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Leadership and Activism, Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings, Student Voices

A Dictator Unwilling to Step Down

I speak about education from an unflattering point of view, maybe because it is destroying our fascinating, curious minds.

I don’t claim to be an expert in education, I am still a student and I speak for myself. I believe that students should have a voice in the education system today, because mainly they are the ones who are being educated. The control of education should be in the hands of students. They should be centered first and foremost.

Many people have wrote about ways to change education, but what good has it done if we are leaving out the voice of the students?

Years continue to pass, some students graduate, some fail out, some drop out and nothing really changes. The education system reminds me of a dictator that is unwilling to step down.

Now I’m aware no education system is perfect. In fact, I believe all education systems in the world are the same. We memorize, teach/study for the test, and forget, only to know ten years later what an atrocious world we have been creating.

As a student I have the rights to share my thoughts and ideas about education. I feel strongly that our methods in schools are destroying creativity. Students have lost their capacity of creation, simply because our teaching methods didn’t stimulate innovation and creativity. With every minute that passes, we should be aware that we are creating robots.

I remember being a kid, wanting to play around. No one told me “how” to use my imagination or taught me how to be creative. I played with LEGOS. I pretended to be an astronaut, and imagined jumping on the moon while traveling from galaxy to another. I was naturally creative.
I asked questions like “Why is the grass green?” “Why do fish swim in the water?” “Are we alone?” questions that a wise man cannot answer.

Then came school, famously known as the child’s worst nightmare. I learned to live in a rotten environment, and my classmates made fun of me because I was different and worst of all, I had this teacher that told me to stop dreaming and live in the real world. So what did I learn at school? I learned to stop questioning the world, to go with the flow, and there is only one right answer to each question, circle the correct bubble and I’ll will get an A.

The “whys” I have always wanted to ask are never on the test, and they are omitted from the curriculum.

Creativity isn’t a test to take, it is not a skill to learn, and it is not a program to develop. Creativity is seeing things in new ways, breaking barriers that stood in front of you for some time. Creativity is the art of hearing a song that has never been written, or seeing a work of art on empty canvas. Its essence is in its freshness and the ability to make dreams come to life.

Imagine this: A normal classroom with cheerful faces. Students’ excitement to start school ignites the classroom. The teacher stands up and asks the students to draw a tree. Some students were highly talented, others were okay, and some students couldn’t give a visual figure of a tree. Then the teacher comes up and rates every student’s work. Some students get A+, some get D and others get a big fat F.

Those students who got A’s now believe in their highly talented, artistic skills, but those who got F… well, they start to think they are losers, failures, and their works is just rubbish.

From this “Draw a Tree” assignment, creativity starts to linger in the air and then, by time, fade. This is why many adults say “I can’t draw!” Yes, the answer comes from the schools.

In school, children are “taught” to draw careful shapes like a “perfect” triangle, circle and a square. Everything is “properly” drawn. Whenever a child attempts to color something, the teacher screams in panic “Do NOT color outside the lines!”

I’m not writing about art specifically, I’m talking about creativity generally in every field. Schools in general don’t recognize creativity, what’s worse is that they destroy it. Here’s a proof:

– Thomas Edison’s teacher told him he was “too stupid to learn anything.”
– Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 and did not read until he was 7. One of his teachers described him as being “mentally slow, unsociable, and drift forever in foolish dreams.”
-Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him “hopeless as a composer.”

In the 21st century the world demands students who can think creatively and critically. As technology develops, we will have robots to do all the basic work for us. However, it is our mission to ensure that the next generation will be full of inventors, musicians, painters, mathematicians who will, in turn, bring humanity to a whole other level.

Sir Ken Robinson said in his TED Talk “Schools kill creativity” that in school instead of growing into creativity, we grow out of it. Students all over the world have had more years of schooling than they care to count. During this process, students are taught that making a mistake is a sin. How are students going to learn if they don’t make mistakes? We have planted in our students’ minds a picture of a perfectly, carefully drawn life.

I go golfing every day, and for those of you who are familiar with golfing vocabularies you’ll understand what I mean. Sometimes when I’m putting I focus too much on the line and suddenly forget where I was aiming. The same thing is being applied to schools. We focus too much on standardized testing and grades that we forget what the real aim of education is.

Today’s education system is taking the beauty out of learning.

Diminishing creativity from our student’s mind is a serious flaw with a wide-reaching effect.

How exactly are schools diminishing creativity?

We learn that being “good” means sitting still and nodding yes, while being “bad” means challenging the status quo and attempting to do things differently.

The cycle of sitting still, memorizing, testing and getting a job have existed for a long time now and few dared to challenge it. However, those who dared to drop-out of school and challenge the status quo like Albert Einstein, the Wright brothers, and Walt Disney have changed the course of history.

I understand that memorizing is the fastest way to get good grades, get into a good college, and get a job = Good Life. We are being educated for the promise of money. As a student I know one thing for sure: I never want to be a product living my life in a factory. I want to cherish my brilliant mind. I want to imagine, to create, to be the best I can possibly be. I never want to be a robot. I want to argue, to challenge and define the impossible. I cannot possibly let you assemble my life.

Youth have fresh original ideas, but we cannot express them because we are not given a voice. Our voices have been stolen.

