Standardizing the Mind
Is it safe to assume that all people are capable of learning the same things? Should the educational system be allowed to say what is useful information and what is not for human learning and development? These questions deserve attention since the answers can determine so much about someone’s future.
One standard set for students is the SAT test. Most Colleges use this single test score along with GPA to determine whether or not a potential student will be allowed enrollment to their school. An SAT test is based in two subjects, mathematics and English. By placing such heavy emphasis on these areas of learning, do we plan to grant the best higher education to those who are gifted writers and mathematicians? Perhaps we don’t intend to do this, but an underlying social bias affects the way we value knowledge or what we think smart people know how to do. Students are encouraged to be doctors, lawyers, mathematicians, or engineers; they are encouraged to shoot for a high status occupation that will generate wealth. In America we like money, we like jobs that make us money, not jobs that make us good people. Our society values scientists. The scope of Western thought is based on reason and logic, everything that we produce is supposed to have a direct purpose and function, production for the sake of consumption. What happened to creating something for thought? Where did our artists go? When was the last time the US won a Nobel Prize in Philosophy or any field other than Science? We don’t think about things unless we get paid for it. Why is an artist not as important to us as a brain surgeon? I think both can show us great and interesting things, but for now I think that an artist can tell us more about human thought.
From as early as grade school we are taught the ‘Scientific Method’, when maybe we should spend more time with finger paints and cooperative learning. In my mind the two most important traits an individual can develop are appreciation for individual creativity and understanding the benefits of sharing that inner individualism with others. No two people are the same, but sharing what we do is best for everyone. People can learn about themselves, their goals and what makes them happy by seeing what other people are capable of producing and realizing that they are also endowed to create.
Somewhere along the line in our schools the goal of achieving for the sake of learning is lost and in its place goes the goal of achieving a grade. If students receive As or Bs on an assignment they are smart, if they get Cs then they are average, if they get Ds or Fs then they are dumb. It’s not fair how simple that is. We forget how dangerous it is to put labels on people. When are we going to grow up and stop putting people over one another? We are all alive and we all have feelings. That makes us all worth so much. I argue that we shouldn’t rate one person as being better than another. If the subject interests them and they want to learn more then they should be considered smart. If someone puts out all the effort they can for an assignment, learning more about the subject and it’s relevance to their lives then they have won already and don’t need to be evaluated.
Children are naturally curious and very apt learners when the subject in front of them teaches them something they didn’t know already. As a society we should encourage students to follow their own interests and see where they are taken, not tell them what they must study or be proficient in to succeed.
Assigning students a grade can have some very negative effects on their learning ability in that subject. People don’t naturally doubt their own abilities unless they get the impression that their work isn’t on par with that of others, usually someone tells them this. By evaluating early we are teaching kids that they are only good at certain things. This can be a hard thing to shake even throughout a lifetime. I used to have the greatest problems with math; as far as I was concerned I was horrible at it. Those feelings came from elementary school where I had a teacher who told me I wasn’t good at math and that I probably never would be. Good teachers eventually took time with me and now I consider it a strong subject, but I know how hard it is to get rid of that feeling of inadequacy.
The alternative is also true. Telling people they are good at a certain subject is great, but to make them focus on it if they really have no interest is stupid. Take for example children that we would consider gifted. What do we do with this type of child? Usually they are advanced a grade or given upper level math classes. When you do this you are telling a child they are above others, they can have trouble making friends, they can be outcast. More is expected of them and thus their abilities seem to dwindle compared to expectations. We treat kids like they need to prove something to us, as if we need to weed out those with potential or they will slip away, all the while neglecting all those others who want just as much to learn. The only good way to encourage specialization is by letting students figure out what they are good at themselves, that’s the strongest learning because they will become most proficient in a subject they enjoy.
Each and every person has what some would refer to as his or her own calling. Some are scientific, some are musical, some mathematical, some poetic, all are vitally important. No two people think exactly the same way, and who would want to live in a society of drones? If you really think about it diversity is the reason that we have beauty in our world, it’s the reason we love or hate things, it’s the only reason anyone enjoys learning in the first place.
There are so many places we could start to make our world a greater place. One I truly believe in is reviewing the consequences of the standards we set. Sometimes I feel like schools don’t always offer enough freedom, while most colleges have a great number of different majors all students must still meet certain general education requirements and pass certain tests. Sometimes it seems like students are just jumping through hoops that someone else holds up for them. I wonder sometimes, how many students are in school to get a degree and how many are in school to really learn. I think all people can wonder. I think we all want to know more about our world and about ourselves, a good education is a great way to satisfy curiosity. If a person wants to learn let them try, don’t judge or discriminate. We need to let students be their own judges sometimes, so they can figure out what they like and are good at themselves. We should try to build more universities and let anyone who has the ambition and the desire for knowledge in. Governments need to realize that education for their people is the best investment they can make. Let’s make it so admission to a school is not based on grades but on individual desire to be there in the first place, because when you have a university filled with students who want to learn, grades are no longer important.