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

Popular Right Now

17 Times Your College Professor Said Something More Confusing Than Anything In A Textbook

"You should remember this from [other class], so I won't cover it." Yikes.

It's midterm season, y'all, and it's a crazy time in college student's lives. If you haven't been paying extremely close attention in class, there's a good chance that you are completely lost by anything that your professor says. If you spend every class session mouth agape and eyes wide staring blankly towards the front of the room, this one's for you.

1. "Let's review the homework due last night."

There was homework?!? Yikes, another zero in the grade book there.

2. "Are there any questions about what we just covered?"

Nope, there are no questions, because I don't even understand what I don't understand.

3. "If you turn to page 300 in your textbook..."

There's a textbook in this class? And we have to bring it to class?

4. "For the test next week..."

There's a test? Next week?? Good luck on that one...

5. "Please come ask questions during my office hours."

I don't even know where this building is. I don't even have questions.

6. "You can find that in the syllabus."

I have like 8 syllabi, I have no idea where that is, can't you just tell me the answer.

7. "If you want to see your results, come to my office hours."

I have to go out of my way just to see what I got wrong? Again, I don't know where your office hours are.

8. "Please send all questions to the TA, not me."

You really can't just answer my simple question? I have to track down another person?

9. "Please don't use laptops in this class."

I have to buy a notebook? I don't think I even remember how to write.

10. *Crams two chapters worth of material in one class session*

Yup, I didn't get a single word of that.

11. "No eating or drinking in this class."

I am thirsty 24/7 and you want me to sit here for over an hour without drinking water? OK.

12. "You should remember this from [other class], so I won't cover it."

Uhm, I took that class my freshman year, I definitely do NOT remember that, so can you please just refresh it?

13. *Doesn't put in test grades for months*

Because nothing causes panic like not knowing if you're passing or failing until the end of the semester.

14. "I'm disappointed that the average was so low."

If everyone's grades are low, it's probably not our faults?!? Maybe if things were explained better...

15. "If you could all fill out the online evaluation form..."

Listen, I have absolutely no idea what's going on in this class, so that form will not be pretty.

16. *Doesn't respond to any e-mails*

I think a week was more than enough time to answer my extremely basic question...

17. "Really, nobody has any questions? Last call..."

Really, I really have no idea what is going on and cannot put words together to ask a single coherent question.

Good luck on all your exams, and hopefully your professors get a little easier to understand!

Cover Image Credit: Kayla Master

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Being A Future Educator And Dealing With School Shootings

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

If you haven’t heard about the 18 school shootings that we have had so far while President Donald Trump, then you need to catch up on your news. 2018 has been rough so far and these events have changed and impacted the United States and the education system.

I’m going to college to be an elementary education teacher and with all of these recent school shootings happening and everyone constantly talking about it, it’s completely devastating. There are so many other students like me who are completely dedicated to being a teacher and loving our students that we pray this would NEVER happen to our school let alone ANY school. It’s nerve-racking and heartbreaking for the future teachers, present teachers, staff, kids, parents, families, and everyone else. It’s terrifying for me because there’s always a thought or a possibility that something like a mass shooting on a school campus could happen to my school. Whether that’s a school I’ll teach at in the future or while I’m in college. I pray it never happens. But it would be utter chaos if it did.

It would be like any other normal school day. Except for this time the school is on lockdown. This time all the teachers are doing their protocol and trying to protect their students. We have fire drills, tornado drills, earthquake drills, lockdown drills but what about mass shooting drills? It’s a scary thing to deal with. Fast forward to all the police showing up to the school: the parents freaking out and wanting to know where they’re children are. The families of the teachers and staff freaking out over their family members safety. It’s all too real.

This is about gun control; I’ve heard both sides of this story. Some people think teachers should have guns in the classroom to protect their students and some people disagree. Is gun control about making it more difficult for people to get guns or making it easier? There are two sides to this and I’m in the middle observing both sides of the argument. More gun control laws would reduce death but the con of that is gun control laws do not deter crime, but that gun ownership deters crime. Will gun control laws prevent criminals from obtaining guns or breaking laws? Probably not. Are gun control laws such as background checks an invasion of privacy? There are so many factors to be thought of about this subject. I’m not one for politics and I like I said I’m in the middle of the two. It's time we have gun safety in America to prevent more innocent lives of adults and children from being hurt or killed.

This map shows the gun carrying policies in all 50 states as of 2017. Think about it.

I think we can speak for all education majors that the last thing you want to hear when you are sitting in a classroom trying to learn how to be a teacher is people discussing one of the worst things that you can imagine happening as a teacher. We all know it happened, and we are all aware it needs to be talked about, but rehashing something over and over, especially something as tragic as this does nothing but put people against each other. We all want better conditions for our kids, no matter what your political standing is. So, instead of posting every disturbing video, comment or picture that can possibly be found on the internet, talk to your representatives, consider the opinions of the people around you, and remind yourself what we all know but is very easy to forget: most people in this world are good.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Related Content

Facebook Comments