Revise Our Public School System
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“Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.” - Plato
My name is Madison and I am a teenage girl who was a student enrolled in Ontario's secondary school system and the public school system in general for the majority of my life (though the Canadian system is in many ways identical to the American one). During my time in secondary school, I noticed many significant problems with the core values of our system and the way that it operates, and have many ideas and visions of how it could be altered and modernised in order to benefit current and future students in school. I now believe that it is my duty to speak out on behalf of nearly all secondary school students on a very important and serious matter that needs to be addressed. It is an issue that is often overlooked by many, because it has in our modern times become the ‘norm’, and therefore is relatively unquestioned. I have unfortunately noticed that the way many countries' systems work closely resemble each other, with no country really trying much different. I strongly believe that advancement needs to happen sooner or later, and that now is the perfect time to make it happen. I am currently in the progress of writing a book over this topic, which outlines every single problem I have found and my steps to solving them. Since my book will contain my complete in-depth analysis, I am going to try my best to keep this summary as short as possible by taking only a few excerpts from my book, however, if you would like to read more, then feel free to contact me.
Before I get started, I would like you to remember that just because something has been the norm for a long time, does not mean that it is right and that it is the best way of doing things. All it takes is a moment of reflection on our history over the past 100 years to truly see this. When it comes to school, it is a detrimental thing to everyone involved when getting good marks on your report card and passing classes is valued more than truly taking your time and getting to learn something.
1. Abolishment of certain compulsory credits and addition of new types of courses so that students have more of a variety that could perhaps better suit their own interests.
By secondary school, students may not yet know what they want to do in the future, but every student knows what they excel at and what they do not. If students are forced into doing compulsory classes, it could be considered a waste of time, as one cannot learn when they are being forced to. Even if a student could perhaps ‘grow to like’ a specific course, if they don't from the very beginning and know for sure that it isn't for them, then struggling through it for 5 months just doesn't seem rational to me. Think about it. Let's say, for example, you knew for sure that you wanted to play the piano and study to become a musician in the future. Would you really want to take a compulsory maths class for 5 months, and be required to do homework for that class that took away from your time of studying and practising music when you already knew enough maths to get through your life like the average human being? If students want or need to take a course that is required for university, then they can. I am not suggesting to completely wipe out these courses, but instead, to make them non-mandatory. If one cannot explain why a subject is applicable to most people's lives, then that subject should not be mandatory. Nobody should be forced to learn something that isn't practically useful. Introduce these topics, yes, but let us choose if we want to learn more.
Our schooling system should be much more customisable to the needs of each student. We are all different- people have known this for millennia. However, the current curriculum requires everybody to do the same things. If we as a society want teenagers to be more productive and willing to learn, then we need to train them HOW to think, not WHAT to think. To be able to look at this world in a positive light, instead of staying up for hours each night struggling on homework in a subject that they have no other choice but to take- or else they fail and cannot graduate.
If somebody does not enjoy something from the beginning, then it should be left like that. There is a strong difference between laziness and just not being interested in something. I cannot express enough how unhappy this had made me. Knowing that so much time out of each of my days was being wasted on things I was just not interested in and that after my exams in June, I would never remember anything again is something that upset me very much. That time was time where I could have been doing something much more productive for me- such as building a future for myself, studying things that are worthwhile to me, or being outdoors where much of my passion lies. School to me was memorisation, tests, followed by more memorisation, and the only time I ever got to pursue and learn about my own interests was outside of school, ironically.
I believe that the system needs to allow us our fair share of independence. It should instead be more of something there to support us throughout our already difficult teenage years and offer guidance when we need it, not something that clings to us and follows us everywhere we go. At least in universities, students get to work on what they enjoy and what they want to do as a future career. At the end of the day, the number on the piece of paper signifying how ‘smart’ I am is not what matters most to me. What matters most to me is if I can look back at my experience, ask myself if I have learnt something, and the answer being yes.
2. More freedom in terms of course content, e.g. not being told everything by the teacher and regurgitating the information on the exam, but instead being able to take matters into our own hands and researching our own types of material.
