The Purpose of Education
In the interest of encouraging some discussion, I'm going to post a couple of articles/posts/rants that I've written recently. The following one was written about two weeks ago. Please be kind; I'm young and naive. ;)
So instead of studying for a midterm which I'm taking in approximately 15 hours, I'm rambling about the meaning of life and pointless stuff like that. What else is new?
Let's take a look at what the Average American™ might experience in his or her lifetime:
-The Average American child is raised by Average American parents and attends an Average American public school where he or she learns very much about rules and regulations and very little about anything pertaining to how the world actually operates (i.e. it's not what you know, but who you know - and in Above-Average America, who you can pay off).
-The Average American teenager is taught by Average American educators and parents not to experiment with drugs and alcohol. The Average American teenager experiments anyway simply because it's what "everyone else" does. The Average American educators and parents also experimented when they were teenagers, but Average Americans don't talk about that.
-The Average American college student cares very much about alcohol and very little about the state of the world outside of Average America. The Average American student learns more outside of class than inside it, yet somehow manages to graduate anyway. The Average American graduate earns a piece of paper which proves to Average American employers that he or she has jumped through the hoops required for an Average American (i.e. overworked and underpaid) job.
Cynical enough for you?
As someone who would consider himself to be a non-Average American, I find this system absurd. I came from a small town high school which was basically known for two things - its girls' basketball program and its teen pregnancy rate.
I was fortunate enough to be an "honor student" enrolled in "honors classes", so I wasn't exposed to as much ugliness as some of my friends, but what I did see was often sickening. During my Senior year, I took an Electronics course... I have never learned less about electronics in my entire life. In doing a house wiring project, the teacher seemed more concerned about the coloring of my wires than whether I actually had the wiring correct - probably because he wasn't skilled enough to discern it otherwise. Not to mention that, on most days, class only lasted half as long as it was supposed to; the last half of the class was "break time". It reminded me of Kindergarten.
At GHS, discipline was simple - the teacher/administrator was always right. If you were in the hallway during class, you were automatically a suspect. It didn't matter if you were called by a counselor or whatnot. If you were the poor shaggy kid who got hit in the face by the captain of the football team (who just happened to have a rich daddy), and you retaliated... I think you see what I'm getting at. If you looked "suspicious" or someone thought you "posed a threat", guess what? You were suspended, possibly with no questions asked. Just ask one of my friends who had to see a shrink before he could return.
Sometimes, my friends and I would refer to this high school as a prison. In retrospect, that's exactly what it was, and I wouldn't be surprised if yours was the same way.
But enough about high school. What about college? I left the previously mentioned craphole in hopes of something new, a place where I would experience true freedom. That's exactly what I got... sort of.
This freedom came with a price, a price that I'm not sure I was ready to pay at that time - nor am I sure I'm ready to pay even now. No, I'm not talking about the $40,000+ a year; I'm talking about the price of my time - every last drop of it. As awful as my high school was in comparison to Wash U, one thing I wish I could recover was the time and ability I had to explore topics of interest which the school didn't offer. As you can probably guess, technology was a major interest of mine. Though GHS had only a very limited computer curriculum (and it wasn't even a curriculum itself; it was lumped into "Business"), the classes I took were just enough to whet my appetite to the point where I would come home and install and test new software on the family computer (much to the chagrin of my parents). I can't say that about History. Were it not for those experiences, I'd probably be majoring in Psychology. ;-)
I can hear you saying, "But Scott, now you have so many more resources to work with! What's stopping you from devoting even more of your time to interests?" The answer: Classes!
It's not that I don't like Computer Engineering, because for the most part, I do. Unless you're talking about the workload. When I'm finishing with a ridiculous programming lab on the Friday night of Fall Break when I should be relaxing after an extremely rough MONTH, the last thing on my mind is, "Ooooh, I want to rewrite this C++ program in COBOL!" Or, for you non-geeks, "Ooooh, I want to read War and Peace in Swahili!" No, no, no, no, and most definitely no. In short, part of the reason I can't delve into my interests further is because I'm simply too burnt out by them. (The other part, of course, is lack of time... but I figure now is a bad time to argue that since I've just spent close to an hour writing this ginormous note.)
