Get busy living to learn

No sleep, under stress, drowned in tears, consumed by feelings and terribly afraid to fail—we’ve all been there.

With the increasing pressure over straight As, perfect SAT scores, and glowing extracurricular transcripts, education has hit a snag. Students let grades define who they are, as if a simple number has the capacity to map their complex knowledge. Curiosity, a human instinct prominent in childhood, slowly fades away.  Afternoons that were once spent playing outdoors have been replaced with intensive studying: eyes fixed on computer screens and minds fixated on grades. In a recent ABC News article, a high school student went so far as to say that “grades can determine your future, and if you fail this then you’re not going on to college, you’re going to work at McDonald’s and live out of a car.”

When students cheat on exams it’s because our school system values grades more than student value learning.”

The Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics surveyed 43,000 high school students in public and private schools and found that 59% of high school students admitted cheating on a test during the last year; 34% self-reported doing it more than two times, and one in three high school students admitted that they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment. In response to the misplaced value in education, Neil de Grasse Tyson, American astrophysicist makes it clear that “when students cheat on exams it’s because our school system values grades more than student value learning.”

The education system works to classify students as good and bad, categorizing learning, giving labels to learning, and separating it into subjects. Students are told how to learn and are defined by a  definition of learning so narrow that students became imprisoned by the system.

Learning doesn’t necessarily happen sitting at a desk for eighty minutes, it also doesn’t happen by sitting silently and reading textbooks. Learning is not and should not be dreadful, since it is the process of accumulating knowledge without even realizing it. Learning happens with the student is respected, spoken to as an adult or developed person, rather than an child. Learning isn’t going after the grade, but going after a personal goal, a passion.

We so often find ourselves discarding our questions, thoughts, fears, and dreams in the trash. Is your question relevant to the class? No? Then it may not be answered. Do you fear lackluster grades or not being accepted into top universities? No? Then you seem to have nothing to fear. Are your dreams the same as those you had in the early years of childhood? No? Oh, well. Many of us have been taught that only the foolish ask questions, the timid have fears, and the naïve follow their heart.

My only wish is that my fellow students preserve their curiosity. It is about time that we revert back to our childlike instincts and learn for the sake of learning. Students should remember that the only real grade in life is given by themselves. They should question with reason, have a sense of purpose, and follow a dream. Despite the numbers on your report card and the classes on your schedule, you are more than this. Know that your questions, thoughts, fears, and dreams are valid. Most of all, know that you can change the world. In fact, if there is one thing you want to take away from your school experience, it is that it is not impossible to try and change the world.

Education is a process of creating yourself, of discovering and exploring passions and abilities uniquely your own, so enjoy the journey. Explore, dream and discover—as you used to.