I am an extremely opinionated person when it comes to the education system, and I have opinions on both ends of the spectrum. On one hand, I am a tremendous proponent of education in general, and could not possibly overstate the importance and opportunity I believe it provides, on professional, pragmatic, and personal levels. On the other hand, I am a tremendous critic. I see major flaws in almost every aspect of the educational system, and believe its drastic reinvention is essential for our generation's future, mental health, and ability to reach the highest potential value and magnitude of knowledge. With that being said, the public education system does some right, and as proactive students absorbed into the system, I believe we should utilize various facets of what we're given to create the best possible education for ourselves. There is an illusion that we're submissive counterparts to the system, unable to truly determine our learning endeavors until college. While this is partly true, the way in which one either feeds into or resists this notion plays a huge role in the actual course one will take. We can choose to take initiative that will benefit us and be of importance to us in the long run. And, quite frankly, make "conforming to the system" more tolerable, allowing us to think for ourselves in an environment where it is often difficult to. The following are great starts:
1. Take classes outside of your core curriculum.
One of the biggest struggles students have with staying motivated is the idea that we are learning copious amounts of information on subjects that will be of no use to us in the real world, and have absolutely no affect on our careers. In order to balance this, take classes outside of the core curriculum that have plenty of real world applications, and are of interest to you. Learning when you're passionate about or captivated by a topic is essential to finding your way academically as well as in life.
2. Find out WHY you're doing the work you're doing.
I once got in trouble for asking a math teacher how a concept we were learning could be applied to the real world. She yelled at me and collectively punished the entirety of the class with an irrelevant assignment. However, she was fired later in the year, due to her incompetence. I wanted to know why I was doing the work I was doing, so I could actually feel good about putting time and effort into it. Education needs to be a mutual exchange, not a one way street. It's hugely beneficial to get context about what's being taught, in order to get a true understanding, and thus, actual intrinsic motivation. It's more imperative to be motivated by ourselves and our own internal drive, than by anything external.
3. Use grades as an incentive, NOT the end goal.
While grades can be ideal to work towards, because they are tangible short term goals that help to achieve other tangible long term goals, it can sometimes feel like a self-defeating cycle. Often times, studying to get a good grade and then immediately forgetting the content can leave you asking, "for what?" I've started to look at grades, not as something I work towards exclusively, but a type of positive reinforcement resulting from hard work and gaining knowledge. Looking at grades like an encouragement to learn and develop skills is healthier, I find, than looking at grades as the final destination.
4. Try to derive something of meaning from everything you do.
Even if its a subject that will truly make zero impact in your life, try to focus on one aspect of the work that will benefit you. You have to do the work or else you fail, so you might as well try to gain something. By focusing on one aspect, however minuscule it may be, you'll feel far more productive and accomplished. Work on time management, writing skills, or an obscure, minimal portion of the content that interests you. Regardless, immersing yourself into anything will help to make it go quicker, so you can focus on the things that actually matter to you, and maybe learn something of value along the way. Sometimes we aren't explicitly taught things of value, and we have to take it upon ourselves to make the most of it.
5. Don't take what you're taught as a given. Challenge.
Challenge, challenge, CHALLENGE! Something doesn't seem accurate? Do your own research. Don't agree with the opinions of a teacher or peer? Engage in healthy debate. Don't understand the purpose of something? Ask. It's so important to play an active part in learning the truest truth you can. Because if you don't, you'll never know. It's self-censorship.
And if all else fails, our independence is on the horizon.