We’ve all been there. Sitting uncomfortably in a musky, overcrowded classroom, books sprawled across the table, whilst aimlessly twiddling our pens – desperately hoping that the continuous, monotonous drone of the tutor’s voice subsides into the dull abyss.
Staring out the window, the bored whispering begins from the back of the classroom, but you would still rather be over the fields playing football, or aimlessly wandering in central London.
Personally, I’d probably have been happy sitting in an Art class, drawing horrendously unsymmetrical faces. As a matter of fact, anywhere and anything would be better than sitting through dull subjects, like Maths.
I mean, how gripping can algebra really be, especially for school-aged children, who cannot see how this subject is useful in their everyday lives? As a fully-functioning adult, not once has algebra cropped up outside of the classroom.
Even when asked by my cheeky, younger cousin, as to why he must learn algebra, I failed to give a useful answer. Needless to say, Maths was never and will never be a personal strong subject for me. However, the disinterest in school goes beyond Maths, and the inability to see the uses of algebra on a day-to-day basis, especially with the school kids of today.In most places across the globe, something that’s so fundamental to the progression of young people such as school can be confusing, restrictive, and in some cases, can be outright traumatising.
Children, whether they like it or not, are sent to school and are expected to be confined in a single room for six hours every single day. Children are expected, for twelve long years of their lives, to obey the rules, to follow direct orders, and to learn assigned subjects, which they have absolutely no interest in at all.
What children and teenagers at school truly want, is to have fun. They want to communicate and form social connections, to explore, play, ponder and create – and every single one of these things, isn’t tolerated by teachers. From the minute they wander through the school gates at 9:00am every weekday morning, fun isn’t allowed.
“School is basically prison,” one young student told Artefact. “When I lived in London, and I was in primary school, they never let you do anything. Even in art, the told you what to do and what to draw. I used to like art until I got to like, I don’t know year three, as well. The only good thing about school was playtime.”
This student’s school life took a turn for the worst after moving out of the capital. “I got kicked out of school, but we moved to fucking Blackpool as I got to year seven. I didn’t know anyone because we moved in like, the summer but when it was nearly school time,” he explains, frustrated.
“School starts and the fucking northerners started bullying me because I was from London and because I was fat. I got into fights and that because the useless teachers weren’t doing shit about it. I was always being suspended for defending myself, like.
“At school, we were told when we could and couldn’t go toilet, what we have to do, in lessons, we were told where to sit and who to talk to. We weren’t allowed to play football or ball dog, we weren’t allowed our phones. Basically, we weren’t allowed to do anything. School is basically a prison, but with more dumb-arse rules,” he explains.When asked about school subjects, this student did have hope. “I actually used to love history in primary, but all we got taught in secondary in Blackpool was the History of Blackpool. In primary, I was actually pretty good at it, until I come here. I got kicked out and put into a unit and really, it’s the dumbest thing. It ain’t school, but like, I’ve even been suspended from here, just for asking to go piss. I hate school, but I know I need qualifications and I ain’t going to get that here anyway. That’s why my behaviour is so shit,” he shrugged, as the conversation came to an end.
School, as you would expect, is supposed to be a place where children begin to think for themselves and to develop skills to be the leaders of tomorrow, becoming wiser and more thoughtful individuals. However, school is suppressing children in a variety of ways, which is turning school life into something miserable. Ask any student, and their response will often be ‘school is like prison’.
At school, students are expected to accept the role of the authoritative figure without question and repeat what they’re being taught as though they’re living in an isolated, unimaginative echo chamber.
School, as an institute of learning, is in fact, hindering students from developing their own sense of self, and their own form of critical thinking. However, those students who unquestionably do as they’re told, and succumb to this parrot-like learning, are inevitably rewarded with good grades and a great academic career.Those who choose to think, see, and do things differently, are often punished with bad grades, detention, or permanent exclusion from school.
This isn’t surprising as most students like this learn in a creative environment and if they are restricted in what they learn, how they learn and most importantly, restricted in what they should think, behavioural issues begin to seep in. This isn’t because they are naughty, but because they are frustrated.
Most students going from primary school to secondary school are full of excitement, whilst completely unaware of what secondary school has to offer.
Another young student explains: “At first I was excited to know that I was moving onto the next step because primary felt very long, and I was kind of excited to move onto the next level. My thoughts on secondary school have changed. Just before Christmas, I was in class and I was asking the teacher ‘what the time is’ so he told me that was a very rude question, so I asked why was that a rude question, so I was sent out of the classroom and given an hour detention. This was fifth period and I only asked the question because we don’t have a clock in the class that works,” he told Artefact.
“I was shocked because if I’m only year seven and I’m getting this, what’s going to happen as I get older? The thing is, I have that same teacher for RE, English and Writing for Success, and he always thinks I’m talking and I get in trouble. He’s supposed to give us warnings, so I stopped and I had to stay in for detention. I was still shocked,” he explains, despite the school rules stating that detentions follow after three warnings.
For this young student, these instances led him to develop a complete hatred for the school and an obvious fear of what may come. That is a big change in attitudes towards school in only four months.
“It has changed my mood a little bit. I didn’t think that the teachers would be like that. I thought they would be nice but seeing as I have never seen teachers like this before, I’m still kind of getting used to how the teachers are. I don’t know what could happen in the future, I could get into more trouble. I mean, I still have five years left, so between now and then, I really don’t know what could happen,” he concludes.While this student is still very new to the secondary school environment, most older students know that at school, you are no longer allowed to be an individual.
At school, students are taught how to think. Instead of learning to use their personal strengths, school is outrightly stunting the growth of intelligence by filling the minds of tomorrow with information which they have no choice but to accept without question.
Bringing your own creative thinking into the classroom is often met with the rebuttal that you haven’t understood the core concept of the subject and are destined to fail.
This is the most confusing aspect of schooling for most students, as they’re often told to ‘think out of the box’. Being told to think creatively whilst being told that you’ll fail if you do and having your mind filled with information that is useless once you leave school; it isn’t surprising that young people are failing to make correct life choices.
Education should not be about cramming information into the students’ minds solely to pass exams that will, in the long haul, hold no substance. Up until now, school has forced students to fit into the mould of our unhealthy society.
To be normal (and normal you MUST be), means to work in industries or obtain jobs that we absolutely hate, to doubt our abilities, and to bow down in submission to anyone or anything remotely authoritative.
The purpose of school should be to enable children to access tools to develop their own personal skills. School should allow its students the freedoms of self-expression, developing their chosen talents, while also developing the essential basic knowledge and skills.
Instead, schools allow the next generation to wander through life desperately seeking the approval of authoritative figures when they themselves are unsure of their value.
Most importantly, school should be the place where the needs of individual students are understood, and met, so that the children can grow, achieve and to follow their passions. To change the mindset of students, the way we teach must change.
Featured image by vazovsky via Flickr CC