Three Problems with School

Something I hear all too often is how only one or two quick solutions are needed to fix a broken system.  That is not how the world works. You know my big line, everything is complicated. The same is such with our broken system of learning. No one policy is going to create a perfect learning environment. A total change in how we think of school and learning is needed.

I was recently asked what my top three problems are with school. It is hard for me to answer that question because none of school’s problems stand alone. They are all of course interconnected so they must be treated as such. With that said, I will try to write down my three biggest problems with school. I cannot stress this enough. These problems are connected to everything we do in school. They do not stand alone in the system of education, nor do they stand without the problems of society. No quick fix can solve them. There aren’t two sides of a debate on how to fix all of these problems.

This is just me trying to cover the biggest problems with school in a list of three.

1. I believe one of learning’s main goals are to teach people differently and create new types of thinkers. But I feel we stress learning from the standpoint of getting a “good job” and getting into a “good college”. Needless to say, I think that needs to change. Instead of the point of school being to fill the already existing niches of society, school should have a broader goal of creating new, creative, idealist, pragmatic thinkers (the list of words isn’t limited to that). Our world isn’t what any of us want it to be. We have to start with our kids in order to change that. Keeping this same system we’ve had for years, unfortunately, won’t create new kinds of thinkers. Many of our greatest thinkers found formal education to be a waste. While I don’t think any education is a waste, I still believe formal education can change. Change from being “formal” and turn into something that creates a new world. The goal of education can’t be to fill the niches we already have, that is important, but education has to do more. Education’s goal has to be to create new thinkers. That isn’t how to make our world a better place.

2. The attitudes we have towards all things education is a big problem. These attitudes encompass everything, goal of school, role of teachers, the typical classroom, seeing education as a competition, everything. As I’ve already stated, we see education as a race for college and jobs. This of course puts stress on things like grades and tests. In addition to that I think our idea of what the role of a teacher is has to change. How we currently see role of teachers, I feel, isn’t how they should be seen. Teacher’s as of now are seen as the be all end all in learning a certain subject. I’ve heard kids say they hate a certain subject because of a certain teacher. On the other hand, I’ve heard of teachers changing kids lives for the better. Teachers should be the latter. Teachers can’t be the enforcers of a classroom, but a guide. Let us ask questions, let us learn what we want. Don’t relegate teachers to a role of testing technicians but don’t let teachers rule classrooms with an iron fists. The teacher student relationship must be one of learning on both sides. We must change our attitudes towards all aspects of education. Education is different for all kids and that has to be how we see it.

3. Lastly is that I feel like my interests and passions aren’t able to be followed in a place  as official and formal as school. Curriculums, state tests, even planned lessons (only sometimes), can be detrimental to me feeling in charge of my learning. Freedom is one of the biggest things I want in learning. I believe we are naturally curious, but even one our greatest thinker, Albert Einstein believes it is a miracle curiosity can survive formal education. Curiosity isn’t something that has to be built up. It is something we have. Look at baby’s and how they explore the world. I’m not a baby anymore, but I want to explore the world. Our world and our universe are wondrous and exciting, school, to put it plainly, isn’t. Let us follow our curiosity, that is how we will learn best.

As you can see it was hard for me to keep each of these problems confined to one point. They are all interconnected and seeing them as such will help us solve them. All of this takes a dramatic change in our thinking of school and learning.

Learning, along with love of each other, is perhaps the most important part of being alive. Learning is our instinct and our habit. School has become something that ruins that. Let us be curious, let us learn what we want to learn, let us follow our dreams and our passions. That is how we will make our world our own.

  1. Justin,

    So refreshing to see LEARNers (rather than TEACHers) articulating these concerns – even though both sets of us have known these things for years.

    The trick, of course, is how we can both “come together” to co-create something that is “better” – for both of us 😉

    Keep up the good fight, my man 😉


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