The Purpose of Education: Education is a tool developed by the Above-Average Americans to brainwash Average Americans into doing their work for them.
I don't want to be an Average American.
P.S: If you actually read this far, kudos to you. Please leave a comment, positive or negative. I ask because I'm considering becoming a writer/blogger in some capacity and your opinions really help. Thanks!
Oh man do I have a lot to say about our education system and not enough time to say it right now.
I have to agree with first, on most of your points Scott.
They really aren't teaching anything besides math and english that will really help you once you graduate. Rarely do you ever get taught:
-logic and how to think
-how to deal with people in The Real World™
-relationships (friends, family, and lovers)
-taxes (who the hell knows how to do taxes out of highschool, and you deal with it the rest of your life)
-large purchases, houses, cars, loans, mortages, etc
Now granted you learn a lot acedemics, like sciences and history, and those are great to know, but most of it you don't need to live your life successful. I do feel as these things should be touch upon, in a much general way, then if the student is particularly interested in one, they can study it further. Of course there has to be a degree of learning basics and things they don't like, but come on, be usefull! I don't remember half of the stuff I learned, and 3/4 of it I won't use the rest of my life.
I think a lot of things Steve touches on should be taught as well. It should be taught and discussed, not forced. If somebody doesn't agree, fine, but it's out there if they do. Things like this I think are so much more useful in The Real World™.
We can all assume, like Scott said, they're just hurding us like cattle. The less we think for ourselves, and the more we just go along, the easier it for "them" to control us. The more people who are living day to day doing the same old thing, the more "they" can be better off. The more people that are poor, the more rich the rich get. It deals a lot with Steve's recent awakening post, slowly people are starting to wake up. Now I'm not a conspericy theorist or whatnot, but it's obvious on a basic level, it's how our society and government opperates.
Okay, that's it for now. Thoughts? Opinions?
There's nothing better than seeing non-average teenagers, students, etc.
As the parent of 3 very non-average teens, I totally agree with what you're saying, Scott. The average public school sucks. If you are not an average kid, you will never quite fit in either academically or socially. If you question the teachers (especially when you're really young) you will be pegged as a trouble-maker.
My kids have had a mixture of public school and private school education, mostly because we were so disgusted by the public schools. They take smart, creative little kids who have high self-esteem and basically beat it out of them until they're ready to follow along with the crowd.
Yeah...we need more kids/grown-ups like that. :rolleyes:
Sending my kids to Montessori school when they were younger was the best thing that we could have ever done, imo. It quickly served to put their broken self-esteem back in order, and encouraged them to be creative, independent thinkers. Not robot sheep.
Unfortunately, there were not a lot of options where I live for good middle schools. My oldest went into public middle school and after a rocky start, she did fine finishing up the rest of her education in the public school. But the high self esteem she had acquired earlier, as well as her intelligence and general sociability got her through.
My middle girl didn't fair as well when she went to the public middle school. She is more of a loner, doesn't wear the "right" clothes, and also has some language learning disabilities. For her, 7th and 8th grade was a nightmare. Thankfully, we found an excellent private high school for kids with LLD and that has restored her self-esteem. She's a senior now and has been a leader to many of the other kids which is something we never expected!
My son hasn't had to deal with public school as he went to the Montessori like his sisters through 6th grade, and like magic when we were trying to figure out what to do with him for middle school, we learned of a new charter school a few towns away that was perfect for him as it was an "Advanced Math and Science Academy." He's been a math "genius" since he was a baby, so this school was an amazing blessing for us -- and because it's a charter school -- free! I'm so glad he didn't have to go to the public school because he has low vision and I would be afraid it could be problematic at a traditional school.
I learn so much from my kids each and every day, even when they were very little. Who knew?
