04 November, 2011

It's Friday: Let's Piss Off the Education System!

There's generally at least one movie scene per year, maybe every other year, where a high school kid defies authority or whatever by standing up in the middle of class and asking the teacher what good any of what they were being taught was and the teacher is publicly stymied and thus the brash impertinence of youth is victorious over the crumbling regime of the elders and their failing policies.
That sort of shit doesn't happen in real life.
It almost did, though. One time.
One time, when I was in high school (aka that period of my life when I smoked pot and jerked off every day), I can't remember which class it was, it was a science class, science being a subject my parents thought I excelled at despite report card evidence to the contrary, I think it was biology or maybe it was chemistry, the TA, you know, the college kid who hangs out next to the teacher's desk to get a feeling for how to be ineffectual, stands up at the overhead projector, you know, he's taking a crack at it while the teacher, some smug old leathery bag with a hatchet face to match her attitude that I couldn't stand, the one who threatened to suspend me if she saw me smoking a cigarette again, she's out of the room doing whatever it is she's doing when she's not shaping young minds, and he says to us, "Now, are you ever going to need to know this? Not really. But let's just get through this."
And I can't remember who it was asks, "Then why do we need learn it?"
And the TA says, "Because it's on the test."
That's right. I wasn't being taught biology (or chemistry) for the sake of learning and understanding biology (or chemistry), I was learning biology (or chemistry) for the sake of passing a test. A test that I had no interest in taking and knew that, no, would have no impact on my life. I was learning the subject for a matter completely unrelated to its intended applications.
Now, I wasn't a particularly dumb kid in high school. I just sucked at some topics. And I also saw the value of what I was being taught back then. I once told Tito, "It's not like they're teaching me anything that will prevent me from having to ask 'Do you want fries with that?'" Because they weren't. In fact, what they were teaching me in high school has, to this day, not been used for any practical application in real life.
For example, I remember all of four things from physics class (yes, physics): force equals mass times velocity, velocity is distance over time, acceleration equals distance over time over time, and terminal velocity (the gravitational constant) (I think) is 9.8m/s². How many of those things have I used in the dozen years since I graduated? One.
One thing. 9.8m/s². And do you know what I used it for? A joke about Superman II.
The quadratic equation? Never remembered it. From one week to the next I forgot that thing even though I wrote it down. And yet it never occurred to anybody that maybe I was just plain bad at science. My father, you have to understand, was a strict man. And so when I was in elementary school, he made report card day a fucking nightmare, screaming at the top of his lungs (at a seven year old, mind you) about bringing home a B.
That's not a typo.
This pattern behavior continued until I graduated, by that time I had grown bored with the histrionics and the old man was defeated, having witnessed that his tactic of yelling at me to be smarter had failed him, one choice line at the end of our long, quarterly held dinner table war was, "Well, you can't pull your grades around now," as though trying to inject guilt into me for not pulling straight As in subjects that would serve no practical use in my life and thus, I was uninterested in applying myself to as I wasn't really very good at it in the first place.
But where did my father get this idea that I was some scientific genius?

"It was all those standardized test scores you brought home."
Ding ding ding!
Every year that another standardized test came around to measure student aptitude, I consistently blew those bitches out of the water in the areas of language, math, and science. Why? For two reasons. First, I, along with a handful of other kids, was smarter than the rest of the class. The rest of the class being of average intelligence for their age, were who the tests were designed for. That's the second reason. Those tests were designed to reflect the bare minimum of what a child of average intelligence should be able to comprehend and maintain. So, in six grade, as far as science was concerned, that meant that you had to be able to remember that H₂O was water, whales were mammals, salamanders were amphibians, and Thomas Edison invented some shit. That was all you had to know and that's not hard stuff to remember. Thus, I was repeatedly marked above average.
However, when learning the subject matter, I sucked.
There's no way around it, I just sucked.
Sometimes, people suck at things. That's a thing that happens. All over the world, every day, somebody sucks at something.
For me, it was the entire high school suite of sciences.
And yet nobody paid attention. To them, I just wasn't applying myself. I was obviously smart, so how come I couldn't handle the science?
I don't know, maybe because just because I'm good at maths and English and art doesn't mean I'm going to be any good at science. You know what else I suck at? Gym class. You still make me take it, though, and then you wonder why I'm not enthusiastic about it. I don't want to run laps. What the fuck good are laps ever going to do me? What do I learn by doing laps? That I have to quit smoking? I'm seventeen, I just started smoking and now you're telling me I have to quit? Fuck you.
That's the problem with our educational system: Nobody really has the kids' best interest in mind. They just shove the kid from one class to the next and really never observe what his aptitude is suited for. Does he suck at painting water lilies? Yeah? But, wait, he's doing some really astounding work in shop class? Teach that kid the Pythagorean theorem (A² + B² = C²) and hand his ass a t-square.
So this other kid can multiply and divide kind of sort of only alright but he can write an essay like nobody's business? Stick him in more language courses.
And then there's the kid who sucks at science and has no intention of ever going into that field so everything you teach him now is impractical and useless? Don't make him take science!

"But he's good at it. Those state tests say so."
I know it's a scary concept: tailoring a child's education to their interests and talents. I know it means a lot more paper work and requires what people are going to tell me is an unimaginably large amount of funding and that it's going to mean that teachers are actually going to have to put forth an effort...
... and pay attention to and assess what their students' are really apt at. Don't worry, your three month vacations would remain in tact, it's just that you wouldn't be able to shove "general education" in their faces and pump out more useless drones one year after another. Do you ever wonder why you bother teaching the quadratic equation to a room of thirty kids when you know that some will go on to be ranch veterinarians and some will be file clerks for the post office and some will find their life's calling in the kitchens of high end hotels and maybe one will become a shock-comic and that none of those kids needed to hear a fucking thing you said about the quadratic equation? Knowing that their lives will be fine without that knowledge, never needing to know it, never once thinking to Google it because it will never have a place in their lives, why do you insist on making them memorize it? Doesn't make any sense, does it?
And you know what? The kids that did memorize it and didn't go on to become astronauts or particle physicists or whatever profession that fucking thing is used for, you know what the common lay person who knows the quadratic equation does with it? They come up to me and ruin a perfectly civil conversation by bragging, "Oh, the quadratic equation!? That's..." and then they recite it for me. Why? To impress me? Wow, you remembered something from high school that you never use except in instances like this thus negating the usefulness of the formula for the purposes which memory committal was made and now utilize it only to wield an air of superiority over the poor, retarded water-brain baby that I must look like to you right now. Way to go. You've wasted your life.
In other words, teachers? You're teaching those kids to be assholes. The kind that I want to punch. Severely.
And, no. No matter how curious any of you are, my little illiterati, I will not post the quadratic equation here for reference. I don't think of you as water-brain babies. I love you, each and every one of you, just the way you are. Now pick up those shovels. The state tests say you're all dumber than a box of rocks and the world needs ditch diggers, too.

Oh, and this? This was a part of a sentence earlier but it didn't really fit. Problem was that I liked it too much to scrap it:
If a train leaves Boston at a rate of 60MPH and a train leaves San Francisco at a rate of 45MPH, when they crash in Denver, then everybody will fucking die.

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