The Problem with Education


We have an education problem.

Yes, funding is being cut and teachers are being laid off. But that is not the heart of the issue.

Since the inception of public school, education has been about producing workers. This is an industrial model. It is an outdated model. We are creating these workers for jobs that no longer exist. Coming out of high school, the only job you will be able to get is an hourly position flipping hamburgers or stocking shelves.

Well, at least it’s a job.

True, but we shouldn’t settle for an hourly position where the only hope of a raise and being able to make a living is to get a promotion. I’ve been in a job like that and it sucks. Literally. It sucks away your being.

So what’s the solution? Go to college?

Sure. Going to college could help you find a better job. Having graduated a year ago, I can say that it is a driving factor to continue your education after high school. It’s a nice thought until you are holding your diploma wondering what you are going to do now. I was unprepared. A lot of people—scratch that—most people are unprepared.

But why? Why is it that we have this idea planted in our minds about having your life together by the time you graduate college so that you can have a great job that will support you and help pay off the crippling debt of getting the diploma? Because that’s how it used to be. In the beginning, a college degree meant a lot. Guaranteed a job? Perhaps.

The worth of a bachelor’s degree has faded. So you continued your education after high school. Got into a good school. Party a lot. Take and pass some classes. Get what you came for and then head on off to the real world.

Unfortunately, now it is hard to get a job with just a bachelor’s. The master’s is the new bachelor’s degree. And that sucks. For a lot of people, it is hard enough to get through four years of college (financially, mentally, emotionally), but then to turn around and keep going?

We are no longer guaranteed a salary position that we can live off of for the rest of our lives (and I’m not even talking about something that you really enjoy doing). In this day and age with inflation and the high cost of living, it is really easy to just settle for something because of the dollar sign and benefits.

But what meaning is this giving your life? What is your real passion?

And that right there is the problem with education. Passion is being squashed out of you at a very young age. This industrial model of school is meant to create cookie-cutter workers who will obey instructions, do as their told, and get the job done.

Obedience is drilled into each and every student using fear. If you don’t turn in your homework, you’ll get a zero. If you don’t do well on a test, you will fail. If you fail, you will have to repeat the year. This places a lot of pressure on students. They have this fear of failure so they obey the teacher and do what they are expected to do. There is also the added social pressure, of being ridiculed for being a failure. You’ll have to kids in the grade you are supposed to be in wonder why you are no longer in class with them, as well as the kids coming into the grade wondering why you’re still there.

That’s a lot of pressure on someone who barely knows how to tie their shoes (I wore velcro shoes until I was in fourth grade, and even know I wear slip-ons).

Education is all about passing a test, a standardized test that tells you just how smart you are. That’s 10 months worth of learning for a 40 question test.

That definitely doesn’t sound like a big waste of time.

We as students are defined by our tests scores. It is more evident in the SAT test because the higher your score, the better chance you have of getting into the best college, the well-known college.

When I was in elementary school, I think starting around second grade, we could take a test that would gauge our creativity. If you made a certain score, you were considered a GT kid, you were “gifted and talented”. That meant that all the GT kids were placed in the same class and that class would be a little bit harder than normal classes and they would be given more “freedom to be creative”.

I took the test and failed to get in three times. From what I remember, it was a ridiculous test. You were given forty circles and it was your job to create something from each circle. You had like five minutes to try and do forty of them. Another one was they gave you this bean shape and you had to draw a picture incorporating the bean shape. I think I made it into a rocket ship or something. Those are the two parts of the test that I remember the most, both of them are drawing related, and get this, I suck at drawing. Can’t do it to save my life. Even my stick figures are lopsided.

I took that test three times and failed to get into the GT program every single time. Finally, my mom asked why it was that I was never “granted access to the smart people’s club.”

They told my mom I wasn’t creative enough. I don’t think she told me this until a couple years after that, but it still isn’t very fun not being included in what we kids thought of as the “smart kids group” when I thought that I was smart.

But here’s the kicker. At the age of 15, I published my first novel. And that wasn’t even the first novel I had written at that point. I had already written the rest of the sci-fi/fantasy series that was 7 books in length. At the age of 17, I published my second novel.

Did I make a lot of money? No. Am I famous? Heck no. But I was doing what I loved to do. In spite of being told that I wasn’t creative enough to be considered gifted and talented and smarter than everyone else, I created worlds and stories in my head that I was then able to communicate on paper for others to read.

My passion drove me.

That is what is missing from education right now: passion.

How do we fix this problem? By letting the teachers actually do what they became teachers to do—inspire others.

I would not be where I am today if not for two teachers and three professors who inspired me to be better, who recognized my passion and helped feed the flames.

With standardized testing comes a set of rules and guidelines that the teachers must follow. They are limited to what they can do in the classroom. They are boxed in with not a lot of room to maneuver and do something different. Because doing something different would produce students that are outside of the cookie-cutter model needed for industrial work.

Those that inspired me, kept me interested, and actually really taught me something did something different.

So how do we fix it? How do we solve the problem of education?

You are going to be learning your whole life. You should continue to learn something new everyday. It is hard to do this and ultimately grow as a person when you are put through hell as a kid.

So what do we need?

We need teachers who show love in the classroom, not fear. We need teachers who love to teach others. We need teachers who live to inspire (I remember the look on my fourth grade teacher’s face when I brought her my published book and flipped it open to the dedication page).  We need teachers who are passionate, because how can they help cultivate passion if they themselves don’t have it. We need teachers who are not afraid to be different.

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