused. Another thing that schools do not help to develop, are the skills that you need in the workplace. These skills include inferring, hypothesizing, referring, and so on.

The only skill learned by all the information thrown at us is the art of short-term memorization. When we are tested on pieces of information that we have been forced to memorize, we lose important thought processes that help our brain develop. By using skills like hypothesizing, we have the ability to have deeper thoughts and find the meaning in things rather than just copying and pasting, which is what we are essentially doing. Intelligence is a very diverse thing. Not only is everyone intelligent in their own way, but everyone has a distinct area of study that they are good at and want to excel in.

Schools tend to forget about letting us embrace our creativity and push more towards core learning subjects, like math and the sciences. Grades are another big thing that hold us back from learning. The curriculum for schools gets rid of important controversial material.Albert Einstein once said “the only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Maybe we need to rethink our ideas for the education system and change them to fit the growing needs of our nation.