If there's one thing I hate more than any activity in the world, it's swimming. Well, I'd put that next to hiking and football, but my hatred for swimming runs deep. Real deep. You know when you're a kid and you're shoved into doing one or two sports? (because after all, that's what kids should be doing with their time, right?) My two were basketball and swimming. But swimming, man, you will not believe the hours I put into that. Every other weekday I'd be driven by my mom to be trained in a facility that instructed you to perform the same four mundane strokes again and again. And again. And again. And again. And again.
Why did I choose to begin a post about high school with this horrendous peeve of the past? Because high school decided to bring it up again! Tomorrow I'll be forced to swim in at least one event for my house at school (Go Normans woo, yeah…). My absolute hatred for everything around me boiled over when I found out this morning that you'd need a legitimate reason not to swim, and that a letter of absence written by your parents is required for you to take the leave. And in that moment, just like that, the little guy that breaks into your head and smashes a brick over your brain gave me another epiphany. (Thanks bro.)
Okay, let's zoom out a bit. Education reform. There's a crap-load of issues related to education reform: resource-related issues, student-related issues, economy-related issues, etcetera etcetera. But it exists in prestigious schools like mine who think they've got it all right as well. You might think that the question I'm just dying to ask is Why on earth am I forced to swim? As much as I want a legitimate answer from the powers that be to that question, there are more serious questions I want answered.
Why didn't you take into account the students who didn't want to swim?
Why do you assume we care about our houses?
Why should I care about the house system, anyways?
Why can't I just spend my time doing the thing I should probably be doing instead: study?
At that point, it's impossible for those questions to not become broader. A lot broader.
What's the point of studying in that way, anyways? Why can't I study this way?
Isn't what you want me to do a little bit counterproductive?
How will I gain actual knowledge by doing this?
What about careers, how will this benefit my career?
Why should a test score define my ability?
*sigh*…High school is simply full of questions I wish I had the guts to shout out to my heart's content, but I'm supposed to be a law abiding, role model of a Sixth Form student. Plus, we follow a strict, systematic curriculum that allows little to no adaptability in this ever-changing world. Even if I had the guts, I'd have to take my complaints to the folks at Cambridge University, because after all, they're the authors of our destinies.
It's the classic case of the underdog vs. the system the underdog is within. Except in this system, the underdog is the customer. Students are the customers of schools. They should get a say, at least a say in things as well. No, not the false notion of the students having a voice that's still influenced by intimidation from authorities and the possibility of academic failure, or at least a curriculum's predetermined idea of what failure is. And unfortunately, we just don't know what's best and what's really important for us, right?
The idea of what's important and what's not is the most essential thing in the success of a school being a school, a place of imparting worldly knowledge; worldly in the sense that it's applicable to real-life outside of school. Students are basically kids, and kids like us are what? The people that know the most about the current events that run our world today. In a word, cultured. They're ambitious (especially younger children), open to embrace change. That's why they're so teachable. It's especially essential to be cultured and to be ambitious in a world like the one we live in now because change is the only thing that doesn't change; it's constant. Change, especially today, is exponential. Also, change happens everywhere. New pop songs, fickle political tendencies, newly discovered species of organisms, share prices, trending topics, scientific discoveries, fashion trends, world superpowers, you name it. They change.
What's important? Now, and everything about it. But schools are conflicted between what's tried and tested and what's considered to be the best for this generation. For example, how do we get rid of the exam paper? It's the quintessential method of validation that you know what you should know, but I think we've gone too far with it. We can't simply go "Alright people, we will get rid of the exam paper" because even if there might be better alternatives, how do we convince the rest of society to follow along? How do we convince the traditionalists? How do we convince the worried parents that their children's futures are secured? As you can imagine, it'd simply be a mess.
We forget that we're human beings, capable of the things we could be doing, and get trapped in this ever-tightening grip. Eventually that grip will crush students, and they'll find out that what they learned in school isn't how the world works. It's like coming out of an asylum after decades and realizing everything you've missed. But in the end, what you learn doesn't really matter anyways, as long as you know lots of stuff you can get to the next step and eventually get that diploma, right?
