An Opinion

Brock Burnett

I like to consider myself a renaissance man. I try to dabble in as many things as I can. I have tried my hand at painting, woodworking, gardening, fishing, swimming, running, etc. Most recently I have picked up hiking and music. This works perfectly fine for me when it comes to hobbies, but this idea of being a renaissance person is applied in a place where I don’t think it is successful: school.

“Oh man. Another kid complaining about the school system and its many flaws. What a new and innovative idea. Never heard of that before.” I get it. I am also tired of complaining students. I complain about school immensely, but I think that just this once, I might have a complaint that is valid.

In elementary and middle school, proficiency in a wide array of topics is beneficial. Those schools don’t delve into advanced topics. They stay at a relatively shallow level of understanding for each of the topics they teach and it’s effective. The students have many classes and topics to learn about, but they don’t have to learn in-depth information about each of those subjects and become overwhelmed. Elementary and middle school students learn just enough in all of their classes to be able to hold an intelligent conversation about what they learned, but not deliver a thesis on each topic. This style of learning allows for most students to succeed and do well because they can usually grasp the concepts they are given.

This all changes in high school though. In high school, the topics we cover get much more advanced. Pre-algebra becomes Calculus. Basic science classes become Physics. While the difficulty of material being learned is stepped up, expectations from parents, peers and counselors remain relatively the same: success in all subjects no matter what. We as students are expected to be able to ingest, appreciate and understand knowledge in seven different areas ranging from learning about differential equations to learning how to take beautiful photographs. It’s stressful to try to balance learning and demonstrating knowledge in such different fields. It can drive students to stay up very late on a daily basis in order to finish all of their homework. Sleep deprivation quickly snowballs into many negative effects including increased stress, depression and mental breakdowns. Students truly suffer for their grades.

Students are driven to do whatever they can to cling on to that “A” grade that they need in order to keep their GPA high and have colleges look at them. This has lead students to cheat, lie and steal in order to get a high grade.

Can we blame these students for cheating? Well, yes. Partially, it is their fault for stooping to that level to succeed. At the same time, we as a society and school system place a huge emphasis on being able to master many different subjects and getting that illustrious “A”. I personally am conflicted about the issue. I understand where the cheaters come from because getting those high grades is really all that matters in our school system, but at the same time, cheating is such a disgraceful act to have to commit.

So how can we solve all of this? How do we remove the stress coming from the feeling of necessity to succeed in every class we take? Personally, I have no idea. The education system would need an entire overhaul in order to fix this problem. The emphasis would have to be removed from testing and proving understanding through written assignments to something entirely different. The emphasis might instead be placed on succeeding in the classes that you find most interesting and pertinent to your plans for college. For example, a student that loves animals and wants to become a veterinarian might only take courses in high school that revolve around biology and life sciences. The problem then would come if this student wants to change her career halfway through college. All of their high school experience was a waste.

I honestly don’t know that there will ever be a way to change the education system to remove the stress students feel. I doubt that an innovative way to remove emphasis from testing and scores and move it to what a student is truly interested in instead will ever be found. I really hope that something does happen though because clearly this current system isn’t working, and it shows in the many students that try to be a renaissance person and work themselves into depression by doing so.