How important is education?

Today my friend broke down and started crying. I don’t know if I’m flattering myself by thinking that it had something to do with the fact that I was recently accepted to a college and she hasn’t been yet ( my college has a rolling application so I got to know within three weeks and of course she isn’t going to know until March/April ) which I think is ridiculous for the parenthetical reason. But watching her go through these series of breakdowns has me seriously thinking. Is it really worth crying about? How important is our education?

People are always pushing it nowadays. Education, education, education. College, college, college. But living in America, I have to wonder how highly our government prioritizes it, as well as how high a priority it should have in our own lives. For one thing, American education has simply become something of a laughingstock which sadly, is something we Americans seem to have come to take for granted. This year, in my home state, California, we’re getting rid of our former standardized testing and replacing it with Common Core which, by most accounts, seems to be no better. As a senior, I can put things like standardized testing out of my mind for good but it does bring up a lot of questions. Like what is the best way to teach our students? What’s wrong with the existing system? Should we even have a national/state test? I think that both liberals and conservatives alike can admit that there’s something amiss here and as a student I’d like to point some of them out.

Let’s begin by stating some facts. I have a 4.0+ gpa depending on which one you look at. In all my years of high school I have never had anything lower than an A-. I have taken an increasing number of AP classes each year. I’m in the top ten of my class ( by the skin of my teeth ). Model student right? Really smart right? But what have I really learned? I can tell you that. Pretty much nothing that hasn’t been impressed upon me repeatedly since I was a child. I can’t tell you the first thing about biology or chemistry until prompted and even then, I’ll only remember the idea or concept but have no clue how to do it. I know my metaphors and similes but I still have trouble with a chiasmus ( according to Google, reversing the order of sentences. i.e. ‘Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.’ ). I remember some history, mostly the ones that have been beaten into me since I was a child and I remember none of the facts only the ideas and whatnot. As for math…well, considering that it all builds, I remember the majority of what I learned thankfully but if I had left math for a year there’s no guarantee that I’d still know my algebra let alone my logarithmic functions. I can pretty much safely say that almost everything I learn this year will be gone the next if I don’t apply it in life, something I’ve been doing through jokes and discussions ( surprisingly, my friends and I are turning out to be quite philosophical. hooray! ).

I have a system for learning, it’s something that’s been in place since middle school, since elementary school really. When a test comes up, I memorize what I need to, take the test, and forget. So if I were to take a standardized ninth grade test in science or geometry ( because let’s be honest, english is pretty much the same every year ), I would probably pass simply because of logical deduction but definitely not with flying colors. Maybe you’d say that not everybody is like that, and I’m sure that’s true, but at the same time, it’s pretty indicative that our smartest student in America has a pretty low standing globally, this, the student who probably remembers everything they’ve ever learned, can’t even get us into the top ten

So what is the best way to teach us? I can’t answer that very well. After all, who knows? I just know that the way things are now is the wrong way. Sitting in class and listening to the teacher is all well and good but at the end of the day, you sit with a bunch of notes that you will never read again. So what do I think is the best way to get us to learn our English, Math, Science, and Social Studies? Talk to us. In my AP statistics class, we don’t talk very much about statistics ( our teacher is very chillax ) and much of the conversation – in my sphere of the class anyway – turns to different subjects, mostly education because as seniors that’s what we’re worried about most and we do touch on other subjects. In that class, even though I haven’t learned as much about Statistics as I should have, I have learned – and remembered – much more about socialism vs. communism vs. capitalism, about the state of affairs in Africa ( that has a lot to do with my friend’s love of the continent ), about the meaning of life and our role in it. So maybe talk about that. Believe it or not, these bratty, spoiled teenagers are actually pretty interested in that kind of thing. And hey, how about letting us think for once instead of teaching us to wait for the right answer? I can tell that my teachers are frustrated with the lack of response that they get when they ask questions but it’s only because we’ve been taught over time that people will laugh at us if we’re wrong and it’s so much easier to be quiet and wait. If we interrupt, maybe that’s a good thing and not a sign of disrespect like so many seem to believe. 

What’s wrong with the system? I don’t know all the details. But I do know that for many, it starts with two things. Tests and teachers. Stop it with the testing. It’s not helping and if other countries can do without it and still be better than us, that obviously means we can do without it too. As for teachers, how about getting us some that both care and teach? I had one that was always talking about how much he wanted us to learn and love math but when it came right down to it, he’d either talk about everything but math or go on and on about one detail that the whole class already got. Now he’s something of a laughingstock among us students and we’re all waiting for him to retire with eagerness in our hearts. As for tenure…I honestly believe that teacher unions are acting selfishly on their part to keep wanting to keep it. If it’s more important to keep paying a bad teacher instead of firing him, doesn’t that say something about our education? 

And back to my original question. How important is education anyway? Important in that it will train us for our career, but not so important that we should be crying about it. That’s for sure. And certainly not as important as other things in life. Like say enjoying life once in awhile.

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