There are a few exceptional pieces I've read on this topic:
Why Schools Don’t Educate - The Natural Child Project by John Gatto, a former New York teacher
What You'll Wish You'd Known by Paul Graham
Why Nerds are Unpopular by Paul Graham
I went to school in the Australian public school system, and what what sadly lacking was a class that taught a skill set that we could use in real life. Perhaps a skill set including.....
Career & work
Conciousness & Awareness
Courage and Fear
I will teach these skills to my children, as I wish someone had taught them to me when I was growing up.
With this skill set, writing a killer essay, or dealing with a huge workload, or meeting dealines would be a breeze.
This is what I needed when I was being educated. I don't know how well it would apply to the general populace, but it would have done me the world of good.
I was similarly disenchanted with the education system, and I've framed my purpose in life as doing something about it. I'm currently an undergraduate, too. But my solution to the disenchantment was to redefine purpose, to create a sub-objective, if you will. I gave myself a reason I was going to school. It's not the best reason (face-value credentials), but it's a good enough reason, and a valid one. Meanwhile, I spend most of my time attending free or cheap talks around campus; my student life as an academic is probably among the top 5 percent of the undergraduate population. I try to convince others to join me when possible.
The trick to giving a successful education to even students of small-town schools like your high school, I think, lies in the Internet. If we guarantee them access, and we make it possible for them to see the wide and various perspectives online, then we make it much, much easier for them to educate themselves despite their circumstances.
I daydreamed through highschool and the first year or two of university (in fourth year right now), but I've found the trick to university for me is to find those good professors who really have something to teach you, and really want you to learn and participate. This is obviously easier in social science classes where debate is naturally encouraged, as opposed to science classes, but generally speaking I've had success doing this. The sad thing is, is that there just aren't that many profs like the ones I've described, you really have to hunt around for them. One good resource for doing this, however, is RateMyProfessors.com - Professor Reviews and Ratings By reading the comments you can get a good feel for how the prof teaches the class.
And I would like to second the fact that I really wish someone had taught me something useful in highschool, like logic or critical thinking. Although I did learn how to do taxes....but I think would have preferred just about anything besides learning how to do taxes.
Also, I know John Gatto has at least one book out if anyone is looking for some additional reading material.
I am currently trawling through the English Education system and I can say it is awful! For a start I believe in subjective reality. So that means all the science classes become meaningless because the laws of the universe, of chemistry, and of biology become subjective and fit to be altered if I wanted to. SO, thats half my week wasted. Then I spend 2 hours a week learning German, if I wanted to learn German I would do it. I don't want to be forced thank you very much! The only really useful things I learn are English, Maths and Drama. Three hours a day doing that would suit me fine. But no. I fill six hours a day with almost totally useless stuff and they never seeem to teach anything mildly useful in the real world. Like stress management, metaphytsics, personal devlopment of any kind, ANYTHING AT ALL. I nfact the closest we get to something like that is a few weeks of sex education which they give you far too late in my opinion!
But that is another post for another forum... :P
More seriously, have you come across any quantum mechanics or the Heisenberg uncertainty principle yet in your physics class? Some of those ideas seem to fit in surprisingly well with subjective reality / intention manifestions (or at least as I understand them - I'm fairly new to this yet!).
yes, you're right, American schools suck. I'm from Europe and by that I mean East Europe not Paris, Rome and stuff like that that you Americans see as Europe. Most of my American Web friends think that Balkan is poor place on Earth and they can't even show it on a map. On the other side we learn in schools our history and American history, we know your countries better than 50% of Americans, we learn foreign languages, etc.
I don't want to say that Americans are stupid but there are big part of what you call average people and they don't posses level of knowledge that is in Europe call average.
So, averages are different in different parts of world
I was fortunate enough to be home-schooled for much of my youth. It was a real shocker when I got dumped back into public school during my parents' divorce. Being an outsider, the rampant dysfunction was terribly obvious.
The most depressing thing, though, was that I could count on one hand the number of students who hadn't yet had the love of learning burned right out of them. And no wonder...
