Why Our Current Education System Is Failing

WARNING: This post goes against social conditioning and is particularly lengthy: read if you dare.

As my high school career is slowly coming to an end (I graduate June 11th) I have found myself particularly reflective on the value I have received from high-school.

I end my high school career with a sub-par 2.5 G.P.A ,having never received a prestigious academic award, and a quick glance at my attendance record would reveal numerous absences (OK 32 days just this year.)

If I listen to what I have been socially conditioned to believe:

Sub-par grades + no awards +  poor attendance = the end of my life

Right?

I beg to differ.

Chasing The A

For most of my life (along with millions of other students) I have been taught to believe that the secret to a successful life is to get outstanding grades. Slowly over the years however, I have discovered this premise to be completely false.

Luckily, over the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to immerse myself in a variety of empowering perspectives and thus have come to  understand that we are 100 percent responsible for our life.

We can be as happy and as successful as we choose to be. Our attitude, not our grades, determines our success.

I have been fortunate enough  to recognize that education goes beyond just the classroom. Life is our greatest mentor. Unfortunately,  I’m one of the lucky ones.

Myself, along with millions of other students, have failed to apply ourselves, not because we’re not smart enough, not because we don’t care about our future, but because we are tired of being dictated by a system of letters.

Continually brain-washing students into believing good grades are essential in living a successful life, has had some disastrous consequences:

Students are more stressed then ever. Cheating has become increasingly rampant. Students spend an excessive amount of time obsessing over getting perfect scores (after all they’ve been told they won’t have a job if they don’t.)

In fact, a classmate of mine  routinely stays up past 2 A.M in order to stay a float. Excessive? I think so.

What’s even more depressing about our current education system, is that it leaves millions of “average” students behind. Millions of kids with incredible potential are left to die (educationally speaking) never realizing their true potential.

Many of my current classmates, each of whom  could literally change the world, are paralyzed by fear, and are instead choosing the path of security: That is get good grades. Get a job. Be happy. Unfortunately that’s rarely how it unfolds.

We can live our purpose today.

I’m not suggesting that our current education system doesn’t do any good. It does teach us the basic necessities.  However, much of what we learn in school is not practical in the real world.

Where are the courses on blogging? Where are the money management courses? Where are the classes dedicated to eradicate poverty? Where are the classes that help us find our purpose?

Our current education system places too much emphasis on the A and not enough emphasis on unleashing the promise that lies in each and every one of us.

Education Through Reading And Experience

One of the most startling shortcomings of our current education system, is the lack of relevant reading. We are forced to read (A.K.A sparknote) ancient  text that we often find difficult to understand.

All this does is encourage a distaste for reading.

I’m not suggesting that ancient texts such as Shakespeare don’t have any value, however what the students read should be up to them.

“But wait! Then they will just be reading the latest trash.”

To which I reply ” Yes, but at least they will be reading.”

Our top priority must be to instill a passion for reading. The progress of humanity depends on it.

A number of my friends routinely say ” I hate reading”

And I always reply, ” You just haven’t found the right book.”

For reading to complement education like it needs to, the books we read must be relevant to us. Not our teachers, not our parents, but us. Each book should be likened to a puzzle piece completing our soul.

Our current education system is putting too much effort into things that don’t matter. Busy work. Perfect grammar.  Memorization. All of which does nothing for us 10 years down the road.

Over the past 4 years I have read close to 100 books. Only 15 of those books being school related.

Those 75 books (OK I’m rounding here) I read outside of school completely transformed me. My philosophy, my attitude, who I am today, all stem from the numerous books I devoured.

Education is about unleashing one’s confidence. Education is learning from failure. Education is growing from experience. Education is discovering your passions then pursuing them.

Education is not rote memorization. Education is not analyzing books that have no meaning to you. Education is not wasting your time on subjects you hate. Education is not being paralyzed because your afraid to fail.

Having attended an international school in Shanghai China, I can honestly say I have learned more from bringing running water to a rural village in China, traveling to Russia, and making friends from around the world, then I ever have in a classroom.

Education is meant to be enlightening. Reading and experience are the key.

Finding Your Purpose

Education is meant to help us find our passion, our purpose in life. Unfortunately, our current education system fails miserably.

We’ve been told:

You have to go to college to be successful. After that you have to go to grad-school. Make sure you get all A’s or you will fail.

Instead of embracing education many students (including myself) have adopted a mindset to just survive.

We’re so used to being told who we can or cannot be, many us don’t even know who we actually want to be.

All the education in the world is worthless if you never unlock what makes your heart beat.

Again, I have nothing against college or even grad-school for that matter. In fact I believe both can offer tremendous benefit to our being.

The problem lies in the fact that we’ve been told that you have to do this, you have to do that, in order to become successful.

Who says life has to be a linear line?

The traditional life time line:

High School: College: Grad-School: Job ( you most likely hate): Retire: Die

Why not:

High School: Find Your Purpose: Love Your Job: Live your life. Die Happy?

The latter sounds more enticing to me.

Education is all about growth,  it’s about experience, it’s about creating authentic relationships. It’s about being human. It’s about connecting with humanity.

Our current education system is inherently flawed. Times are changing. We must stop obsessing over becoming “book smart” and instead focus on unleashing our passions.