Being able to think and come to conclusions for yourself is a way more effective approach to learning than simply being told everything with close to zero leeway for personal opinions. Having a strict set of rules and guidelines of what students ‘must’ learn does not go too far and could be improved. I am a firm believer that education is achieved, not received.
We as humans all have a sense of curiosity, and we all love to learn. Even the rudest, most infantile acting teenagers you see nowadays have a passion somewhere inside of them. But the curiosity spark inside each and every one of us cannot be artificially ignited- it must come from the student themselves, and we are once again, all different.
3. Less homework (being in school from morning until noon every day, in my opinion, is about enough).
Students will have more time to relax, enjoy their youth, and get to pursue things that interest them outside of school. Multiple studies have found that most students are getting too many extra assignments, leading to sleep deprivation, unhealthy levels of stress, as well as related health problems. Piling on homework in subjects that students are not interested in from the start will not make them enjoy the subject more- in fact, it will do quite the opposite of that. In university, homework that students receive is related to the subjects they enjoy and wish to pursue, but in high school, homework mainly consists of subjects we are forced into. Homework should not be something that is strictly enforced, but students should instead be encouraged to learn more on their own about their particular subject(s) of interest. One of our biggest educational fallacies is that more homework makes better students. Although more homework can lead to better memorisation of a subject, memorisation and learning just aren't on the same level. Learning does not happen at gunpoint, however instead by being given the tools to learn and figuring out things for yourself. When students are forced into doing homework that they do not want to do, I can assure you that they are miserable the whole time throughout it. However, ask a student to go home and spend time learning about what they like, and you would end up with amazing results. Results would include students developing an even stronger work ethic than they would have doing force-fed homework, as they got to do what they enjoy.
4. Learning about more significant, beneficial, and deeper things in school.
The world is changing, and it is changing fast. We are moving into a new era. It is also not sunshine and rainbows like some people might assume it is, and there are definitely things that we as the general population need to be aware of. The news and media do not tell us everything that is going on behind the scenes, and as we continue into the future and technology advances, in school we should learn about important things that we are not told about anywhere else. Some of these topics include GMOs and chemicals in our food (healthy living and cooking could fall under this category), basic survival skills, mental health and learning about ourselves, and being able to think critically in any situation. The dull and shallow concepts learnt in school do not get anyone very far in terms of actual life and reality. If one day a disaster happened, what would help us more: knowing how to find and prepare our own food, or knowing how to find the optimal value and zeros in the equation of the parabola f(x)=2.3x(5+0)-7?
5. More freedom for teachers
Teachers should not have to strictly follow curricula, as they are real people with life experience as well. I am sure that teachers have many ideas of what they wish they could teach their classes, some perhaps way more educational than what is currently required that they teach. Teachers need to be treated as well-educated individuals with their own knowledge and ideas to share- not as puppets who are only employed to teach the same thing for decades to every single class. I reckon that every teacher became a teacher because they want to help and inspire young students. However, how can they possibly do this job as effectively as possible if they must follow so many orders from above? More flexibility is needed for students as well as teachers.
I understand that this would be extremely costly to change, but on the brighter side, it would be one of the best modern advancements of schooling that the world has ever seen. School needs to be more of a unique and enlightening experience, and not revolved as much around tests, the force-feeding of information, strict rules and memorisation.
Every change that has ever happened in the history of our world has always started somewhere. Every change has a beginning, and if we keep holding it off, we are never going to get anywhere. I believe that it is finally time to take action and take our school system up a notch so that we all can get the most out of it.
If you have made it to the end, then I sincerely thank you for reading + your support. Please sign this petition if you are interested in helping me shape our education system into what it should have been all along- and what it definitely needs to become now more than ever! It would be a real honour to see some of my ideas implemented. I am willing to work hard towards this dream of mine, as I strongly believe that the ideas I have would make our current school system much better. Just because most countries in this world are stuck in the past does not mean that it has to remain that way forever. Let's lead a change in the world- and once and for all have a schooling system that everybody can enjoy.
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