“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
At the end of the day, I’m not good at school. To be honest, I was never good at school. As much as I hate the systematic and utterly mundane style of teaching, that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy receiving an education — I do. In a society where deception sells and information is constantly being twisted and manipulated, being able to decide things for yourself is an ongoing battle in every person’s daily life. Being knowledgeable and educated should be a basic human trait.
I just feel that we’re going about it in the wrong way.
In the United States, academic achievement is predominantly decided by test scores. Whether you chose to take the ACT or SAT, standardized testing is the primary way that colleges across the country are able to gauge how “ready” you are for university-level classes. Although some universities are opting out of using those test scores, those ACT and SAT scores are still one of the top three determining factors when your application is reviewed.
My ACT score and my GPA never seemed to have any correlation. While I got a 32 my second attempt on the ACT, my average GPA never went above a 3.2 in high school. At Clayton High School, an academically rigorous institution, it seemed straight A’s was a requirement.
Ever since I arrived at Truman State University, the college academic lifestyle has proven to be a clear-cut, black and white process. Professors present you with the information you need to know, usually derived from a textbook, and you have a certain amount of time to memorize it. Sure, there’s room for deviation (i.e. science labs, art courses and performance based classes), but in the end, classes boil down to the same style of assessment.
Even during my years in secondary education, grades were the “go-to” to measure intelligence. In other words, people had the misconception that GPA correlated with how smart or dumb you were, something that has no merit. However, this style of institutionalized education only goes as far as to measure how well a student is able to memorize information, but not necessarily understand it.
We know what we’re learning and how we’re learning it at any given time, but it’s rare for the curriculum to cover why we learn things. For most students, the most important thing for them is the number system that is their reward circuit. The points that we see on top of every paper we get handed back or our Blackboard grade reports — that’s what we’re seeking, not the joy of learning the material or even understanding it.
Even from a substantially early age, where our minds are most malleable and impressionable, we reward effort and accomplishment with hedonic pleasures (i.e. stickers, candy, praise). Later on, we advance that into a numbers system, points, and from then, it’s a wash cycle of memorizing, regurgitating, get points, and repeat. There’s no incentive to keep any of the information you learn, especially after you’ve gotten your reward for “learning” it. I’ve forgotten most of what I’ve been taught throughout my math and history classes throughout high school, and honestly, I’ve never had to use any of that knowledge since. All that time spent in class and studying the material was essentially wasted.
We all know the lightbulb that goes off in our heads from time to time. That semi-exhilarating feeling that we get when we finally get to understanding something new; that “ah-ha!” moment. We should reward that instead. We should reward being connecting each topic that we learn with another, creating an intricate web of understanding of how the universe and our minds work.
Part of why I didn’t, and still don’t, thrive in school is because I chase only what sparks my interest. Those classes, those topics, they all have that lightbulb moment attached to them for me and when I walk out of the classroom each day I’m constantly wanting to learn more. It’s the same way I felt during my one year at a Montessori school, which let me explore just about everything I wanted at school.
The educational system shouldn’t feel like a continuous grind, constantly trying to get the high score
Education shouldn’t a continuous grind; instead, it should be a mellow process where each person feels out what they’re interested in as a whole and build upon that. Intelligence isn’t measured by A’s and B’s and a number out of a 4.0 — it’s measured by everyday interactions with other people and doing things that we’re passionate about and that make an impact on the world around us.
That might just be me, though. I study psychology with hopes of, in the future, improving myself and the people around me. Someone else might study biology to improve the planet’s quality of life, and that might be their calling.
Education, although difficult to implement, should adhere to “to each his own.”