Without living out our passions we just add to the clutter of the world.

When we choose security, we sacrifice our passions, killing part of us in the process.

I have tremendous faith that the answers to today’s problems of the world: poverty, war, and disease, will be solved by the youth of today not because they are smart but because they follow their passions.

Enough Is Enough

I know I speak for millions of students around the world when I say:

We’re tired of being told we’re not good enough. We’re tired of doing mindless work that only adds stress to our lives. We’re tired of feeling unworthy just because we fail to meet the expectations of the A+ poster child.

We’re tired of being told who we can or can not be. Shouldn’t we decide that for ourselves?

We need to be inspired. We need to be encouraged. We need to spend time doing things we love. We want to change the world.

Is that too much to ask?

So many students fail to realize their potential because a simple grade tells them they have none. They receive a D and thus feel they are worthless and have nothing to contribute to this world. This defeats the whole purpose of education. Education is meant to build not destroy.

In no way am I suggesting getting good grades is a bad thing; that would be foolish. Getting good grades is not the problem. Allowing grades to dictate one’s life is.

Grades don’t guarantee success.

Passion + Determination + Positive Attitude = Success

I’ll give you an A if you transform the world  :-)

What are your thoughts on our current education system? What do you think must be done? I encourage you to share your comments in the comment section below.

It’s obvious our current education system needs major reform, until then however, it can proudly boast a fat D- on its fridge.

Editors Note: In no way is this post attempting to bash the educators of our world (whom I am eternally grateful for) but rather the education system as a whole.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Bud

125 comments
pml706
pml706

What i love about this is how you outline this to the US Education system, when in fact this is the Western worlds education system. The UK Education system is just the same and all the students over here equally hate it. Every single paragraph is the same here and i too want this system changed.

RaffeKarim
RaffeKarim

Goddamnt bro. I loved your article, it brings up the imporant things we fail to find out during our lives. I live in Norway and our public education sucks beyond any I've ever seen. We're creating debt-slaves and boring jobs that have no meaning for life. I don't seem to have found my  pupose. I wish to study International Relations but there are subject like math and biology that I hate, but I must go through them, even if it means getting D on those subjects. Life is as you said difficult and stressfull. Here I am learning things I am sure I won't be needing in the near future.

Josh Bertoli
Josh Bertoli

This is awesome. I feel like I'm not so alone now. Thank you for writing this and posting it.

phu nguyen
phu nguyen

thanks sir...this is so true...and i'm sending this website to all of my teachers ...i will try my best to spread the knowledge...if u think about the old education system like Plato, Aristotle etc..they teach the student the value of life...by doing that could bring prosperity to the world. :)) peace to y'all

Pushpalatha Dhas
Pushpalatha Dhas

The same problem prevails all over the world. The young ones are cheated. I am trying my best to change the system of Education. Every child should enjoy what he or she is learning and they should have the right to select what they want to learn. Experts should teach and give their very best. Hope many will realize what they are been put through. It is only a few will have the eyes to see and the wisdom to understand. Thanks for raising a valued point. Pushpalatha

Greenatic
Greenatic

I found your blog on a search for Bruce Lee quotes and then I look at this post. It's all truth. And I'm not from USA, I'm from Europe, but is all truth. I quit school at 8th grade, yes, 8th grade. Today many people think I'm dumb, or just 'quit life', they can't be more wrong. I learn much more out of the school system than in. Recently I realized that, one of my top hated disciplines at the school, history, it's not so bad, I really start to search FOR MYSELF (not just because the teacher told me to do) and actually study history. I realize that our history book tell us a bunch of lies, but tha'ts other topic of discussion. If you take a bit of time to think, without pre-judges, you realize that school isn't about learning, it's about fit in this 'everyone should fit' society.

Div
Div

It's almost like you took the words straight out of my head :) I completely agree with you. I think people should be hired for their true potential and their desire to achieve success, not based on a list of grades and tests. Education now has become more of a status than knowledge. ie. I can get into a certain college because I took certain classes, but learned little to nothing from them. It's just information being crammed into our heads for a short period of time, quickly tested on, and then thrown away.

andrew
andrew

I love this post, i told my Dad i wanted to change the world.....he told me i lazy and crazy lol.....people now a days think no one can do anythin but get a job and die....

Jeff
Jeff

I would have thought that I wrote this article because it is 100% true, and I am absolutely against the way the education system is set up. I always thought grades were important, so I always kept them high, but while doing so I learned they are basically a load of garbage, and having two parents that work in education I learned to hate the system even more, because they have become robots, controlled entirely by it, not understanding what life is like outside the world of school. Grades do not mean anything, they never will, if for some crazy reason I end up in a position where I'm hiring I won't give the S*** about someones GPA, I'll personally interview the candidates. Another thing I would like to add, that may have been slightly touched upon in the article is the fact that school is not about learning, it is abot placing kids in a group- either smart or dumb, and basing this off of regurgitated information that is immediately forgotten, and is useless outside of the school walls. Teachers need to teach, not grade. Homework is meant to blackmail those who don't want to live a life dominated by school, and to "reward" those who fall into the social norm. Society is becoming robotic, and that ruins the unique life experience of the INDIVIDUAL.