Thankfully--for me, at least--my high school supported a Running Start program that allowed the occasional ambitious student to escape into college a couple years early. The environment there was healthier; athough, that's not saying much--it was still very limiting and petty. When I graduated with two Associate degrees, I didn't even bother going to Commencement because it all felt so worthless.
I guess I didn't learn much from the experience, though, because I continued to the University of Washington (Tacoma branch). I must sadly report that the classes were even easier (although generally more interesting) than at the community college. Regardless, plenty of students set their expectations on C's... and routinely failed. I Walked this time, but only because my family insisted. My goodness, what a hollow ceremony. I was handed a piece of paper that says employers want me, though (but I have to tell them or they wouldn't know).
Now, it wasn't so bad as it might sound from what I wrote above. I learned a lot about social interaction and making friends (something I missed out on as a home-schooler). I experienced a couple exceptionally well-taught classes that I enjoyed quite a bit (Spanish and Discrete Mathematics, for those who wonder). Somehow all this has made important people proud of me... Still, as a decidedly un-average American student-cog in the American education machinery, I can't help but wish it all functioned a bit more smoothly :p
So, thank you for your post, Scott--I can definitely relate. It was a good read; you have a way with words.
-- Daniel Terhorst
British "education" is the same. My six year old daughter comes home from school with a sticker awarded to her for "good sitting". Evidently, "good sitting" means sitting with your legs crossed, arms folded, leaning backwards, looking forwards and not speaking or moving.
It is turning my bright, happy, intelligent little girl into an angry, line towing robot ready to join the sea of "normal people" in society. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find that intelligent girl underneath all the brainwashing, but she's still in there somewhere. I just hope we can help her to hang onto the intelligent girl so that when she's free of the "education" system she can return to being bright and happy and free thinking. I also hope we can keep our sanity as we watch the same thing happen to our other two daughters, one started full time school this september and one will start part time next year.
content (long division)
thinking skills (logic)
effectiveness skills (time management)
personal skills (consciousness)
American school are set up mostly to teach the first one, with some of the others as side benefits, purposely or not. In my opinion, the lessons learned indirectly stick longer, if they're ever learned. The problem is setting up curriculum so that they're learned without being the focus of the class.
I'm of the un-school philosophy -- home schooling or small schools where the learning is directed by students' interests, all life skills are addressed, and educators are open and honest with students about what they're learning and why.
Jill I feel that I don't have a choice. I don't see any viable alternative to sending my children to school, and the schools around where we live are all rather poor.
I don't mean to sound trite, but you almost always have a choice. Whether that's sticking up and fighting for your daughter at the school with the teachers and head of school, or finding a way to come up with the money for private school, or something else.
Your daughter's self esteem is forming now. I'm sure it's not too late at this point for her to get it back, but if it goes on too long with them knocking her down, it will be a lot harder to get it back later.
Do you hear that? That's the sound of truth resonating in my mind. So instead of writing a photo analysis paper, I shall now ramble on about the meaning of life with you, but that's okay. Your words ring so true to me. Keep writing, Super-American.
And now for the quotes:
Now, it seems to me that the real problem here is motivation. Why aren't people motivated? Passion. Too many people don't know why they are there – on a road that is not theirs because it is a road well-travelled. And now we find ourselves at Podcast #14: Security vs. Passion.
I think about this a lot...
At the moment, we're trying to find the money for hot water in our home, and to repair our leaking roof. Private school is not an option at all.
As for complaining to the school, I don't have a chance there. I have enough trouble getting them to acknowledge the fact that there is a head lice problem. Trying to change the teaching methods would be futile. The rest of the schools nearby are just as bad or worse.
I can't consider home schooling either as my husband and I both work to pay the bills.
Life is pretty rubbish right now, but we're trying to repair our home, save some money and move. In the mean time, we're doing the best we can at home to reverse the effects the school is having. It might not be good enough, but it's all we can manage right now.
