Recently I had a thought. I tend to have a lot of thoughts but this thought particularly caught my attention. What is school even for? The word ‘school’ derives from the greek word σχολή (romanized: scholē) meaning “leisure” or “that in which leisure is employed”, over time the meaning was been morphed and perverted into “a group to whom lectures were given”. To the perceptive reader of this paragraph you may notice that sounds much more familiar to our modern ears. But is that really a good thing? I would argue no.
Let’s assume the goal of a human life is to contribute something meaningful to society while maintaining a high standard of happiness. Some people see fit to accumulate wealth to meet that goal, some choose to volunteer at your local homeless shelter, and still others try their hand at creating said homeless shelter. To do any of these things in today’s society someone would need money, or time. So why are almost no skills related to these concepts taught in school?
Well for the United States school system at least the answer lies in the industrial revolution.The education system as we know it today is about 200 years old. Prior to the industrial revolution formal schooling was only available to the elite. But as industrialization morphed the way we work, it created a need for universal education. Factory owners required docile, agreeable workers who would get to work on time and do what they were told to do. Sitting in a classroom from 8-3:30 5 days a week was exceptional training for that. Industrialists were instrumental, then, in creating and hoisting universal education to the level it is at today. Even then it wasn’t designed to help your average joe live a full life and today it is doubly worrying considering the industrial revolution ended 180 YEARS AGO.
It is worth some self reflection on whether this game of “collect as many A’s as you can!” that is forced on kids for their first 18 years of life (18 years that most people agree are the best years for actually learning), has a place in our society today. Why is a system created to benefit a tiny slice of people still in use today so long after its use has diminished? Kids should be taught to do their own taxes, not how to play hot cross buns on the recorder, if that’s what they’re interested in then let them choose that. I challenge anyone reading this and thinking “This kid is crazy, school teaches you important life skills” to stop and think: what were those important skills? Maybe reciting every state capital has helped you in your career? Or maybe memorizing all the presidents in order, or perhaps the time management skills you learned helped you, You know the ones my friends in public schools are learning when they stay up until 5am writing a paper they dont give a flying frick about.
All i’m saying is maybe it’s time to think about the way society treats kids as so stupid they cant even figure out how to learn on their own. The same kids who learn how to walk and speak simply by observing others. This type of learning is not available to most people today and that needs to change. One system is not going to work for everyone and that needs to be recognized to push true progress. All your life you are taught to color in the lines, but people coloring outside the lines is what brings new ideas, and ultimately change to areas that need it.
To be COMPLETELY clear i do not think schools have NO purpose, All I’m saying is kids would be much happier and contribute more in the long run if they were being taught how to get a job, manage money or grow a business rather than the preamble to the united states constitution, latin, or that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.
It’s time to rethink our schooling system, and include students in the conversation.
-Kiran Alumbaugh, 16yo student at Diablo Valley School.