Yusuf
Yusuf

Thanks for this post i more than agree with this right now im in high school and they dont have the class that would make me a better mechanic i want to be a mechanic and all there is, is like woodshop or something i think this would help me but not make me more than average of it. Again thank you for this post it helped me with my school project.

junhax
junhax

Oh god . . . I agree with you completely. I just finished ranting about how terrible my professor is, and the lack of enthusiasm in his method of teaching the class. We meet once a week and he lets us out an hour and a half early every time. At the end of the day I realized: we are in control of our grade; what we learn from the class and how; and not to depend on a professor who doesn't care as much as the students care. It's sad that professors like this are allowed to teach on a college level -- especially to those who are interested and enrolled into a particular major. The school system is a joke, regardless of what town or state you're from. It's our job to educate ourselves, to better ourselves, and to create our own opportunities. No more relying on the professors who I thought were living up to their title.

Anti-School
Anti-School

I'm anti-school, not anti-learning. I enjoy learning but the system makes it impossible to learn in school.

Anti-School
Anti-School

Schools are failing because students are starting to realize just how worthless and corrupt it is. Take my high school for example. We cannot afford busses anymore, all students have to either walk (no sidewalks, rural) or have a parent take them. However our peice of Shite supperintendent (spelling) gave himself a 300,000 dollar raise, then scolds parents for not donating enough money during fund raisers. Not only this but NOTHING that we learn in elementary or high school actually applies to real life. I say that college is the only system that works. Schools are worthless and a waste of reasources. Lets end this nightmare of forcing innocent kids to endure PRISON. That is essenctially all schools are and nothing more.

Stephanie Loomis
Stephanie Loomis

YES YES YES!!! Ray Bradbury said, "I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it's better than college. People should educate themselves - you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I'd written a thousand stories. " He also said, "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." Too true today. People skim through the summaries to pass the test, and never understand the delight of literature. I hope to change that habit, one student at a time.

James
James

Although I agree that the system is failing, your grasp of what the core causes are, is loose at best. I'm certain that in the years since you wrote this you've changed your premises while still drawing the same general conclusion. Nevertheless, this was most interesting, however very flawed. My perspective on this, is that I earn straight A's without much effort and still study various philosophies and read on my spare time. I would argue that if one is not able to understand ancient texts and is unable to do well in school they should strive to be at peace with being average or less-than-average. You obvious did not develop a "yearning for learning" while in high school, regarding its curriculum, and so I can understand your situation. However, I must point out that what you perceive as the problem only appears that way from your stand point (being average or less-than-average), and isn't actually the fundamental factor that is causing our school system to crash. The factor is more along the lines of evolutionary theory (or at least, evolutionary theory is where we will resurrect our system). The fundamental problem with our schools is that they don't teach along the same parameters we evolved to learn by. Our system is plagued by ignorance, not a faulty esteem-building assessment system such as grades. In addition, I just graduated from high school three months ago, so I am a long way away from grad school, but even I can tell you that grad school isn't a place to go to if you think you are going to get a job you hate. Go to grad school to get a job you love.

Jaismeen Lamba
Jaismeen Lamba

Hi, I really liked whatever is written in the post as i have always myself believed that grades are the most important thing in a students life without realising that this will one day leave me unsatisfied about what i am doing in lfe. today i feel i wish i had some one to tell me the real aim of education in life.If so,i am sure i would have been in a better position. but today i feel we should guide the students to help them realise the true potential in them.

lada
lada

It is great that you are questioning the system. So did I when i was a student and I have done quite a bit of teaching "out of the box". (you can see it on my web site). Alas, those were small experiments which wanished into nothing because they were too brief. It seems to me that what has to transmitted today is not mere information (internet is full of it), but enthusiastic,loving attitude.Very few people have it, actually. I would love to organize a school together with a group of young people where students will be creativelly challenged in a variety of unexpected ways, and where each person will be looked upon as a human being above all. If anyone is interested, check up my web site and contact me, please. Lada

Sage Rabe
Sage Rabe

YES! I am so glad I found your site. I am sixteen years old and left school last November based on this premise. I created a blog around Youth Liberation; empowering youth to develop their passions, follow their dreams, and, if school got in the way, to quit it, and start living. I let it drop after a couple months because of certain circumstances, but I am now picking it back up again with the help of Jonathan mead's Paid to Exist Program. For some reason I think you're in it too, but I can't be sure. Anyway, I felt totally validated when I read this post, especially from such a young, inspiring person (I like your goal about being financially independent by the age of 21) Keep rocking the boat! Cheers, Sage

Sean G.
Sean G.

Bud, As a recent high school graduate I am in complete agreement with this post. Our education system here in the United States certainly needs to be reformed. I suggest that we base our classes on principles such as Truth, Oneness, Love, Peace, Change, and Creation. Our classes should lead students to find their own answers to questions they deem important. I have much more to say on this topic. Feel free to contact me. I am an 18 year old student and personal development blogger.

Robert Hulse
Robert Hulse

It needs to be noted that my last comment was directed toward the comments made by Mr. Nix - this was not captured in the text.