DUH, right? While it may have been somewhat useful in a junior high setting, it wasn't executed properly and in my opinion it was far too simple. Showing kindness and civility and actually putting thought into your major decisions are things that most kids are at least semi-competent at by the time they're teenagers - and those who aren't won't change just by watching a video. As a result, most of my peers used the opportunity to take a nap instead of paying attention to the message our administrators were wastefully trying to get across.
preconventional - conventional - postconvetional
Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)
1. Obedience and punishment orientation
2. Self-interest orientation
( What's in it for me?)
Level 2 (Conventional)
3. Interpersonal accord and conformity
( The good boy/good girl attitude)
4. Authority and social-order maintainingorientation
( Law and order morality)
Level 3 (Post-Conventional)
5. Social contract orientation
6. Universal ethical principles
( Principled conscience)
These are just the natural way in which the mind develops. Further research has revealed that there are even stages of development that go into spiritual realms of human development. Unfortunately, our antiquated, slow moving, left-brained dominated school system does not embrace this ground breaking research into the whole human self.
Scott. Help me. I am pretty much exactly like you except I haven't gone to college yet. I'm a senior in high school. I actually like my high school a lot, and I have a good group of friends which makes it alright, but I have noooo idea what to major in or what to do.
I really don't want to go to college for society's reasons. I want to go so I can meet a lot of people and really develop my social skills. I was thinking of majoring in Computer Engineering or Electrical Engineering, but I don't know. To me, Computer Engineering and EE are kind of like "if I had to choose a major, this is what it would be," but I am really not super motivated to do either.
I guess I could just be like every other Average American and go in "undecided" and float around for 4 years and end up with a degree I don't want, but I'd rather do something I'm really motivated to do, and I guess "personal development" isn't an option yet.
I hated each and every moment I was forced through American schools from Kindergarten until college. College was better but still I disliked it. I was the kind of kid found in the back of the room who just slipped through the cracks because the teachers did not have the time or the resources to deal with me. I would sit in the back and read a book, daydream, or do something I felt was productive.
All these post have listed to many issues.
- Lack of passion
- School being a brainwashing norm to fit one into society
- Boring students
- teaching kids to be good puppets
And to make matters worse, when you enter the work force, people want you brainwashed and a little piece of paper that says you have been appropriately reprogrammed.
Ok, I realize this is a bleak view. And I sympathize with kthdsn who sees no way out with her daughter.
To save my sanity as a child when there were nights I went to bed hungry because we did not have food, and I had to get up and go to a place I hated all day, I would daydream and read. And I learned alot from myself and from what I stared at all day.
First I learned, my mind will always keep me busy, because no one can stop what I think (this was before I read One Flews Over the Cuckoos Nest lol).
Second I learned how easy people allow themselves to be taken over. I watched the students around me, struggle then give up to mediocrity and complacentness, and I swore I would never end up like that.
Third, I learned just because people are older, "smarter," and have a piece of paper does not mean they actually "know" anything.
Forth, I leaned I can do whatever I want.
I was so happy to finally be done with college when I was 20. It was a wonderful feeling.
My point is, the people who have it in them, will fight against the conformity, but those who live out of fear, struggle only a bit before they love the security of the conformity brought on by their fear based want be ideals.
I have a younger cousin who is alot like me sometimes. He has some of the same issues as I did with school. His school however is much better. I use my experiences to show him how to use it to show his personality and solidify who he is. He has learned, with me as a coach, how to play games with robots and not be part of them. That is a skill I hope by the time he grows up, he will not need.
Kthdsn, the fact that you are aware of what they are doing to your daughter is great, it means you can stop it or slant it. I slant Ethan's (my 9 year old cousin) experiences by continually getting him to question everything people say and do. This works well for him because he asks himself the questions and he questions everything including me (which is great, keeps me on my toes). I also tell him, this is his life, his experiences, he can change them to be anything he wants. So he has managed to make school a game of questions, and outsmarting the "cults" which is the term our family uses for anyone who is a robot of society.
