Friday, August 13, 2010

Education: It should mean something

More often than not, I'm a poster of few words on this blog. I generally don't use this space to relay my personal opinions about religion, politics, or life in general. Rather I like to make this little blog o' mine a fun, light-hearted place to share tid bits of my awesome life (if I do say so myself) and my small moments of creativity. However, there is this one thing that I love to talk about because I'm gigantically passionate about it - that being this menial little thing we like to call education.

I just graduated last week from the University of Utah with a BS in Communication Technology. I've now spent about 16 years of my life in the public education system and frankly, I've come out pretty disappointed with what it's all taught me. I've never been particularly pleased with my education. I've always been a "good" student, doing what my teachers have told me to do, writing on the topics they have told me to write on, taking what the text books say as fact and not raising any unneccessary questions. I thought I was doing myself a favor by getting all my assignments done on time, studying (aka memorizing lists of facts) hard for my tests and stressing to the point of tears about getting straight A's. But when I graduated from high school, I realized that my 3.97 GPA wasn't going to get me anywhere. I didn't feel any better off than the lowly 3.0 students. I didn't feel any better equipped to enter the "real world" than they were. I realized that my many years of hard work and obedience had all been boiled down into simple numbers. I had successfully learned to be the best slave*.

Having realized this, I went through my college years with a slightly different mindset. For the most part, I was less stressed because I honestly didn't care about my grades. I didn't care about the letter, just as long as I passed. Sure, I always wanted to do better than just pass because that's just my nature, but I had come to the realization that getting that piece of paper, whether it be with all A's or all C's, was the only thing I was working for. Isn't that so sad? That's what our public education system* has boiled down to - passing the test and getting the piece of paper. Heaven forbid anyone teach a student how to be unique, break the mold, and think for herself. No no, that kind of progress would be too difficult to track. We must put a label, a number, a letter ranking on everything our children do lest they be deemed "uneducated."

I've been voicing my frustration about this to a select few friends and family for a while now. But the problem is getting worse. I remember being frustrated in my AP classes in high school because my teachers wouldn't teach us anything that wasn't going to be on the test at the end of the year. From day one, I remember hearing "We don't need to discuss the answer to that question because you won't need to know it for the test," and all I could think was I'm not here to pass a test, I'm here to learn! But learning doesn't go on in our schools anymore. I'm becoming more and more convinced of that.

So now I'm left with the dilemma of what to do with my own children when it's time for them to enter the world of public education. I actually don't ever want them to enter that system and if it's up to me (which it actually is as of now...let's hope that that's not EVER added to the list of freedoms I've lost in this country), they never will. I've been a huge proponent of home schooling for a long time now. A lot of people think I'm crazy for wanting to personally educate my own children. Home schooled kids are geeks and social outcasts, right? People say that like home schooling is the sole ingredient that makes a child "socially awkward" - like those types of kids don't exist in public schools either? In my opinion, it's all about how and not what they are taught. If I teach my children good, strong values and morals, if I teach them how to ask questions and think for themselves, if I teach them that being an individual and having different ways of solving a problem or answering a question than the other kids is ok, then I think they'll turn out alright in my book. Both intellectually and socially. And I think they'll turn out alright in a lot of other people's books as well.

Home schooling my children is going to be A LOT of work and I'm actually pretty intimidated by it. But I'm starting to prepare now and I think in the process, I'll end up finally shaping my own education into what I've always wanted it to be. I don't know how to even go about starting to change the way we are taught in public school. By now, it may be a problem that's just too far gone to ever be fixed. But one thing is for sure, my children are going to know how important their education is to me and they will learn how important it should be to them as well.

*You MUST read these links...MUST I say!