The Concept Of “Academic Ability” In American Higher Education Is Skewed

The Concept Of “Academic Ability” In American Higher Education Is Skewed

The kids' ability to be creative, that is.

Picture this: you’re 22 years old, recently graduated with an undergraduate degree from a university that you would have sold an arm or a leg to get into four years ago. In high school, you spent your afternoons making passable grades (primarily excelling in the Arts and English), creating art and pocketing a sketchbook with you wherever you went. As a recent college grad, you now have the “world at your fingertips” according to last week’s graduation speaker and until you figure out your “next step,” you also have a one-way ticket to the guest room in the basement of your parents’ new downsized home (which you’ve featured a doleful sketch of in your pocket-sized sketchbook that is now tattered and ripping from countless teachers confiscating it over the years only for you to repossess “at the end of class”).

Perhaps by this point, you have stopped using the right side of your brain all together because growing up, your teachers only tended to the left side of your brain, the “academic” side of your brain. Your right side has almost always been neglected except for those rare moments in college when you got the chance to illustrate something on the board, or draw out a picture of the velociraptor you were trying to study for geology sophomore year. Why is this? Why is it that colleges are not educating students in creativity the way they educate and enforce mathematics and science? Why is it that in third grade (and into college), you were taught that you are not “smart” because you could not complete 60 multiplication problems in one minute.

However, when asked to draw a picture of your dream from the night before and explain it to the class, you had all 23 of your classmates, including your third grade teacher, lured into the palm of your hand, awaiting the next detailed adventure that your dream conducted. Why is it that I can name a handful of recent high school graduates who have chosen “business” as their major despite their natural-born abilities to excel in the studio and performing arts? Is it because someone along the line laughed when they said they want to be an “artist” or a “performer” when the grow up? Or is it because their parents and teachers scoffed at the idea of spending more money on a college education than the average artist even makes in a year?

I argue that our concept of “academic ability” in American higher education is a skewed one and ought to be reconstituted to foster a greater need for the rare (and often suppressed) capacity to be creative. Perhaps the “creative” thinkers would excel rather than being forced into a field outside of their skill set only because it is “stable” and “useful.” The ability to cultivate original ideas that have value and progressive potential is largely replaced in higher education by the need to understand data and numbers or navigate code and technology. After all, when it comes to creative and emotional intelligence, technology can only go so far.

Cover Image Credit: kaboompics

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Don't Put Down Future Special Education Teachers

If only they knew how much they were going to be missing out on.

One of the first few things that people say to me when I tell them I'm going into special education is, "You will always have a job" and "It takes a special person to be in the field." Whenever those two phrases are said to me, I can't help but think as to why they think I'm so different from them or why they are too afraid to consider it. If only they knew how much they were going to be missing out on.

Many people who go into special education are driven, patient, loving, and passionate. You don't just wake up one day and say to yourself that you want to go work with children with disabilities. The decision to pursue this didn't come easy for me because I'd seen how much work goes into the long nights trying to make the children you work with even happier. People really don't give enough credit to the teachers who want to make a difference in people's lives.

Another thing that bothers me when I tell people I'm in special education is that they think I'm not as smart as them or that I'm lazy. Although I may not be the smartest person in the world, I am knowledgeable in many different areas. Like I said, I didn't choose special education because I heard that education classes, in general, were easier, I chose it because it is what I see myself doing for the rest of my life.

I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have a brother with Down-Syndrome. He has shown me that all people with disabilities have so much room for growth and that they are just like you and me. I can truly say that he has inspired me to change the lives of as many children with disabilities as I can because they make this world a better place. Without him, I wouldn't have an appreciation for the little things in life and it would be a lot harder to get over the big things.

As a society, we need to start encouraging people to be teachers and stop putting them down because they are going to be teaching the future of our country. As a sister of someone with a disability, I've realized how much progress has been made because of the teachers who are so passionate. We are all so lucky to have the educations we do and we should all want the same for other people.

Next time when someone tells me how hard it will be or why I shouldn't go into the field, I will tell them that it is truly what is going to make me happy in life and it's important. Giving an education to children with disabilities is something that they deserve and it can ultimately change their lives if it's done the right way. Will you start encouraging the future teachers of children with disabilities? I hope so.

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