Education is a gift that many take for granted. Some view it as a necessity to survive or succeed in life. Others view it as a means to attach their self-worth to or establish superiority among their peers. These motivations connect to how students learn in school. In schools today, more emphasis is placed on memorization and attaining good grades and less on understanding and contemplating topics and growing from mistakes. Even I find that it’s simpler, and faster, to memorize my notes in order to do well on a test, instead of actually internalizing the material.
Yet, when we replace critical thinking and meaningful analysis with high standards of achievement and lists of facts, what do students actually garner from education? Perhaps they may acquire bragging rights or the ability to spout statistics. But what are students truly learning? Are we raising a generation of stressed over-achievers, drained from education, or thoughtful scholars, challenged and inspired to pursue knowledge?
Learning to Think Well
I wrote a paper on literary censorship, and one of my main points was how education systems need more philosophers and less machines. Too often textbooks teach students what to think, and not how to think. In defiance of this, I am a firm believer in outside sources, or primary texts, accompanying the learning process.
As Joy Clarkson writes, “In a primary text, we are more aware of the contextual and conditional nature of each book… Because primary texts are not usually written for contemporary audiences in American education, we are invited to think about the intended audience; what was their world like? What were they concerned about? What did they assume was true? This both inculcates a more active and critical attitude in the student, but also protects them from any propagandist view of history, literature, and even science.”
There is only so much modern textbooks can relay, only so far they can go without letting bias overshadow their arguments. However, by interpreting the world through resources outside of the required texts of a curriculum, students gain a deeper understanding of the subjects.
School is a time for students to explore their interests and find their passion. But enrichment of the mind should not be confined to the perimeters of lectures and homework sessions.
By surrounding oneself in pursuits pertaining to one’s passion, students reveal a thirst for knowledge, growth, and intellectual enjoyment that education programs will notice and value.
And a student’s passion impacts every area of their academic, and non-academic, life.
As my passion for literature and writing has grown, I’ve begun to observe threads in other subjects that connect to this ardor. From learning about the information theory in Biology to reading why writers need math, my delighted surprise in picking out literary elements in the scientific and mathematical field has increased my pleasure of these subjects.
Outside of school, I’ve started collecting and creating a literary binder. It’s composed of reflections of book passages, articles/journals I’ve printed out and critiqued, quotes, book/poetry analyses, lecture notes, reflections on plays, and other pieces of literature that touch my soul. (One of the articles/posts I have in the folder is “Seven Values for Learning” by Sarah Clarkson. I encourage everyone to check it out — it gave me a deeper understanding of why we learn.) I It may appear meaningless to some, especially since it doesn’t count toward a grade or extracurricular activity, but it’s all for the purpose of sharpening my mind and deepening my love for literature. So it’s vital and valuable to me.
No matter how exhausting and challenging education seems when we’re in the throes of it, it is shaping us. It is equipping and preparing us with the tools to pursue our passion and influence society. Once we view our minds as something to cherish and edify, we can gain a clearer understanding of and appreciation for education.