Schools are a Wasteland

“When I was in high school, I felt like I was in a vacuum, biding time.  I was curious, but bored.  It was not an atmosphere conducive to learning. Once I had the means to effect change in this arena, it became my passion to do so.” –  George Lucas

WW1 battlefield 1

I am just going to come out and say it.  Most high schools and colleges are ridiculously bad.

Before you get in a huff thinking about all the good teachers you know, notice I said our schools are ridiculously bad, not that our teachers are ridiculously bad.  We can talk about bad teachers another day.

Or you may be thinking that I need to take a historical view.  If you look back in history our schools are pretty amazing.  Everybody can go to school up through high school for free.  That is actually quite remarkable. However, just because our current schools are better than not going to school does not make them good.

I started with the quote from George Lucas above because that is exactly how I felt in school most of the time – bored.  The whole point of school should be to learn things that are useful, or to make you a better person. Learning should not be boring.  Learning should be challenging, exhausting, difficult, and stressful at times, but not boring.

School Ruins History

Take history class for example.  Real history is amazing.  There are amazing stories and mind boggling connections between events that can be debated for eternity.  Instead of focusing on these aspects, we treat history as a list of facts to be memorized.

“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”

For example: What is more interesting, that WWI started on July 28th, 1914 or that the trench warfare battlefields turned into horrific moonscapes that inspired Mordor from the Lord of the Rings (See picture above)?

If you understand a little bit about how horrific the battlefields of WWI were, it makes it a lot easier to understand why the allied powers appeased Hitler for so long to avoid the Second World War. As young men, the leaders making the decisions to appease the Nazis listened to the screams of their friends as they slowly bled to death in no man’s land, or slowly drowned in mud. I might be a little hesitant to send my kids to war if I had experienced that.

Drowned in Mud

Understanding how horrific war can be can help create more informed voters and army recruits.  In contrast, does knowing that WWI started on July 28th, 1914 really help you with any big decisions?

So why do we make history class boring?  History class is both less valuable and harder to teach when it is boring.  And we all know what happens when students get bored.

History class is just one tiny example of what is wrong with our schools.  The obvious problems with how we teach history are nothing compared to the absurdity of how the system is setup.

We should be teaching history better and we could find ways to train better history teachers.  But compared to the systematic absurdities baked into our schools fixing those things is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Broken Framework

I don’t have the knowledge to design the perfect school system. However, I do hope to convince you that our school system is so radically absurd that it needs to be changed.

Over the next four posts I am going to look at how tunnel vision, infantilizing students, testing, and damaging priorities are doing a lot of harm to our current students.   Our current school system is creating of wasteland of under-performing and demoralized students piled up behind the few students who succeed.

My goal for this upcoming series is to convince you that our schools are so terribly bad that making huge improvements is a real possibility.

Do you feel your school experience did a good job of preparing you for life after school?  Did the most important lessons you learned in school have anything to do with course material?

In the next post we will look at how schools take a view that is too narrow to lead to success for most students.

Next: Part 2 “Education Tunnel Vision

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