saw a schooling rant like this on another page yesterday, and got inspired. here's my take on the issue:


What is our obsession with being the best? Eveyone wants to have the most money, the fastest car, the "healthiest" body, the brightest children. We all want people to think we're wonderfully together and happy and in control, even if we're not (and who is?). This sense of "keeping up with the Joneses" is grained into us from early childhood, when we're pushed into toilet training and learning to share and read. The pressure increases through our school years and seems to reach a fever pitch by high school. Grade inflation runs rampant - everybody wants that A, and if they don't get it their parents will want to know why - and even freshmen are urged to take classes that will "look good on your transcript."

What happened to childhood? Studies show that teenagers need more sleep than other age groups, and that we are predisposed to be nocturnal. The whole "stay up late and sleep 'till afternoon" image of teenagers isn't an act of rebellion, but a natural pattern that teenagers tend to fall into. Having us wake up at the crack of dawn (often dressing in the dark on chilly winter mornings) to stagger into school by seven thirty and then expecting us to absorb knowledge - and be thankful for it - is unrealistic at best.

A school is not a factory, with teachers molding their unwilling products into quality goods, ready to be stacked on grocery store shelves and fulfil their allotted functions. But schools often resemble factories, or prisons, or other places no one willingly enters unless he has to. They are generally brick and cement boxes with few or no windows and harsh artificial lighting which overcharge for institutional food which must be eaten in the requisite half hour before the herd migration back into our cages. The teachers' attempts to "brighten" and de-institutionalize the classrooms with posters and projects (usually sporting cheesy slogans like "smoking stinks!" or "no hablas cuando el profesor està hablando") are sad and almost laughable. My own school is painted several lovely shades: vomit pink, vomit green, vomit brown, and vomit orange. This provides quite a wonderful learning environment.

While cooped in this hideous dungeon, we are forced to sit in butt- numbing chairs arranged in rows as we listen to the teacher scramble to fit her lesson into the required fifty-eight minutes. When the bell rings, we all leap to our feet (emerging miraculously from our catatonia) and stampede out the door, hoping to enjoy some form of human interaction before bolting to the next class for fifty-eight minutes of brain-melting, note-scribbling boredom. Repeat this six times a day, five days a week, for at least eight years (middle school and high school, that is - elementary school was pretty dern fun).

There are many jokes made about students "learning" information, regurgitating it into an exam book in a sticky wet heap, and promptly forgetting it again. But every joke is based on some grain of observed reality, and this one is no exception. Our heads are stuffed with mostly-useless information, and if we didn't drain most of it out to make room for the new, our heads would explode. It's a frightening thought - hundreds of sticky student brains bursting through their skulls and plastering school walls all over the world.

What can't be fit into class time becomes, of course, homework. This is even more dreaded than the classes themselves, because not only does it infringe upon (take over, really) our "free" time, but there's no limit to it. Particularly vicious teachers can vent their frustrations on suffering children and embark on wild power trips just before the end-of-class bell rings. I know kids who work until midnight, sleep a few hours, and wake up at 4am to do some more work. What's wrong with this picture?! As I said, it's a well-known fact that teenagers need more sleep than any other age group, yet we're the ones who are forced to roll out of bed at dawn, and then to stay up late by slave-driving sports coaches and theater directors as well as too much homework. It's insane.

And people wonder why teenagers are so "rebellious." Why would we want to conform to a system that treats us like shit? And besides, it's tough to be civil when you've only gotten four hours of sleep a night for the past six months. All I'm saying is, a little school reform goes a long way. Be nice to your youth, and the youth will be nice(r) to you in return.

"Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me." ~Zora Neale Hurston (1907 - 1960)


brain | writings | sparkyville

this page by sparky ( )
written 03/17 - 03/31/98