I've been grappling with this for some time now. With a majority of my kids in pretty good public schools I think about what they will learn over the course of their 13 year journey and I think about how much of it is actually important for their survival as a person. Not much of it. School is total fucking bullshit and I'll never tell them. I'll keep this secret and let them figure it out later in adulthood like most other people do. What did I learn? I got more out of the relationships built with teachers, mentor and coaches. I learned more from extra-curricular activities like athletic teams, choir, band, volunteering and other endeavors than I got from the actual curriculum itself. I've grappled with the internal struggle of wanting a straight A student who has the pick of the litter at college time to the fully developed B/C student who experiences life and is less stressed out. Being the former I can't say I really wish that for my children.
I had your typical All-American free K-12 education. Nothing fancy, nothing shiny; pretty much a standard for what you think of as a normal public school rearing that encompasses the decade of the 90s. Complete with the first wave of standardized testing, we had your basic tracking system coupled with a dwindling vocational program that served the applicable needs of the blue collar community I loved.
In middle school I recall taking woodworking classes, sewing/home economics and metal class. I loved the variety and the opportunity to explore new interests. I enjoyed meeting new people and making friendships with individuals that I may never have sat with in class ever. Once the end of 8th grade came along it was time for me to "choose". Around that time we took what I will call a "destiny test". We answered questions about our personality and interests... Later I realized it was a formulation of a Myers-Briggs personality test... Well I learned I wanted to run shit, that I should be in charge of myself and I won't be happy unless I'm doing what I love and being creative. Much to my dismay I wasn't the sciencey, engineer that I always thought I would be. So with that information in hand I went on to choose my track which I found out was actually already chosen for me.
Excelling in honors classes since 6th grade, I was put into the AP track. Did I want to do it? Not really. I enjoyed hearing about all of the fun things going on in the auto mechanic, business and marketing programs. But you couldn't mesh these experiences, I was told I had to choose. Why? Why couldn't I learn how to change my own oil, balance a budget or market an idea if those classes were available at my school? I spent the first two years of high school getting most of my requirements out of the way so that I had senior year "off". I knew I was going to a good college and I wanted to make sure I took a break... (College is hard). But all the while I got jealous of basketball teammates who were going on DECA trips or competing at the local vocational shows. They got the day off from school to pursue an interest they loved, cultivate a skill that they could use later, all while I was sitting on my ass talking about comparative political systems from 1890-1950.
Senior year came and I had soooo many extra spaces in my schedule. Instead of filling them with study halls and roaming the halls in my spare time I pursued some of those vocational classes... But I couldn't take them. What the hell? Why not? So instead I took art classes and any electives associated with those programs. You know which classes prepared me the most in high school... the business typing class I took which used Mavis Beacon to teach us to type more than 60 word a minute and the photography elective.
Sounds like I had a pretty chill educational experience, so what's the problem? The problem with my education and much of our educational system is that educated people are full of themselves. We spend so much time analyzing the past, that we think we can use that information to fix the future. WRONG! The future requires us to think about how we want to live tomorrow and it's hard because there's nothing to compare it to. We can't even compare it to right now. The reason school is totally BS is because our outdated way of doing things is stopping us from ever being able to stop and reevaluate to make changes and improvements. We just keep shooting ourselves in the foot. We will continue to stifle our children and drain them of their passions and stuff them full of old useless information until a revolution occurs and disrupts the entire system.
Schools should be a mental sanctuary and a talent dome. We should go to school to learn about life, ourselves and our abilities so we can use that information to make the world a better place. We've got 13 years to develop a mind ripe for cultivating innovative thought and unlimited possibility and society continually fails. I felt cheated. As part of the AP track I was hard pressed to find vocational courses that I was allowed to take. That's a problem. Everyone needs an apprenticed skill or at least some variation of an applicable skillset- it may not be the auto mechanic or cosmetology program, but it could be computer science, videography or web development. Where were the classes that were going to help me achieve all those things I learned about myself during my "destiny test". What skills was I learning to help me become a good leader or innovative thinker? What was teaching me to take risks or follow my instincts or work collaboratively?
I look at my kids and I get more confused as arguments over C3 and Common Core eat away at the possibility of impactful, innovative and globally competitive education. I watch them bring bookbags filled with information they will soon forget and I just whisper to myself... school is total fucking bullshit.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.