Robert Hulse
Robert Hulse

If one's intelligence and level of education can be judged by how one interacts with other thoughts and ideas, then we may very well conclude that it is YOU that is lacking in learning and knowledge - it is YOU who doesn't "get it." You present no argument or counterpoint. You lump anyone who dares to question contemporary pedagogy in your self-defined category of "slothful punks". One can only imagine that you are a product of the very system being called into question - a system that has little to do with particular teachers or learners and much to do with a general approach to education that demands little more than regurgitated rhetoric and insipid obedience to those who hold positional authority. On the other hand, perhaps we should thank you for illustrating the point...

Richard Nix
Richard Nix

Definitely blame the curriculum, Justify mediocrity, and Underachieve. You really don't get it at all. It isn't about social studies, or home economics or biology. It is about time management, setting priorities and self-discipline. Never mind, it's probably beyond your comprehension. Just play your Wii and discover yourself. Your parents will probably support you until you are well into your 30's.

SoulRiser
SoulRiser

Excellent post. You might find this interesting: http://www.school-survival.net/articles/school/history/How_public_education_cripples_our_kids.php Apparently schools fail at education on purpose - because it's convenient for the government and big businesses to have lots of complacent workers who don't dream big or "rock the boat" too much. Of course most teachers and administrators probably aren't aware of this: they're just doing what they think they should, because that's how school taught them to be way back when they were there.

L
L

"Of course, you could look at school and grades as a giant filter – Only the kids who can force themselves to work and do the things that they don’t want to do are worthy of high grades." *cough* That's me. A highschool freshman speaking here. I actually don't care about school. But I've built a mentality in my head to get straight A's. I have parents who put pressure on me and a slew of other things. I do work I really don't care about (Shakespeare, meh, I don't think his writings were really that good.) and feel stressed to have that 100 average.

Ismail Asif
Ismail Asif

Hi Bud this is an excellent article i agree with you 100% in fact i am teaching my students the same thing and working with different scholars around the world to work out a relevant system for now. I be very happy if you joined us. Ismail Asif

Robert Hulse
Robert Hulse

Sorry, that would be "I would highly recommend an excellent BOOK..." My bad - Mr. H

Robert Hulse
Robert Hulse

Bud, I would highly recommend an excellent by Yong Zhao entitled "Catching Up or Leading the Way" (2009). From his beginnings as a student of China's educational "system" to his current position as a professor at Michigan State, he has accumulated cross-cultural experiences that make his argument for recovering the strengths of the U.S. educational system even richer. His critique of the hysteria that surrounds the whole "oh damn, we don't score as well as other nations on standardized tests so the system has failed entirely" lie that began with then Secretary of Education Bell's "A Nation at Risk" report and perpetuated in both the popular press and "scholarly" research is superb. Anyway, just more food for thought... Mr. Hulse

aka lamb
aka lamb

Bud, thanks for you expressing your thought in details. I have been to Harvard University and achieve a great grade. My experience struggles can go on ever on and on. One thing that I learnt is there is some truths into everything that I studied in High School and act as a building block for everyone to have common grounds. However, I agreed 220% that there are many flaws, is it to train up each of our ADAPTATION? our CRITICAL thinking? Our education is not currently the best yet but we need progression in education, in learning and societal development; thats what I personally but you may agree or disagree... Indeed, I encourage to persevere your struggles as I am!

Joseito (Jose Reinaldo Cruz, Ph.D.)
Joseito (Jose Reinaldo Cruz, Ph.D.)

Hola Bud: I wrote to you and your friends June 1 and June 2. I was legally Joseito. Now I am legally Dr. Joseito. I just finished my final defense last thursday, 10- 8- 2009 from 2:30 pm till 5:10 pm. I am writing this note to you and your friends from my heart. I think I have a little over 10 more years to push hard in the direction of a new world, a new social order, a new educational system. I hope to visit with you some day: there might be out there something worth fighting together. Now I will concentrate in writing about a "new Rogers-Freire-Goleman paradigm" and other theoretical issues in heuristic-phenomenological research. I tell you these things because this is what moves me now. Your brilliance and energy is "fuera de serie". These readings of your friends are contagious. Joseito (Dr. Jose Reinaldo Cruz, Ph.D., Miami, Florida)

FreeThinker
FreeThinker

Dear Bud, I can relate to every one of your statements and feelings. I am 56 years old and have spent the better part of my life looking for my passion. Although I was a very good student in high school, even earning a National Merit Scholarship Letter of Commendation along the way, I had no interest in going to college. My parents, however, did. And so I went, spending a miserable four years pursuing a liberal arts degree. I managed to graduate with a 3.0 average, but little good it did me. The only recruiters to show up on campus were from banks. I had majored in Art and English--hardly promising attributes for the world I was expected to enter. By that time I felt as though I'd disappeared. I had no idea what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. I only knew that giving voice to anything "creative" would have been ridiculed by my parents and my peers. Your advice to find out what you really love to do, and follow it, is excellent. Unfortunately schools and society want to squeeze everyone through their "Play-Dough" machine, shaping them for factories and offices--a slow death. Unfortunately, society finds freedom highly suspect, dangerous and scary. Don't follow your heart, it says, follow the established order. Wouldn't it be nice if nobody showed up to work at a job they hate? What a happier place the world would be. Young people are afraid to envision or talk about their dreams. With the amount of busywork and memorization they're required to perform, they hardly have time for such reflection. Perhaps that is the intent of "schooling." I have let my two children, now 19 and 16 find their own paths. They take as many "mental" days off as they want, in spite of the pressure by our local school system (very highly rated in Connecticut) to conform, and the pressure put on me as a parent. How dare I flout conventional wisdom! Nevertheless, they are thriving and, more to the point, happy. (What a concept!) Thanks for writing this piece. All the very best in whatever road you choose. (BTW, I am a freelance editor and writer (as well as a wife and mother)--a path I discovered late in life, but not too late. I suspect, being the writer that you are, that by the time you're my age, you'll love those "ancient" scribes as much as I do.)

