Seriously, though. I have long believed that it is the duty of every human being to express one’s self in some meaningful way. Once upon a time in American schools, students wrote at a much higher level on average than they do today. They were exposed to much more music education, especially when it came to classical, and given far more chances to succeed artistically.
Today, if young people want to learn to express themselves through music, clothing, dance, or some other outlet, they have to go about it as an extracurricular activity. School has become all about academics. And, oddly enough, while writing is still considered a primary concern, students writing at the same level that they once did. What's up with that?
Humans Have to Express Themselves
As I’ve said before, a human being’s personality requires a way to express itself in a unique and positive ways. Otherwise, people become bored or stagnated by the monotony of routines. I firmly believe that finding outlets for Self-Expression necessarily makes lives far more interesting. These outlets constantly open new doors for individuals to discover new ideas and perspectives.
The problem is that it seems today’s curriculums are becoming narrower than ever. There is far too much standardized testing. Yes, you need to make sure that certain knowledge is taught and that basic skills are learned adequately. But today there is so much pressure for student to achieve academically, yet other countries blow America away? This really doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Actually, the reason for this is actually quite clear. We give up on a lot of students. Our high school dropout rate is something like 30 percent. If students can’t fit the one-size-fits-all methods of our education system, they get left behind. George W. Bush passed the “No Child Left Behind” law. Now we’re leaving more children behind than ever. The Republicans and Democrats keep beating on each other over education. Meanwhile, our kids are abandoning their educations because of clear disinterest in their well-being.
That’s not to say that teachers are just purposely giving up. Teachers and educators of all sorts are being put in harder and harder situations all of the time. Remember, teachers are people, too. You think the kids get stressed out? Who wants to teach a room full of kids with no desire to learn? The schools don’t let teachers teach anymore. Some people say we need longer school days (even Obama said this). No, we need those days to count and not waste the poor kids’ times.
More and more, parents that have the means to do so are home-schooling their kids instead of relying on public school systems. Home-schooled kids tend to have a lot more enthusiasm for learning. Since they’re not dealing with a lot of the social pressures, they can devote more attention to not being picked on, and more time on study.
Some will argue that this is bad for the children because they’re not developing “thick skins.” Believe it or not, home-schooled kids usually have more free time and learn more than their public-schooled counterparts. Well, then. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Likewise, children in private school tend to perform a bit better, as well. But home-schooling is far more affordable. Charter schools are also becoming an alternative, and they usually cost parents nothing and their children get tons of one-on-one attention.
Is Self-Expression Something That Can Be Taught?
This sounds like it’s turning into a rant on education and not self-expression. Well, this is why. Self-expression is not very well taught in schools any more. Sure, it’s talked about, but rarely are children encouraged to do so anymore. Sure, there are still drama clubs and band and such. But all of these activities are considered more as extra-curricular activities. They are meant to load up a transcript in order to get into more prestigious universities and acquire more financial aid. They’re not for enrichment of the mind and soul. They’re for earning brownie points with university admissions and financial aid officers. It should be about learning and expanding your horizons and learning who you are as a person. It shouldn't be about how many points you’re scoring towards getting into Yale or whatever.
Trust me. College is grossly overrated unless you’re going to become a doctor, pharmacist, or teacher. There are a few other fields, like law, where you can make a boatload of money if you get a great opportunity when you graduate. In every other field, your educational costs are greatly disproportionate to what you’ll earn when you graduate.
Sure, you could luck out, but the job market has become so grossly competitive. Most likely you’ll be earning close to minimum wage for a long time. So, you spent your entire childhood mortgaging your life away to go to college in order to get a good job. Then, after you get out of school, you spend the next 5 years underpaid and underappreciated before realizing this whole process really sucks. It’s not a system built for you to win.
So What Happens. Then?
So you know what happens? A lot of kids figure they won’t get to college so they drop out and grab whatever minimum wage job they can. A lot of them end up on welfare or Social Security. That’s right. We’re instilling a sense of hopelessness in a lot of kids. In other countries, if students perform, their college expenses are subsidized by the government.
In this country, if you don’t get into scholarship funds or special academic programs, you’re on the outside looking in. If we invested more in getting our kids invested in their education, we’d actually save money in the long-run. This is because we’d have more productive members of society.
Kids aren’t learning how to self themselves very well anymore. Sure, some figure it out on their own through hard work and dedication to their passions. But some kids need a bit of a confidence boost and need a reason to excel. If college is now such an integral part of getting a good job, make sure the kids understand that. They can’t just go to school and throw away four years with the “college experience” that these schools continue to allow perpetuating. They have to actually work hard as they have all along.
But since most kids don’t see a point in continuing if they can’t go to college, they often drop out, some get their GED’s and just sort of float through life. Do some of them work their asses off and succeed? Sure. It happens more than you think it would. I've seen high-school dropouts go on to become high-ranking managers and successful small business owners. But millions of kids are getting cheated out of a chance to actually succeed and make it big in life.
American educators need to wake up and realize all the kids they’ve left behind with their stupid standardized testing rules. They need to let teachers teach instead of forcing all of these stupid curriculum rules. These restrictions only hamper teachers’ ability to actually draw up good lesson plans.
What Should We Do?
We need to bring back art and music into regular school schedules. Recess needs to be brought back to a full half-hour. Extra-curricular activities should be integrated into the curriculums. The focus should become on individual achievement on one’s own merits, not just measured against percentiles. And most of all, encourage students to express their opinions in an open forum. Stop forcing kids to have to learn how to take tests and teach them how to find their best methods of learning.
We started making progress with all of these learning methods a long time ago. Believe it or not, progress is still being made. But public school kids most often don’t have these benefits, except in more affluent communities. It’s created a major class gap that shouldn’t exist. If you want to help kids in inner cities, yeah, sports programs are great and all. But you have to give kids hope. Without that hope, the only way kids will learn how to express themselves is through their frustration and hopelessness. That’s not what you want.
I’ve known so many bright and clever people slip through the cracks because they knew they had no chance of getting into college. Some of them went and got pregnant and went on welfare. Some got lucky and married good people that are able to support them while they stay home with kids. Some got lucky and worked their asses off in retail and became managers making a modest but livable wage.
But more of than not, more people I knew in school ended up becoming criminals than those that didn’t. Some committed suicide. Sure, some actually went into the military, and good for them. But that’s rare. The other stories are more likely. It shouldn’t happen. Had they been a bit more encouraged, known they could at least attend community college or a state school if they kept their grades up, you may have saved some lives.
Give the Kids a Chance!
We have to let kids have a chance to learn that they have amazing gifts and talents that just need time to develop. If these standardized testing methods continue much longer, we’ll have lost a third of our current generation to indifference and hopelessness. This must stop now. Start teaching kids that self-expression is their right as Americans. If our country is to survive as its founding fathers intended, it is a duty that they learn to do so.
These are hard words to say. But I was given this talent of self-expression through language and I have worked diligently to hone it. I was not taught how to write. I learned it all on my own through endless hours of scribbling nonsense. But now that I know that I can say what needs to be said, it is my duty to do so.
You have something important to say, too. Find your outlet and get it out there!
- Phoenix <3