Monday, April 2, 2012

Teen Who Left School Explains Its Flaws

Guest post by Line Dale - 14 years old | Cross posted at Writing is Fun
Updated by author - April 3rd


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 written 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 are examples:
  • 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.

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Line Dalile, is a homeschooled teenager. She is a Tedx speaker, a passionate writer, published author, and poet who is interested in education reform and learning. You can read Line's blog here. You can read more about Line here.
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