Sue
Sue

My greatest fear is that my granddaughter will grow up dumb because her teachers will not show her how to learn and memorize and excel and get good grades because it's easier for them to go along with your evaluation-'It's hard, therefore I should be allowed to find myself at my own pace.' Hmmmmmm Maybe kids don't read because the books are hard because they haven't been taught to spell or define words or find their meaning. Maybe kids don't read because the books are hard because they haven't been taught comprehension. Maybe fighting against education will diminish you in your chosen life's work. Who will you blame when one of your stops along life's way is 'unhappy at my job' because you can't excel there either?

Tony G. Rocco
Tony G. Rocco

Bud, I felt exactly as you do when I was in high school long ago, although I never could have articulated my thoughts as you have here. You are exactly right about our educational system and how it seeks to elevate a few high-achievers over everyone else, leaving a great number of students to feel like worthless mediocrities. It's sad to see that the educational system still works to stamp out individuality and creativity and produce replicants who will fit neatly into a world of industrial, assembly-line production - cogs in machine. I hope you live a long and passionate life. I am still trying to do so myself. Best wishes, Tony

FreeThinker
FreeThinker

Right on, Bud! I enjoyed reading your article, and also the comments that followed. I thought some of the people who commented missed the point while caught up in their need to correct your grammar, or to diss you for your writing style. But that just proves your point, doesn't it? Your article is about what I firmly believe: The whole mind-set about education needs an overhaul. My first inkling of this came when my daughter was in early school. Like a dutiful mom, I had started her in preschool, then kindergarten, then on to full-time school, not really considering that I had other options, nor that their was a need for other options. One day, during her second grade, I spent a day in her classroom, helping out the teacher by stamping t-shirts, I experienced first-hand what my daughter's day was like. It was chaotic, loud, disorganized, and simply oppressive. No wonder she came home stressed out, had tummy aches at night, had headaches, cried every morning. It was that day that I decided to take her out of the school system. It was 1992, and not many people were doing it. The word homeschooling was not in most people's vocabulary. Both my kids (my daughter and her younger brother) were homeschooled for nine years, collectively, until they made their own decisions to go to school. They are grown now, but to this day, they both say it was the best thing that happened to their education. They were in charge of their own educational direction, I simply facilitated by helping them to find resources that allowed them to follow their natural yearning for learning. When kids are encouraged to direct their own education, it's phenomenal what they come up with! We had so much fun! We did not have grades in our "school". There were no tests. Any testing (such as in their Saxon mathbooks) were treated as tools for learning. They'd check their own work, and correct any mistakes so they knew what they did incorrectly and could learn from it. They measured their progress against their own yardstick. Kids are not stupid--they know when they are "getting it" or when they are not. The only rule: Define your own excellence, then strive for it. There was no busy-work. All projects were purposeful, and fulfilling, otherwise, why do it? Is time in a child's life so unimportant that time-wasters are necessary? Busy-work is an insult and not respectful to the child. When all is said and done, my kids grew to be creative, intelligent, well-adjusted, free-thinking, life-time learners. I'm very proud of them. This kind of education is ideal, in my opinion. My kids were celebrated for the people they were, not brow-beaten for who they were not. By the way, my kids are complete opposites in nature, so this kind of education works for both ends of the spectrum. It's too bad public schools couldn't be more educationally nurturing, and less like a state prison.

Bill Farren
Bill Farren

Great post! I wish more students had your attitude (and wisdom). I don't however, blame them when they don't have it. I think the system they labor under needs to be changed--dramatically. Dropping out of teaching for a while to try this: http://www.plearn.net Cheers.

SirLarryWildeman
SirLarryWildeman

I meant Best of luck in the future BUD, of course! Sorry about that.

