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It’s not that education’s bad because, in principle, it’s not. We need to learn, to grow, to expand our minds and understanding. Education is good. School is bad.
I get it.
The issue with education is the school system. Don’t try to deny it. When I was at school, I was looking through rose-tinted glasses, as were most of us. Why? Well, we were shoved into some form of education, like nursery or preschool, just after we learned to walk. We knew no better. We hated school, yet we were told we had to go by our parents who were also told that by their parents, and so on. It’s mandatory. It’s expected.
It’s only with hindsight that I’ve realised how fucked up the educational system is. Perhaps, in order to survive back then, we had to be naïve for a while. Maybe it was just me.
Somehow, I doubt it.
The first issue with education is the pressure. Teenagers and young adults have pressure piled on to perform well, to get the grades that will define their futures. They’re kids, for fuck’s sake. You have your whole lives ahead of you. No matter what your math teacher tells you, the only reason you’ll need to know how to solve an equation where "x equals 5 and y equals ten apples that Sardeep has" is if you’re going to be a maths teacher or an intellectual. Nobody needs it, not in the real, mundane world, anyway.
School does not define you. Your grades do not define who you are as a person. Yet we are told that it does, and then wonder why so many students struggle with their mental health. Coincidence? I think not. Do your best and be proud of it, no matter what anyone says. Believe me. Everything works out. Eventually.
The second problem with school is the system itself. Um, hello? Not everyone is academically inclined, not in the ‘traditional’ sense, anyway. Some are better at art, or music, or IT, or PE, or food-tech, or wood-tech, or any of the other techs. Just because some do not perform as well as others in English or Maths or Science doesn’t make them of any less worth. Their creativity should be celebrated, not frowned upon. They should be encouraged to pursue what they’re good at instead of shoved into a collective known as the people that need to do better. Stop. Just stop.
Another issue is the labels. Oh, man. The labels. You have the ‘stupid’ classes, the lower sets, and the higher classes, those that will be the next Stephen Hawking. Fat chance, though, of course, it is possible. I understand that people have to be separated in order to focus their learning to their abilities, but can we stop inflating the egos of some and diminishing that of others? It’s insulting. Guess what? Your ability to know Hamlet by heart does not make you any better than anyone else.
Am I saying that those who are smart shouldn’t be celebrated? Of course not. Everyone deserves praise when they’ve done something good and discipline when they’ve done something wrong. And, in my case, all of the smart-asses were horrible.
That leads me on nicely to the third fundamental issue: what we are taught. Never again have I needed to study in-depth one of Picasso’s pieces of art. What I do need to know : Taxes, mortgages, how to prepare a meal without scalding myself, how to choose the right broadband, how to function in the real world, is skimmed over in a CPSHE lesson where the teacher’s gaze glazes over and he looks dead behind the eyes. We need education on mental health, on how to be financially smart, on how to perform CPR. We need basic skills.
The most important issue with education is the lack of support. I mean genuine support. It’s hard. It’s a time full of change. It isn’t easy. People are mean. It’s a miniature Hunger Games. We need more understanding on mental health issues, how to cope, and where to get support. What we don’t need is one assembly per year covering the topic in ten minutes and a school counsellor that sighs whenever someone knocks on the door, looks them over once, listens to them for a few minutes and then concludes that they’re fine. Health issues, as well as other topics often avoided, like sex education and gender identity, should be touched on in primary/middle school. I started learning French in Year Two. I don’t remember a thing. What I do remember is that, a few years later, everyone was obsessing about someone in our year because his parents were getting divorced and it was unheard of. Teach. The. Important. Stuff. Please.
At the end of the day, nobody is going to be completely happy with the educational system. That’s life, I guess. But what we can all agree on is that it needs some drastic improvement. It needs an overhaul.
Remember: Education is good. School is bad.