The Education System Part One: Creativity and Individuality
Do you ever stop to wonder how have we come so far as a species? How we have progressed so far in comparison to other creatures. Though there are many reasons and theories, it all seems to boil down to one truth; our capacity to learn. Gaining knowledge and being able to utilize it effectively and in new, innovative ways is absolutely invaluable in all aspects of life. Whether someone is attempting to find the cure for cancer, help their children succeed, or get a promotion at work, learning, creativity, and independent thought are crucial. Despite this fact, schools, more often than not, promote conformity, fail to teach valuable life skills, suck the joy out of learning, and cause many students’ mental health to suffer.
Whether it is used to create a groundbreaking theory or simply to save money on fuel, being able to think creatively is one of the most valuable traits that a person can have. When attempting to minimize corruption in the corporate and political spheres, it is imperative that the general population is able to think independently and express their opinions effectively. This is especially important in countries such as ours where we democratically elect officials to represent our interests in the government so that we can decide whether or not they are doing their job in running the country in the way we agree with the most. However, the school system, an institution created to prepare children for adult life, hinders the development of these necessary skills.
The first, and most obvious, example is an extreme lack of funding for all of the arts departments. From band, to theatre, to painting, teachers use their paychecks to provide adequate materials for their classes. Making the experience with these outlets of creativity poorer quality than they otherwise would be has negative effects for any and all students interested in pursuing them during their adult lives. If someone wants to be a professional musician but spends more time fixing a broken instrument than playing it, that will negatively impact them in the future, forcing them to work harder to achieve their goal, or potentially even giving up. Our school does not have a dance department, forcing anyone seriously interested in dancing to join an outside company, something that would most likely cost more time and money for them personally. This barrier could even cause a person, who could have become incredibly successful if given the chance, to give up completely. Art is almost universally enjoyed, whether it’s a groundbreaking film with phenomenal acting, a sculpture in a museum, or a band, people value their entertainment even if they do not personally spend time creating it. What if our education system stifles an entire generation of artists, forcing them into unsatisfactory jobs rather than helping them to pursue their passions?
Another, slightly more sinister example is the standardized ELA curriculum. In English classes today, there is far more emphasis on reading comprehension and interpreting literary works in a specific manner, rather than learning grammar or how to write anything meaningful, compelling, and, in some cases, cohesive. While it is important for people to understand what they read, everyone can and will gain different insights from text based on their own experiences, emotions, and beliefs. Therefore, grading based on how a student thought something was supposed to be interpreted and only allowing for one correct answer promotes everyone to think in a uniform fashion. Though it may seem to be the fault of teachers on a surface level, it is far worse. The true blame lies with the education system and their examination policy. It simply is much easier to make multiple choice questions based off of a piece with only one correct answer.
Unfortunately, because of this emphasis on a near meaningless task, it causes there to be less and less time for teaching grammar and writing skills, which are necessary to communicate ideas effectively. In a poll of Apex High students, 65% have never completed a sentence diagram, and 63% of those students have no idea what one is. For those reading that are unaware of what a sentence diagram is, it is a chart used to help identify the different parts of a sentence, including the subject, verb, and direct object. Knowledge of what parts form a sentence and how those pieces interact allows for increased quality of writing due to an increased understanding of the functions of the language. Despite grammar being much easier to grade based on it being much more clean cut as right or wrong, questions regarding it make up the minority of standardized tests. Whether or not this is intentional, it limits the expression of ideas. If someone is unable to write with proper grammar, it makes them look less intelligent and causes their writing to be more difficult to read, drastically impeding the ability to express ideas through writing. Also, if someone lacks the experience or ability to effectively defend their position through writing, it drastically limits their ability to share any opinions in a respectable manner. It may seem like something that is intuitive, but how could someone create a cohesive argument if they did not know how to cite their sources, format a piece, or present their case in an intelligible form? Especially with social-media, texting, and communicating via the internet in general on the rise, being able to write, or type, your thoughts is necessary in almost all aspects of life.
Though at first glance, creativity and self-expression may seem unimportant to some, it is important in so many aspects of our lives. Rather than coping with a broken system because the government is too lazy to fix it, we have to do something. Whether that is learning grammar on your own time, donating to the arts department, or contacting government officials, it is imperative that we do not just sit back in apathy. This is a choice between growing up to be thoughtless and unoriginal, unable to question authority or becoming a generation of thinkers that can change the world. At this point, it is up to us.