SirLarryWildeman
SirLarryWildeman

Bud - Congratulations to you on both your graduation from high school and your thought provoking article. I generally agree with the overall themes of your post, which appear to be that (i) grades do not and should not dictate "success", (ii) education occurs both inside and outside of the classroom and (iii) the educational system should include developing a child's passions not just a child's ability to memorize facts. I believe that all of those things are true. What I am somewhat stuck on, however, is at what level (and to what level) the educational system needs to change, i.e. should education reform come in the form of national standardization, should the reform fall to individual states or should the reform fall even further to individual school districts? I can tell you that my school district has already moved in the direction of developing both sides of the brain. We have art programs beginning in our elementary schools, computers in nearly every classroom in the district, even a fully functional TV studio in our high school. In my opinion, national standardization of education is not the answer nor are mandates from state legislatures. As I see it, educational reform should begin at the school district level as what is good for my town's children may not be best for the children in a neighboring town. Naturally, there are basic skills that need to be a part of every school district's curriculum but there is enough room to appeal to non-standard education as well. You did not mention it but I believe one of the most important components of the educational system is the parents. I believe it is vitally important for parents to take an interest in their child's education. Clearly, not all children are built the same; "learning" comes very easily for some kids while others, as you stated, need to stay up until 2am to keep up with the Joneses. Other kids simply could care less about school and I would wager that eight out of ten of those kids get little or no encouragement from home. I hate to say this because I have so much respect for teachers but there are some very poor educators in our system and they are nearly impossible to get rid of thanks to an overly powerful union. Anybody who has ever gone to school knows one or two of the teachers I am talking about. Heck, I will bet that some of the teachers here know who I am talking about. They are rude, unhelpful, uninteresting and uninterested or just down right negligent. While schooling does not automatically equal success, education IS extremely important. We need to ensure that the right people are standing at the front of our children's classroooms every day. In closing, I do not think that the educational system needs a complete overhaul. There are some very, very good schools in the United States (and we are very fortunate to have some of the best schools in the country here in New Jersey). There are some things that I think would improve the overall educational experience but I think perhaps what is needed most is simply a change in attitude about how to educate both in our government buildings, our school buildings and in our homes. Best of luck in the future, Ben. Despite your system-perceived "lack of success" in high school something tells me that you are going to be successful in whatever it is you choose to focus on in life.

Roberto L. Echanes
Roberto L. Echanes

Dear Bud, You have given many important points regarding education. Current education places to much emphasis on academic achievement, leaving behind the holistic development of the person. As a teacher I can attest to that and soon educators around the world will have to address this urgent problem. Education is supposed to be a man-making institution . My spiritual teacher, Shrii P. R. Sarkar, has propounded Neo-Humanist education, a new system that develops the whole personality, that is, physical, mental and spiritual. Nowadays bookish education is not enough, but we need to discover our own inner potential. All knowledge, in fact is within each and everyone, we just need to use the proper tools to unfold and discover this precious inner knowledge, and thus, will bring us to become whole and complete as a human being. Boundless love is the answer to all problems in the world.

Beans
Beans

You make wonderful points, however there are a few things that seem a little misconstrued. First of all, the subjects we are learning in school are, holistically, beneficial. Sciences help us understand the physical/biological/chemical world around us. History helps the newer generations learn from past mistakes, and to teach how previous events shaped the modern society we live in. English classes (or any other native language) teaches us to explicitly communicate how we feel, what we know, what we see and know of the world, ect without too many misunderstandings Foreign languages aid in breaking down the barrier between cultures (which is often condemned with the American "You're in my country, speak my language" attitude) Math teaches us the value of numbers, and how to use them in society (primarily finances) If even one of these subjects were missing it would severely hinder our ability to not only understand, but to operate and move forward in our world. However, receiving a failing grade because you didn't memorize Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is trivial. What is more important is that the students can read the speech, and understand what it means and how it impacted our society. A failing grade for forgetting the u-substitution formula for integrating is also trivial, if the student understands that concept of how, and why, it works. (Calculus is the devils hobby by the way... I swear on that) What is important is not the grade, but the education. Its not the memorization of facts, its what all of the memorized facts mean and how it affects us, which it generally does. However, students have been so patronized with these trivial and minor details that they refuse to understand the beneficial qualities of the education offered to them as a whole. While the majority of students learn best from experiences, rather than books, the knowledge learned in school is 100% applicable to the world we live in, as long as students push past the ridiculous hours of homework and mindset that A is equivalent to success. If students began, and were encouraged to, care more about their education, rather than the grade (or lack there of) then the typical under-motivated student body would most likely pull themselves out of this education slump.

LCW
LCW

Your essay is my introduction to the world of global conversation on a single topic. Thank you for having both the guts and brains to organize, compose, and share your thoughts. As a relatively new educator and not-so-new parent, I found your essay and the subsequent comments about our public education system reaffirming and motivating, but lacking an important component: parents. It is my personal and professional experience and belief that the development of purpose and passion in a young person requires balanced commitment and direction from 1) educators, 2) parents, and 3) the individual student. I agree wholeheartedly with you about literature. Literature comes to us via our own curiosity or the recommendation of others whom we respect. I teach elementary students, those just on the cusp of reading to learn, and it is in large part my responsibility to ignite a love of reading in each of them. I cannot do this without my own hill-to-die-on passion for language and I cannot do it alone. I need my students' response and I need their parents' support at home. As for your point about grades, you seem not to need them. Our system gives students grades, but you must remember the other two prongs of the system use them as well: educators and parents. I often contemplate how I could better "grade" my fourth graders to benefit and motivate them and still meet the requirements of my job. I've not yet made the innovation I feel we need because grading is more complex than it appears. Maybe you would have a suggestion? Thank you again for a stimulating introduction to cyber-conversation and for expressing yourself, BUD.

brittany
brittany

Wow this is amazing, you have so many people commenting on and discussing this article. I think it is really cool what one person can do. I agree with this article because I have been in that same boat all through high school and even if this is an excuse for my grades its a lot better than just giving up. It really gives you hope to continue on to try to live a life that is not full of regrets. Thanks for your insight bud. Brittany

