Today, I want to talk about school (specifically high school). I have been reading several articles on the Anarchist Library site about schooling and how it harms kids/teens, and I would like to talk about my experiences with schooling and some problems I have with it. Keep in mind that I am an American writing about the American school system. I am not sure if all of the things I mention here apply to other countries.
One problem I have with schooling is that it strips students of their natural creativity and, in general, saps them of the motivation to do anything that is not school-related. The school, as an institution, is less focused on nurturing the creativity of students and more focused on shaping students into perfect workers. If the school system cared about nurturing students' natural creativity, it would not force students to take classes that they don't care about at all. I have wasted so many years of my life partaking in classes that have taught me NOTHING. I cannot recall a single thing I learned in my freshman year biology class or my junior year math class. Every time I think about how much time I wasted in those classes, I wonder how different my life would be now if I had just had all those wasted hours to myself. I could have spent those hours partaking in my hobbies and honing various skills. I know for a fact that when I finally graduate high school, I will not be able to recall most of what I learned during the years. Even when students are allowed to take classes that align more with their personal interests, they are often forced to partake in projects that they don't want to do.
From a young age, students are forced to answer the question of what they want to be when they grow up. If they do not know the answer to this question, they are forced to answer it anyway. When students are first funneled into the school system, they are self-guided and of the belief that they can do anything they want to. By the time they leave the school system, however, they are often burnt out, cynical, and of the belief that spending 35 or so hours a week doing nothing but slaving away on mindless tasks is completely normal. Because students spend so much time doing homework and thinking about school, they don't get the time to truly indulge in their hobbies. For a lot of students, homework is a real motivation killer. Also, I would like to mention that the school system's focus on college and careers instead of the student as an individual is really alienating and dehumanizing. I am a student who has absolutely no interest in a career and who doesn't really know what they want to do after high school. I often feel alienated from my other peers because all of them want or have jobs, want or have a car, and have a plan for college. I neither have nor want any of these things. On top of this, my school is extremely focused on preparing kids for college. Sometimes, it feels less like I am attending school to learn things and more like I am attending it simply to get ready for college.
Another problem I have with the school system is the way it forces students to be obedient. We are made to follow rules that are only in place to desensitize us to the grueling nature of the workforce so that when we do eventually get a job, we can get through that job with no issues. We are supposed to go to our next class when the bell tells us to, walk in single file lines (at least in elementary school), get good grades, get to class on time, beg to use the bathroom and drink water, and, in general, do absolutely nothing wrong. If you make one mistake, you could be treated like a criminal by school security officers, get detention, or, in some cases, get suspended from the school entirely. Students who get in trouble are often treated as though they are lesser than other students, even though there are a lot of reasons why a student could be "acting out."
As I briefly mentioned in the paragraph above, students are supposed to always have good grades. This brings me to my next problem with the school system: The fact that grades are treated as though they are everything. Those in charge of the school system have managed to convince students that if they have a number or letter on their report card that isn't considered a "good" letter or number, they are automatically dumb. Placement test scores work in a similar way. Every year, students have to take placement tests that are supposed to tell us if we are smart or not. These tests use certain numbers to try and explain how smart a student is. Even though placement tests are not a good measure of how smart somebody is, they are treated as if they are. Since placement tests are often timed, students do not get enough time to answer every question thoroughly and completely. Last year, I had to take the SAT. One portion of the SAT told me to write a timed essay about a topic that I did not know much about but was willing to try and understand. If the essay wasn't timed, I would have been able to write a beautiful, thorough, and thought-provoking essay. Because the essay was timed, however, I was unable to do a deep dive into the topic I was writing about. Because of this, I scored lower than I would have liked to on the writing portion of the SAT. Writing is supposed to be an art form. I hate that timed writing has turned this art form into a competition. But hey, that's capitalism for you. Everything that capitalism touches turns to shit.
One last problem I have with the school system is the inherent racism baked into the curriculum of every school. American history classes are often taught from the perspective of the white man, even when students learn about racism, slavery, or social justice movements led by BIPOC. Hell, even the things we learn in other classes are all white-centric! Not to mention, students are not really taught multiple languages from a young age (even though knowing multiple languages is extremely beneficial and Spanish is the second most spoken language in the US). We are all taught to speak, think, and write in English. Students who don't speak English as a first language are forced to learn it from a young age. For most people, language classes are optional. I only got into a Spanish class in 7th grade, and that was because I had a good GPA and was therefore allowed into the class. Basically, the first school district I was a part of, as good as it was, forced non-native English speakers to learn English from a young age but then reserved Spanish classes for those who were able to maintain a good GPA. I am a relatively well-off white person who speaks English as a native language. I have chosen to take Spanish ever since I was accepted into that Spanish class in 7th grade, but I do wish more people had the opportunity to take that class (especially those who were forced to stop speaking their language and wanted to relearn it). I just believe that all students should be taught Spanish and English from an early age.
I will continue to work on this over the next few days because I am getting tired of writing right now. I know some parts have grammar errors and sound a little ramble-y. My apologies.