In Other Words. . .

A sanctuary for thinking people.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Soapbox Special: We Have to Learn? (Pt. 2-Kids)

No, this problem cannot be placed entirely on the shoulders of our educators. Learning requires both a teacher and a pupil. If one of the two is removed, learning does not occur. Now, there is surely not a shortage of students in America today, but are they true pupils?

This is the age of the well-rounded student. Colleges want students that have shown talent and interest in many different areas. Why? Do these schools expect freshmen to major in every subject? Not one bit. Colleges want to know that their students are open to new opportunities and that, if they have chosen a major already, they know their strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, being the all-around boy can be harmful for many. For example. . .

Growing up, I had a lot of free time. I spent it by reading, writing, thinking, talking to my family, or by doing nothing at all. I know that in certain situations this much downtime can lead to drugs, drinking, etc., but this time helped me to grow. The past few months have shown me what the life of the well-rounded student is like: Relaxation is difficult because you feel like you're wasting time. Everything is done quickly because there is so much to do. Sleep is harder to come by. Thought is tossed out the window since it weighs you down.

Guess which statement is the most critical. [Jeopardy theme music plays.] That's right! Absence of thought is more frightening than a modern horror film written by someone who should be in jail due to the content of the aforementioned movie. Before I rant out the wazoo on the importance of thought in general, I will focus on the effects it has on us whipper snappers in school.

Senioritis is a very real, very dangerous disease. It has affected both myself and many of my friends. This condition is similar to depression. The victim has little or no motivation to complete any sort of required task. Learning? Forget it. Informations is memorized because it has to be, and then it is forgotten as soon as possible. To continue my personal story, I used to be the "genius" kid from about 2nd grade until high school. Slowly, I started to discover what I actually enjoy doing, which is writing. By the time I reached my senior year, I couldn't stand to do anything else. I fought, and still fight, against the endless requirements because the result is a group of moody teenagers who only go through the motions. They don't care, especially if they have a passion for something completely unrelated.

The bottom line is the teachers are barely teaching, and the kids don't want to learn. Besides having everyone watch Dead Poet's Society, there needs to be a system overhaul. Exams should test understanding, not memorization. Courses need to focus on relevant aspects of each subject, if possible. Schools should at least try to nurture the strengths of its students. Until then, public education will continue to be the official sponsor of cheap, plastic achievements and pupil puppetry.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Soapbox Special: We Have to Learn? I thought This Was School! (Pt. 1-Teachers))

Yesterday, I watched Dead Poet's Society in the company of several of my very good friends. This cinematic masterpiece always hits home with a loud crash for me. Yes, good people of the internet, I am still in school and so have a clear view of the educational system and what us kids, the future pilots of the world, are doing. The topic of my most recent observation is frightening: no one is learning anymore. Whose fault is it? Everyone's. The focus of this particular article is the teachers. With luck, I will get around to blaming the kids by next week.

At first glance, I'm sure this statement looks like yet another prophecy of approaching doom and gloom, but every bit is true and should cause natural alarm in any thinking head.

During my elementary school days, I remember being excited when one of my teachers said something that made perfect sense. I loved learning. I loved making sense of the world and slowly gaining the reputation of being a "genius." I hated school because it meant having to go to a certain building every day and being forced to think about a certain subject for a certain amount of time. My love of learning was a simple form of the instinct to search for, and find, truth. In fact, around fifth grade, I started to pick up books of philosophy written by G.K. Chesterton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and C.S. Lewis. Trying to follow the advanced progressions of thought regarding complex and intangible subjects was difficult, to say the least. I barely understood what was being said, but I knew that every word could be believed, and every once in a while, I kept up with these great minds and grasped their messages. I wanted to follow their example and write the truth for others to read. Whenever I knew something to be true, I wrote it down in my journal.

This practice slowed when I entered high school because time became harder to find. My classes seemed much more dull, maybe because I knew much more about the world at this point. I was no longer discovering life, but reviewing. There were still "Aha!" moments, but I learned the most by just living. I am now in my senior year, and pushing myself to focus at school and finish homework is a serious challenge. I have no interest in any of my classes, and so have no motivation to participate besides the knowledge that I have to pass them to leave the school for good.

To make my movie reference, many of my teachers fall under the category of J. Evans Pritchert. In other words, they follow a very structured curriculum and rarely worry whether their students are interested. In their defense, many subjects, such as math and science, must be taught structurally. But even in those cases, the teachers don't mind if their students are memorizing instead of learning. In my physics class last year, my lab group's official motto was "Don't try to understand." When we did try, we only lost time and became more confused.

Fortunately, I have seen a few exceptions to the rule. One or two of my teachers over the years have been genuinely concerned for their students and passionate about the subject at hand. Somehow, this minority has made me stupidly optimistic about future educators. Surely when this era of ignorance toward education had ended, only real teachers will be employed. Until that day comes, it is the student's responsibility to bear the full weight of their education, not waiting for guidance that may never come. I will elaborate on this point next time around. Live well.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Personal Genesis

Before starting to say anything else, I would thank you for taking a break from the world to visit the Room. Beides preserving my sanity, there wouldn't be much of a reason to maintain this site if no one on Earth read it.
This is a seriously personal and terribly public experiment. At the moment, I am mulling over the monumental decision of what to make of my life. Many hours of thought have led me to realize that it is impossible to know the answer to this question until I follow the example of virtually every human being that ever lived. In other words, I need to move in eleventy-four directions over a fairly short time in the hope of discovering which endeavors successfully communicate whatever message I may have in my heart and soul at the time, and which paths push me into a mud puddle on the side of the road while laughing hysterically.
With that being said, I have already found that I deeply love writing and wouldn't be able to get along with it. Music manages to swallow a large part of my life whether I am playing or listening. Fortunately, it gives me far more in return. Photography is an easy way to compensate for my lack of drawing abilities. I haven't ventured into the world of videography as of yet, but probably will soon enough. I know there is a God, and that everything I do should be an attempt to show my love for Him.
That's all I have to say for now. With any luck, I will be back during the upcoming week with something incredibly clever. Live Well.