Ok that was my long winded ideas of how my family has dealt with the school system. Honestly tho, if and when i ever have children, i dont think "normal" school is something i could do to them.
Many of the replies to this thread seem to imply that those in control of the educational system have deliberately sculpted it to mass produce average suit-wearing mindless automatons.
I tend to see it differently. Perhaps it's different in America, but my experiences in Australia have left the impression that those in the educational system are just doing what they believe is right, and what they believe is most beneficial for most people. They may be teaching using outdated methods, but those methods worked for them so they continue to use them. There are undoubtedly some making it worse for everyone because of some selfish acts, but for the most part it seems that average teachers/leaders are trying to help other average students, and average graduates are the result. But that's inevitable, if all students turned out exceptional then exceptional would be the new average. Here's where I'd draw a Bell curve on the blackboard ;)
However I'd like to hope that there are people out there making an effort to improve the educational system so that there are more exceptional graduates, or at least properly teach those who are inherently exceptional so that kids like Jill's can be educated as they deserve.
As for the content of education, I agree with everyone who has said that they weren't taught useful skills, including how to learn, nor was an interest in learning fostered. I remember English classes on reading and comprehension; unarguably useful skills, however they were taught in a way that bored everyone senseless.
I remember my reaction upon recently learning some of the memorisation techniques mentioned by Tony Buzan (in Master Your Memory). I was enraged by the fact that I'd never even heard these techniques mentioned throughout my school years. Simple techniques which would greatly improve the ability of student to memorise facts for which rote learning was the only method used. How much time could be saved? How many more interesting activities could be undertaken? How much more effective could students memories be? Those techniques had been around long before I was born (or before any of us were born for that matter. The ancient greeks used them!)
I used a couple of the memory techniques in a neuropsychological exam a while ago (don't worry, I'm not insane. Much. ;)) and aced those particular parts of the exam. I've always considered my memory to be quite poor (explain my passion at all?) and so the result blew me away. There is no way I would have done so well if I hadn't learnt and employed those techniques.
Like some here I intend to fill those gaps myself when I have kids. And like Adrienne with her cousin, I intend to teach my kids to question everything and form their own opinions. I do expect to be able to teach my kids effectively, but I don't want them to miss out on the non-academic benefits of going to school. I do believe that there are enough good schools in Australia that they won't have to miss out at all.
PS: Ben Fold's 'Bastard' makes a great soundtrack for this thread :D
Certainly, in specific cases, it'd be a really good idea to teach how and why something's useful, but how universal is that?
Hmm. Reading this, I thought I'd see what I have that I actually need.
Don't need: RE, Music, Science, Quite alot of English (my opinion is helped by the fact that my teacher can't actually spell, and our class suspects that they are smarter thatn her), History, quite alot of Maths, most of DT, a fair bit of art, some of geograhy (plus, I still don't know where any countries or continents are..)
What am I left with? Some maths, some English, some geography and some of the other subjects. Oh, and French and Mandarin, which I will end up learning by my self if I so choose later on. For next year, I have chosen textiles and commerce,which actually will serve me well later inlife. Oh, and I'm going to want to teach myself some more art too.
Becuase I am in the top English class, we get to learn philosophy. The downside is that generally, people won't end up philosophising or expanding themselves in any way, or they just don't actually understand the question in the first place.
Back in year six, they refused to teach us long division. What's up with that? It wasn't on the sylabus, so though we asked many a time, we didnt get taught it and then in year 7, most others did. Grah. Now I still can't do long division...
"In my high school French class we were supposed to read Hugo's Les Miserables. I don't think any of us knew French well enough to make our way through this enormous book. Like the rest of the class, I just skimmed the Cliff's Notes. When we were given a test on the book, I noticed that the questions sounded odd. They were full of long words that our teacher wouldn't have used. Where had these questions come from? From the Cliff's Notes, it turned out. The teacher was using them too. We were all just pretending."
(From the Nerds article somebody posted)
Yup,our English teachers do the same with sparknotes. They also get their notes to give us from there too.
That's enough rambling now...
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