How do we expect students to be creative if we give them the outline, the title, the structure of their “free, creative writing assignment?” We give students model answers to memorize, we give a specific title to write a poem about, and we truly give them everything but freedom to express their ideas. I have lost marks when I was in school because I was simply “writing my opinion”.

While teachers complain that students are spending an awful time on social networking, they forget to mention that this is the only way we, the students, can get our voice heard.

Education isn’t facts being stored in our minds so we can get tested. Education is the beauty to nurture creativity, to fuel curiosity and most importantly to create a well-rounded person.

America is battling its way out to the top and promising that no child will be left behind. Behind this competition, we forget the purpose of education. Schools become business, and factories where children come out as pale as ghosts with everything being structured “perfectly” and “properly” in their minds.

Somewhere in our race and pursuit of meaningless papers, diplomas and money, we have lost the true meaning of being educated.

During our insane worship to win the race, during our mad love to become number one, we forget that our schools are raising children that are racing to No-where.


5 thoughts on “A Dictator Unwilling to Step Down

  1. Every administrator, every teacher, every parent, every reformer, every politician, and every venture philanthropist needs to read this AND THEN RESOLVE TO WORK WITH OTHERS TO GET IT GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION – involving the students as noted in the posting!

    And don’t suggest that all we need to do is reverse what we’ve been doing lately and all will be well. I often quote Albert Einstein: “INSANITY: Doing a thing over and over and expecting different outcomes.” AND “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

    Education is broken. The youngsters that are so filled with curiosity, creativity, and a thirst for learning see a concerted effort to kill those desires in favor of the nineteenth century model seeking to yield unquestioning factory workers – in all too many schools (but of course not all, fortunately). It’s like a student usually having to succeed in spite of schooling. Two other Einstein quotes: “I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide conditions in which they can learn.” AND “Imagination is much more important than knowledge …”

    Let’s resolve an an interested and engaged community of lifelong learners to work with all interested parties – students most surely included – to begin to honestly address the problems.

    Posted by John Bennett | April 1, 2012, 5:59 pm
  2. I agree with your article.
    I am a student in High School at the moment, and I feel like I have no outlets for my ideas and creativity.
    I am a thinker, and I love to express my creativity, but lately I feel like I have been trained into not even following my creative thoughts and impulses to a degree resembling manifestation.
    We are told what we will and will not discuss, there is no time for free-thinking, no time for true growth.
    And what’s worse, often we are forced to follow a strict and linear, unflexible and unrealisitic, curriculum.
    I find that the creativity and innovation to continually improve things is removed so far from our curriculum that even the organizations of education have ceased to actively innovate and see the wonder in being human, in having the ability to see and think outside of the box, being able to realize that the way things are is not the way they have to be.
    Teachers and school districts are not flexible, not imaginative, and quite frankly are failing to nourish the qualities and talents of their students.
    I think those youth who fail in school and yet succeed in life succeed because they devote their time in their youth cultivating those talents and things that they hold dear to themselves, and I believe that there is something far more contemplatively devious behind the structure and whole ecosystem of education in America.
    It’s very possible that the effect of removing and restricting creativity, of prescribing pre-established “good” modes of thought, was intended by whatever entities designed the school system.
    I am not suggesting a conspiracy theory, although you can be certain that conspiracies do exist whether or not they have been given a “taboo” status, but merely suggesting that it would be beneficial for the survival of those existing modes of thought, entities, and rules if the new generations were trained to be “robots” with certain things predesignated to be programmed into them.
    The easiest way to remove a threat is to control it before it begins to become threatening.
    Meh, these are just my thoughts and opinions.
    I enjoyed your article,

    ~Vopinhimer Dodon

    Posted by Vopinhimer Dodon | April 1, 2012, 6:43 pm
  3. I agree with you wholeheartedly. School isn’t doing what it’s supposed to. In the race to get into college, get a job and “succeed” in life, we’ve forgotten the true purpose. We aren’t able to genuinely learn at school, because what is taught is merely useless facts, meant to swallow then spit back out. No deep meaning is instilled, because our goal is to pass the test. To me, this is sad. Few people learn to know anymore, they go to school solely because it’s required. They go through the motions of learning, but it’s all a facade. And people wonder why students in the U.S aren’t getting the jobs they want? It’s inpart because the education they actually have, doesn’t match up to the education they have on paper…and it shows in the real world. Regurgitation of material can allow students to pass the test, but in the real scheme of things, that’s not the ultimate goal. The real test should be if students can apply the material in a situation where it’s called for, even if *gasp* this ocassion doesn’t arise in the same course.

    Students are beginning to recognize these things and should let their teachers hear their views. #Studentsunite Together, we can make a change.

    Posted by Tara S | April 2, 2012, 9:46 pm
  4. I love this:

    I am still a student and I speak for myself

    As a former true-believer in schooling and its status quo, I find it heartening to read current students who are saying now what it took me well over a decade to discover after leaving school as a “successful” student.

    How can we help #studentsunite? Would it be useful to host a campaign here? Have you found the Youth Voices community? I think that space would be a supportive one of the organizing and voicing we need to change education.

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | April 3, 2012, 9:45 am
  5. This article is also posted on Huffington Post. Would be good to join the conversation there too!

    Posted by dloitz | April 12, 2012, 2:53 am

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