A Culture of Obsession

It has been said that it starts and ends with education. That education cannot be the same kind of education that got us to where we are.

In 2015, I stumbled across a YouTube video presented by a high school student that talked about his inability to be valedictorian because he took choir in high school. It would seem that the grading system is based on only the academics being of utmost importance and those classes only had the ability for weighting as more important. This articulate young man describes education’s culture of obsession and is worth listening to so the video is included here.

It is not just academics in school that is the problem. My own family is obsessed with their credit rating. I guess that is kind of important. It would seem that a number assigned to your credit would be kind of important. It is also indicative of the fact that you need more money that you have access to at a given moment.

In a speech by Daniel Pink, he describes America as doing very well financially. His reasons are that our level of comfort and well being compared to our previous generations have increased. Additionally, compared to countries across the world, we have an amazing level of prosperity. Yet there are still many people that are out of work and devalued and this is startling.

It has been said that it starts and ends with education. That education cannot be the same kind of education that got us to where we are. We need a different kind of instruction. A kind of instruction that leans on the creativity that exists in both arts, sciences, and technology.

GPA and Class Rank

“I am not paying for my child to retake high school English at college.”

Recently, the way that class rank was calculated has changed in the Coachella Valley School District. This made the news because it “knocked out” some people from the coveted “Top Ten”. The news reporter interviewed affected students and they claimed that they couldn’t afford college without scholarships and the designation of Top Ten definitely gave them an increased chance at the scholarship.

This news story led to a conversation at a local middle school faculty room lunch table. The argued that Advanced Placement Classes should weigh more than Honors classes and certainly more than College Prep classes, which they argued are not really College Prep. Their reasoning is that when the students from College Prep and even some Honors Classes are forced to take placement tests, they are put into remedial classes anyway just so that they can be in the college. The frustration was borne out by the comment of a teacher who said, “I am not paying for my child to retake high school English at college.”

Sadly, we only retain what we are taught for a short period of time in the current model for education and the very nature of these “diagnostic” tests will often have the student come up short. This sad situation was created by our desire to “get the student ready for college” more than it was to get the student ready for their 21st century life. If the low end of our academic offerings are labeled college prep, then aren’t we saying that our schools are only a vehicle for going to college and that “everyone should go to college”?

As far as I am concerned, that is the biggest problem with our system. We are far too concerned with class rank, GPA, college acceptance and the prestige that we feel it brings over practical considerations of schooling. Public education was good enough for the industrial age. It should be good enough for the information age, but we need to rethink our priorities. It’s high time to change the conversation at the lunch table.