Jie
Jie

The article is written very well. The school system and education system is improving all the time which can not be denied. How can you find the passion, the right purpose, the way of dealing with different thing. How do you define humanity? What is in the real world? All these question can be answered by being educated. Education brings you different thing. The education you got might not the direct answers for your questions,but it will make you wise and give you new and different perspectives which helps you to find those answers. What is the real world? Real world is complicated enough for you to explore for your whole life. And this is not something to be taught. Real world is something to be felt and to be reflected. :P

Pheak Tol
Pheak Tol

this article is the truth. my thoughts on today's, current education system is pretty much like yours, it lacks motivation, lacks good teachers, lacks the resources, lacks the enthusiasm, lacks content, pretty much lacking everything that i was fortunate enough to have when i was in school. education is key to a better future, i never knew how important it was until after i graduated from college. although still not late to go back to school, i wish i knew now what i did when i was in high school slacking off. our educational system can step their game up with teachers that really care about their student's future (not saying all teachers dont care, but most dont nowadays) and providing students with a safer learning environment and an atmosphere that actually makes them want to learn. but we cant just blame the education system for that - kids nowadays is just too caught up on other things. so who's really at fault, our educational system or the kids that just simply shows up at school just because they have to be there?

Nina Peery
Nina Peery

I came across your blog through a buddy on twitter. As a 3rd-5th grade educator in technology, I totally agree with your assessment of education. I also watched the TED video on schools killing creativity...WOW! I have a lot to consider during my summer break as to the direction I want to take my students next year. I will subscribe to your blog. Thanks!

SL
SL

The good news is that after June 11, 2009, you will never have to sit in another classroom. You can dedicate all your time to changing the world and reforming education. I'm glad you mentioned the systems failure to provide useful financial literacy training. The system is designed to prepart students for college, rather than prepare them for life. Sadly, if you visit the Dept. of Education website, ED.gov, you will notice that the Federal Government intends to place more emphasis on collge prep. Congratulations on graduating. Don't lose your passion, education reform is the most important issue in America, and no one seems to realize that. We need people like you, especially being fresh from the trenches, to call attention to our education crisis. Our current economic and healthcare crisis are direct results of a failed education system. I hope you share more of your thoughts on improving education in the future. www.grassrootscommando.com

Robert Hulse
Robert Hulse

Bud, Reading through your provocative post several times now (along with the comments), I wanted to respond (which is actually an unnecessary comment due to the fact that if I did NOT want to respond, I wouldn't be posting this)... The first point I wanted to make is that your passionate and honest perspective is both refreshing and challenging. As a teacher, I have always sought to provide students with the inspiration and motivation for which you so eloquently plead. With some, it works and with others it does not. There are times that I wonder whether or not I could have done more and there are times where I know that nothing I did was going to work - the student had simply decided not to respond. Thus inspiration and motivation transcend simple "products" to be provided and consumed by those who teach and those who learn, respectively. Inspiration and motivation are more precisely understood as a dialogue between students and teachers, qualities of a relationship, rather than goods to be exchanged. While I (and other teachers) contemplate your admonition to inspire and motivate, I offer you the same opportunity for reflection - what did YOU do to support and nurture the process? Second, you seem to vacillate between condemning an entire educational system and reducing the focus of your disdain to that which is but one indicator of achievement - grades. This is most evident in your replies to posts that challenge your more global comments. I would encourage you to stay the course - to avoid capitulating to those who would seek to blunt the comments that challenge a system that is, in many ways, profoundly out of step with the way the world works (not to mention the future). It is easy to lose sight of the greater vision for a better way of educating students in reducing the conversation to a cliche-filled, back-and-forth about whether or not grades are fair, reflect achievement, promote cheating, or whatever. Having said that, it is good to recognize when provocative phrasing has crossed the line into hyperbole and diatribe. These do not advance the cause and simply serve to inflame those who might otherwise agree with you. For instance, I would find it incredibly hard to believe that a teacher actually told you (or anyone) that not receiving perfect scores would preclude getting a job, good or otherwise. The upside is that you seem to recognize these moments of rhetorical excess and are willing to call them what they are. If I may (another silly statement, of course I may), I would like to encourage you to find your path in life, a path that suits you and one that provides the kind of internal satisfaction that simply getting high scores cannot. If this post and the resulting conversation may be used as indicators, then you are well on your way to doing just this. However, I would also like to challenge you to be encouraging of those who chose to achieve in ways that you have not. There ARE many paths in life, and thankfully most of them intertwine at many points (e.g., the high-powered lawyer who lacks the ability to fix his own car, collect her own garbage, or put out the fire in his McMansion). Putting effort and energy into scholarly and academic pursuits is clearly one of those paths and those who find and follow this path are just as deserving of a passion-filled life as you. Your post provides a necessary and often ignored corrective in an educational dialogue too dominated by intellectual superiority as a criterion of or for achievement. But let's make sure the scales are fairly balanced and, in the process, affirm each other as being who we are and letting this be the only standard by which we judge one another. Thank you, once again... Mr. Hulse

