We all Strive to Stand Out

As humans we strive to make ourselves standout. To be known for something, to feel confident about something, but really, just to feel as if we have a place and purpose. In school, I, as well as many other kids, only have 3 main routes to making ourselves our own person. Grades, school sponsored extra-curricular activities, and the courses we choose.

We all strive to make ourselves our own person. But how can we do this in a system of such formality, where scores and participation is the only distinction in people. We all are so much more than “scores and extra-curriculars”.

My point is that the institutions we find in a school only work to artificially separate (I use separate negatively) us. Being the best, participating in such and such, these are cool things, but it really isn’t setting you apart, it isn’t making yourself your own person. To do that we have to find our own path. Almost never do you hear people talking about how they found their true passions in school.

The insights most people get from life don’t come from school, they come from living. School has to evolve into a place where kids can find their passions their own way. School shouldn’t be a path, because learning is an off road endeavor. Passions and dreams are about finding yourself. School has to become a place to do that.

Extra-curricular activities are a great thing. I run cross country and track all year and I love it. It keeps me in shape, healthy and therefore confident. But in some cases, kids merely participate in these kinds of activities with the rationale of “it looks good for college”. Where is the love of something when all we do is for the purpose of college admissions?

Besides this point, the officiality behind the “club credit” and become president, secretary, treasurer, head of this, head of that, etc. It is enough to drive everyone crazy. People run for head’s of clubs merely because that will “look good for college”. Not only is that a waste of their own time, but it also turns these clubs into a place only for competition rather than a place to find like minded people and develop skills and thinking.

Clubs don’t exist to draw lines between people. They exist to help people delve into interests. Many clubs in their current form, don’t help people become who they are. They help people amp up their reputations and resumes, but for the kids who have true passions in something, many clubs are a far cry from helping them feel purposeful.

Course selection too is a big thing. AP, honors, college level, advanced, regents level, remedial, gosh. . . the stigma surrounding each of these is just annoying to think about. This past year I decided not to take the AP level social studies class. Many people said “What?? you’re not taking AP?? Slacker!!”

I didn’t take AP because I felt that I would get more out of a class that didn’t stress multiple choice tests and instead stressed writing and analyzation. People take many classes merely because some “look better” than others. Why is something like this one of the only ways to differentiate ourselves? Yes, maybe course selection can tell about somebody’s interests, but again, there is so much more to a person. People aren’t cut and dry and this system I feel doesn’t account for the human thought and interaction that make us all who we are. We all have passions and dreams. But who is to know that I am any different from the kid sitting next to me in math class? He has dreams, so do I. How do all of these levels of classes help us feel out who we are and make us feel purposeful? Plain and simply, they don’t.

Grades and scores is the final way in which we try to differentiate ourselves. Valedictorian! 2300 on your SATs?! Honor Roll! 5 on your AP test! 99 on my math midterm! Gosh a lot of this just makes me sick. Do you see a person behind any of these exclamations? Do you see a dream? A passion? An interest? A human?

I don’t understand why any of these exclamations matter in our world more than me stating “I love exploring a new place and connecting with the people who make that place unique”. Maybe my statement is a cliche, but it is a passion of mine, an interest, a dream.

Do you see a passion in someone who says they got a 5 on an AP test? What do I learn about myself if I get a good score in one thing? Maybe that I am a better test taker in one thing, and that is about it. These tests are passionless. No one comes out of an AP class and feels a purpose or a connection. These classes don’t help us find ourselves.

All we give people in school to differentiate themselves are things like grades, their course selection, and official bureaucratic clubs that too often make up our school. You know me. I’m not one to say “I feel like a number”. But we all strive to feel like humans. Where in school do we have that chance to make ourselves our own besides in the official settings that school allots us? This officiality and this measurement is stopping us from following the passions we deem important. These formal transcripts of our classes and the grades we received, they don’t tell us about a person.

We have to let kids develop their own way of making themselves their own people. Lets step back, stop giving them set in stone paths. Let us figure out what we love, what our dreams are, what we want to do. We will set ourselves apart by following our dreams and our passions. We by going along with formality that has been around all too long.

Our development, our learning, our growth is messy. It isn’t official. It isn’t set in stone. It doesn’t follow a path. We all have to find our own path. It is different in every person. We are all different people, and understanding and loving that, is how we will love each other.

  1. John said:


    Two things.

    1. While I completely agree with your views on the current state of education, the sad truth is that it will likely remain the way it is for a while. The human mind is programmed to evaluate others both qualitatively and quantitatively. Alas, as has been demonstrated, it is much more efficient and cost-effective to weigh others’ intelligence in the latter manner. Tests like the SAT, APs, etc., although theymay not be the best mediums to quantify intelligence, certainly do a good job of gauging a student’s knowledge and problem-solving skills.

    2. I find boasting, whether about grades or scores on standardized tests, to be irreproachable. One should be humbled by one’s accomplishments and informed by one’s shortcomings.

    • John, I don’t disagree with you.

      These problems are of course complicated but where I disagree with you, is saying it will remain the way it is for a while.

      While the system is the system, rethinking our attitudes can help change things. We all judge of course, but the manner in which we judge must change. For instance, why does an art student get a letter grade on their project? Why does must an art student take a test at the end of the semester? Couldn’t an art student be better “evaluated” maybe with a portfolio approach? Judging and evaluating, in my opinion, exist to offer advice, show your shortcomings, show your strengths, and that really is the extent to where I believe evaluation should exist.

      Of course in our system that isn’t possible. Colleges need transcripts, high schools need class rank, etc. But I want to change all of that.

      • John said:

        I appreciate your sentiment, but you’re romanticizing way too much. Your art example can only go so far. How would a student demonstrate his or her prowess in mathematics or science? You might that this student could create a math/science portfolio, but this, assuming the student in question is in a high school math/science curriculum, would not go far. These are subjects that, for the most part, can only be evaluated in a quantitative manner.

        It’s upsetting to think that 4 years of hard work can be summed up on 1 sheet of paper, but such is life.

      • I am idealist and a proud one.

        Learning is a personal thing, and as such it must be treated as personal. For some kids maybe this is a project, or a research endeavor. Whatever it is. Learning comes in all forms, we can’t just evaluate all kids. Then we simplify the beautiful process that is learning. Maybe this is romanticizing, but learning is beautiful.

      • Ah yes. I wish more people were idealists.

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