We forget the entropy of the world and the entropy of the things that run the world. If we can focus on what's constant, we can focus on what's important. But isn't the only constant thing change itself? It's almost a paradox. Almost.
Change = Jobs. Jobs are the ultimate goal in life, right? A high-paying job, a fun job, a secure job. Jobs change overtime, but the very existence of jobs is what doesn't change. I mean, the only way we can sustain ourselves in this world is getting a job! More importantly, jobs are what cause the change in our world. And who knows more about change than anyone else? As I've said, students. Students who are cultured, ambitious, and embracing. Which basically means: Change = Students = Jobs. Now, what the heck is that supposed to mean?
Students are capable of deciding what they want to do (jobs) in an ever-changing world (change). That's what's constant and therefore, that's what's important for us to know.
We, no one else, but we, the students of schools, should be able to figure out what we want as our job in the future. But the only reason why students, even at my age, probably don't know what they want to do with themselves in the future is that we lack the exposure to the outside world and the right knowledge we can use to help ourselves decide our future destinations. Why? Because of the textbook. Yesterday's heavy, boring textbook. It's metaphorical as much as it's literal; I mean those clunky textbooks that give us hunchbacks and teachers' proverbial textbooks: the guidelines to teaching a child success. In just decades' time, I'm telling you, they'll be nearly useless. It's like using a history book to read the news. Sure they get updated (hence, Second Edition, Sixth Edition, you know what I'm talking about, right?), but let's be honest here, they don't really let go of or add much to the core theories of the textbooks' respective subjects, don't they?
We therefore don't know the job opportunities that are out there, because the gatekeepers of knowledge will only tell us the job opportunities of the past. For example, I want to take industrial design in college, and I'm laser-focused on becoming an industrial designer one day. But I didn't know there was even a job like this until I thought about what I wanted to do with the empty Moleskine book I was given on my 13th birthday. I'm not saying this applies to everyone; obviously there are "textbook" jobs that are still very relevant and very important. But you won't believe the sheer size of the broader selection out there…
So what do we do? We make the students decide what they get to know (and therefore, what they want to do), because they're able to embrace the change that occurs in our world. They can understand the importance of current things more than traditionalists can.
- For example, there are relatively new issues like global warming that have great business opportunities. Why don't we expose them to those opportunities then?
- New entertainment mediums are bursting on the internet that content distributors just can't get their heads around. Why don't we expose them to those mediums then? (Sidenote: Isn't that a great analogy to all this as well?)
- Technology is improving so fast that people in highly-developed or rapidly-developing countries are complaining about spending money too often on the latest devices. In other words, too much choice in the market under short periods of time. Why don't we let them investigate the factors behind that?
The old system is starting to fail. Students are increasingly getting fed up with traditional methods and the things we have to do to make those traditional methods work. Teachers are still important. They're our guides to life. Like I said, they're the gatekeepers of knowledge, who are meant to pass it on to the next generation at the right time. They aren't, however, the sources of that knowledge. That's what's flawed. That's what needs to be changed.
Okay, time to calm down a bit. What was I talking about again? Scarred childhood…swimming…house events…oh yeah. Why? That's basically the general, vague question I'll end this post with. Just remember that you can't answer the question unless you take the future of students into account, and that future is synonymous with their job.
Disclaimer: I say "students" quite a lot in this post, don't I? Well I guess I mean that from my point of view, a high school student (hence, "High School vs. Change"). But I think it's applicable to most, if not all, high school students because it's at this point in time that we become more aware of issues around us and we become more logical towards making decisions (hence, the rebellious teenage stereotype, eh?). That's what I mean by cultured and ambitious. (Then again, ambitious could apply to students in general, from kindergartners to senior high school students. I wanted to be a freakin' construction worker in primary school. 'Nuff said.)