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Guest Posts, Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings, Student Voices

Learning to Think and Question (By Student Christian Isaac)

dunce_capThe way we chastise or praise students at schools today is two laughs beyond hysterical. We’ve been raised to think that the most intelligent students are the ones who turn in their homework on time and fill in all the blanks on their notes. Society has gone so far, and has been so emaciated by time and control, that we put the students who waste most of their time doing busy work on a pedestal. America has been so educationally warped, that we slam our mandibles on the floor when a student gets all A’s. I’ll tell you that being an “excellent student” is one of the worst and easiest things a child can do.

There’s a formula that all the “advanced” students recognize; copy, cram, exam, repeat, graduate. It is a formula created by the Teacher’s need to produce numbers out of you to give to the next guy up. When we commit to this formula, we give in to the systematic transport of filled bubbles on our paper to files in someone’s cabinet. We, as students, are typically comfortable with this formula, for it provides safety and certainty. We KNOW that we can memorize the test review tonight and ace the test tomorrow, and this is an assurance we adore because it guarantees the future. We are masters of this formula, and we think that because we can produce these high test scores, that we have reached capacity. Intelligence goes beyond a 100.

 I used to give in. I used to have a 4.0 GPA. I used to do ALL of my homework. I used to copy ALL of the PowerPoint notes. I used to turn in ALL my work on time. I used to feel on the top of the world when I got an A on exam or a paper. Then it hit me. Then I asked one simple question, “why?” I started to wonder what this was supposed to do to me. I had a 4.0 GPA, but I have never been, nor will ever be, a perfect student. I don’t even consider myself smart for having those high grades because it was so simple to me—just do all the work and “Wow! You’re a genius! You memorized a word on a paper and saw the same word on another paper, and WOW! You somehow managed to make this Einstein level connection to get an A on your tests! WOW! You sure are one heck of a scholar Mr. Isaac! I mean just OH MY GOSH. You can get into any university you want for this amazing feat! I can’t believe you can actually memorize words like that! Kudos to you, Good Student!” This realization that, to a school’s eyes, I was someone more intelligent than another individual who had lower grades upset me. I was no more deserving a teen for giving in. I was no more entitled to be more successful of a person than someone who didn’t care to memorize words.

 So I became enlightened. Light broke in upon me by degrees, as light broke into Frederick Douglass when he became literate. Just as he did, I realized how enslaved and oppressed my peers are, and how we’ve become “beasts” because of our own obliviousness to our slavery.  We are animals who don’t know any better, leashed by years of obedience training. These students, whom America considers the most scholarly, are the students who are the most willing of slaves- Valedictorians absolutely love to be slaves to their education!  I, like Frederick Douglass witnessing the mindless oppression of his brethren, witness my fellow pupils to be “beasts” who are unaware of their own condition because they have yet to be enlightened by the truth of educational literacy. The notion brings me agony! Slaves liberated themselves by learning to read and write. Students will liberate themselves by learning to think and question. For the sake of my fellow subjugates, let’s break the chains of the intellectual oppression which we endure to finally set free our essence from educational slavery!


Christian Isaac is a Hispanic high school junior from San Antonio Texas who leads The Movement and likes to do things differently. He believes in a quality education for every student in America, and plans to make a reality of his dream to transform education.




7 thoughts on “Learning to Think and Question (By Student Christian Isaac)

  1. Very well written. Excellent argument against ‘old school’ learning. I’d love to see the next piece, equally as compelling, and sharing what ‘freedom’ looks like.

    Posted by David Truss | December 5, 2012, 3:15 am
  2. Your first paragraph sums it up. We are still caught in a 19th Century Industrial Age model of education that produces good and obedient workers rather than creative and critical thinkers. The learner and teacher of the 21st Century need to be comfortable with ambiguity, uncertainty, and unanswerable questions. We are completing surveys and the questions focus on 19th Century learning, but our jurisdiction lauds itself as an innovative place. If this is innovation, I don’t want to see retrograde education.

    Posted by ivonprefontaine | December 5, 2012, 9:53 am
  3. Everything you have said here has a great deal of merit, but I feel that your idea of “casting off the shackles” of the “old way” of education is impractical. All of the “busy work” that students do in class or for homework serves as repetition so the students will remember the information. I believe a certain amount of that repetition should be maintained so the students retain the knowledge. However, you are absolutely correct in saying that critical thinking and a questioning nature are two ideas that students should strive for. In order to think critically about something and question its processes though, a student must have a cursory knowledge of the topic. So the real issue becomes making this “busy work” more meaningful. In order for the work to be meaningful, the students need to have an idea of where the light at the end of the tunnel gets them. So teachers need to teach with the end in mind while being sure that the road to that end is clear and that every step on the road counts. The students need to keep their eyes on the prize and be willing to question anything that seems interesting on the shoulder of the road.

    Posted by Stephen Benton | December 5, 2012, 3:29 pm
  4. It is fair to defy the wrong! I agree. Education needs to align with the times!

    Posted by Christian Isaac | December 5, 2012, 11:29 pm


  1. Pingback: Learning to Think and Question (By Student Christian Isaac) | Middle School Stuff | - December 5, 2012

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