Samihan Yedkar
Samihan Yedkar

Bud, Your article is as provocative as it is deep - it raises some very interesting points, and shows that you've put in some serious thought in the matter. If your goal was to get everybody reading your post thinking about our education system, then the unending string of comments above should be ample evidence of its success. As with any "controversial" topic, I don't think there are any right or wrong answers on the issue. That said, consider my viewpoint: I believe the education system, even in its current state, is vital. First, the education system may not teach you Math, Language, Science or the Humanities, but it instills in you --nay, demands of you-- a certain work ethic, and for that, you have grades to thank. Grades are the carrot-and-stick trick schools use to condition you towards developing strong work ethic. After I collapsed into my airplane seat last week following a whirlwind and chaotic year of exams, projects, labs, study, and an obscene amount of hardwork, I took some time to reflect on my freshman year at college, and consider what I learned most. I do not exaggerate when I say that I spent atleast one (mostly two, and sometimes three) days a week in the library until 3AM, I studied (almost unfailingly) every single day, and I learned more than I ever had before. As a first year engineer, perhaps I would look to the math, computer science and engineering courses I took, and claim that my greatest accomplishment of the year was learning all these new formulae and principles and algorithms. But all that is sort of secondary. What I truly value the most from the year was the work ethic Carnegie Mellon pounded into me; I came to college having developed a value and respect for grades, and I soon found out that the only way I could achieve them was by working tirelessly. Hard work is something everyone is going to demand of you - in your personal and professional life, and is a critical life skill. If you can develop work ethic by yourself, in a non-academic setting, more power to you. But for the rest of the hoi-polloi shuffling through the ranks of academia, the reward-and-punish approach to glamorizing good grades and discouraging poor performance appears to be a sound means to developing these qualities of hard (or smart) work. To be completely, unhealthily obsessed with grades is bad - but then, so is anything else in excess. In moderation, however, grades are a wonderful, and powerful incentive. Second, education is a conduit to exposing students to the myriad wonders of the modern (and ancient) world. The purpose of reading Othello and MacBeth is not to show us the saviour that is Sparknotes (though I dare say we've all done it at some point) but to introduce us to a man with as much mastery of the English language, and as deep an understanding of human character, as Shakespeare. You read some, and you tire of his pedantic script-and that's fine; try Conrad, or Fitzgerald, or Austen or some of the other multitudes of authors English classes introduce us to. Education, as the ancient Greeks show us, is supposed to generate dialogue, debate and emotion. You dont like Shakespeare? Don't reject him, tell me why! Tell me what you find dissonant about his writing, and let that generate conversation and debate amongst our peers. We take classes in Math, Science, History, Economics, Psychology, English, Art, etc to similarly expose us to many such avenues of thought and interest. You may dislike Calculus with a passion, but you cannot walk away from it without admiring the insight Newton and Leibniz demonstrated in formulating a new language of Math. Memorizing dates may be a tireless chore, but admiring the work of Egyptian Engineers 4000 years ago certainly isnt. I went on a tangent there, but it was in an attempt to demonstrate the wealth of information that lies in the curriculum of secondary education. In my experience, American education does a decent job (better than Asian systems, let me assure you) of trivializing the rote memorization of dates and values, and prioritizing the understanding of underlying principles and concepts. Similarly, the American system of education attempts to elicit emotion and educated opinion through essays and in class discussions, and suppress inclinations to robotically accept learning as fact, and for that, we should be thankful. It is through our reactions to what we read that we learn, and without the breadth and scope modern education affords us, we would be intellectual paupers. Education does not (and most definitely should not) force upon its disciples material that is to be accepted without contest. It does not focus on the trivial minutiae of silly, easily forgotten facts at the expense of the bigger picture. It does not suppress creativity, impede the freedom of thought and understanding, or stifle intellect. If we move away from the notion of the schooling system as a dark and nefarious factory ceaselessly beating students into submission through an undending stream of homework and tireless exposure to dreary subjects, and begin to view schools as institutions that encourage higher thought and good habits, we can perhaps begin to view schools through a slightly more favourable light. Secondary education, then, builds in its pupils willingness for, and tolerance towards, hard work and motivation, and introduces them to new and dissimilar models of thought in a variety of disciplines, allowing students to reflect, generate opinion, and understand. In many ways, we are the successful products of an American education. You have put in careful thought and effort in your opinion, deliberated over your views, and expressed them in a manner that represents your feelings. For possessing the qualities of logical reasoning, rhetoric, and linguistic fluency, you have none other than your education to thank. Hopefully, my ability to digest your views and propose a coherent retort is a further testament to the power of education.

amy
amy

What does it mean to be educated for you

Adam
Adam

Sue, I agree wholeheartedly with Bud. With all due respect, your view on education is short-sighted and immature. My uncle graduated high school with a 1.8 GPA. A C- average. He went to school at a community college and earned roughly a 2.3 GPA there. A C+ average. He now works at Google, writing code and doing something that he loves. He makes more than $500,000 a year, has his own family, and lives in New York. I asked him about his schooling after reading your comment, and he agreed with Bud. School teaches you things that you will never need to know, but very little about how to get by in life and become a good, contributing member of society. For example, in my junior year in high school, I can currently point out that on the day he was beheaded, King Charles I of England was wearing a green shirt, but I couldn't tell you how to start looking for a job.

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