the problem with education

Some people loathe school, and sometimes I do too. At the end of every lesson, I am left thinking: “What’s the point? Why are we coloring? Why are we learning such trivial facts? How does this actually connect to the real world?”

We force high energy children to sit and endure a lengthy school day with only 30-minute recess breaks. We load homework onto high school students that also have to keep up with extra-curriculars and personal responsibilities. Even our “creative” classes like art and wood-shop enforce a rubric. Nowadays, school is becoming a center for stress and uniform thought.

That’s a major flaw in our “prized education system.” I love learning. I love the idea of understanding a concept and applying that knowledge to my life. But sometimes school destroys that fondness; sometimes the strict rubrics and unsympathetic teachers hinder intellectual growth by defining creativity.

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Creativity is boundless. It cannot be measured. Ralph Waldo Emerson once argued in his “Education” noting that when schools attempt to refine a child’s mind, they remove not only the child’s naïvety but also their innovative imagination. The education system deems a child’s unorthodox and wandering thoughts to be dangerous and demands conformity out of fear of being wrong.

At this point, we forget to ask ourselves: “When did originality stop being a good thing?” Teaching creativity is impossible; it’s a natural born gift. To teach a population to be creative would enforce a homogeneous “creativity,” leaving the learned ideas to be mundane and commonplace. We must teach our children to be diverse in thought.

Innovation spurs from creativity, so why are schools so adamant on trying to teach kindergarteners to color a certain way? Why are we hammering such trivial concepts into the brains of our youth? Why aren’t we instructing students on things that matter?

At some point in a child’s academic career, there must be an integration of relevant ideas; at some point, a student should advance from learning the basics of math and biology and literature and everything else to learning how to apply that knowledge to real life.

I have a biology teacher that has a video at the end of every lecture displaying how her lessons are still relevant to current research. Whether it’s a researcher building on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, or new stem cell discoveries, or current paleontology finds, or even something as simple as a red tide, Mrs. Gonzalez doesn’t just break the fourth wall; she shatters it. She actively encourages her students to engage themselves in learning because she emphasizes that what she teaches matters. In an ideal world, every teacher would teach the way Mrs. Gonzalez does and urge their students to love learning.

Teaching students to relate their knowledge to real life situations amplifies the importance of creativity. If students become more aware of the importance what they’re learning, gears will turn in their minds, and ingenious ideas will churn out. This is how you nurture a child’s innovative imagination.

From Isaac Newton to Charles Darwin to Albert Einstein to Alan Turing, all progress in our society has erupted from people being unafraid to be different. We cannot allow our education system to stomp on flowers that are mistaken for weeds. Rooting out those who are different results in the antithesis of the purpose of education: to advance our society. Our curriculums cannot be so inflexible, and our teachers must not be so rigid.

In order to inspire genius, we must encourage nonconformity.

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