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For the last month or so I’ve been working on this Capstone project. I was looking at how we as a nation could improve our school system. I looked up various Ted Talks, a dozen or so articles, and just looked for what we could do. I found out that we could use some ideas from Finland, that Japan is moving away from the old way of intense training and homework. I learned that some schools use video games in class, and that video games (Or games in general) can improve your life in more ways than just killing time. After looking at all of this, I came to the conclusion that there’s a lot we could do. I learned that our method of teaching and education is decades old, going all the way back to WWII and the Cold War. We’re still just pounding students with knowledge, pumping them through school, and merely manufacturing citizens, rather than thoughtfully constructing human beings. We have no need for the “manufacturing plants” that we have now. There’s a lot we can do to fix this: Introducing various technologies into the classroom to make learning more efficient, adding multiple learning styles into curriculums, and having a larger number of better teachers. This has changed how I think of school a lot. Not just because I’m a student and I don’t like school, but it showed me that our methods are truly ineffective and unnecessarily brutal. I now feel a need to just talk to people about this kind of thing. Spread the word. Show the people in power that something needs to change. There’s a organization called LearnDoEarn, and the whole idea behind that is to take difficult courses in order to get to college, students aren’t prepared, college students drop out too often, etc. They don’t get that that’s the kind of thing that’s causing incompetent students. Hard classes aren’t necessary, good teachers are. More strict discipline isn’t needed, a loving and compassionate community to learn in is needed to prevent the problems.

 

What I’m trying to get at is that it’s going to take some of our students now, both college and high school, to come in and tell them what we need. Tell them how it needs to be done from our perspective, and not just have all of these horrible ideas and rules forced upon on us. We need to get together and work this out, or this country will collapse on itself.

 

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     The school system as a whole needs to stop being an authority figure shoveling information into a kid’s brain, just so they can spit it out on a test and never remember it again. We need to start truly teaching, and teaching in a way that makes the kids engaged and – not necessarily enjoy – but not dread going to school.

     I started out looking at different school systems for inspiration. I mainly looked at Finland, as I don’t think many American children would do well with an Eastern culture school system (Lots of homework, long school days, intensive studying, etc). Finland has a great way of doing things, less homework, more hands-on, and small class sizes. Oh, and it’s not just any teachers teaching. Only the top quartile of graduated teachers get hired. The result? 90% of teachers that get hired stay teachers throughout their career. (NCEE) Finland’s idea of creative and hands-on learning is something that even Japan has taken into account. Japan has started looking for more creative alternatives to merely cramming and intensive studying due to the fact that they’ve hit a creative ceiling in their economy. After decades of hard work, there is a rising unemployment rate in the country as jobs are filling up, and citizens are searching for odd-ball jobs to make up the slack. (Berlatsky)

Then I started looking at how I could expand on that idea of creative and hands-on learning. As an avid gamer, it was pretty obvious where my first step would be. Video games have a very strong hold on today’s culture, be it the 5 year old daughter playing Barbie dress up games on the computer, or a neighbor’s 16 year old screaming at the TV because he died in Call of Duty for the millionth time this week. Heck, I’d even go as far as to say even some adults dabble in games. My church pastor likes to kick back and play the latest Call of Duty more-so than his 16-almost-17 year old son! This forced me to look for how gaming influences us, how it works our minds, and how it could (and why it should) help in the class room. Before I had ever started this project I was watching some Ted Talks on Netflix, and I found one by Jane McGonigal. She suffered a severe concussion, and used a game she made up to help her through it. She later went and figured out why it helped. What she found was that it wasn’t so much a physical thing (although running around town doing quests would be great for our routine leg exercises!), as much as it was a mental thing. Gamers ended up staying in touch with friends as well as make new ones. They spend more time with their kids, with their loved ones. They gained confidence in themselves through their in-game character, which eventually bled into real life. Gaming improves our mental and emotional well-being, and even goes as far as to extend our lives.

     It’s pretty clear gaming helps us emotionally and in our lives, but how could it help in the classroom? What are some things that people think that just aren’t true? Well, the idea that video games (Violent games like Call of Duty or Street Fighter) cause excessive violence has a lot of back and forth, but there’s some hard proof and debunking on this PBS page on gaming influence found here. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at some ways it can be used. It can be used to teach physics, engineering, math, anything. Games like Portal by Valve already have been adapted to teach physics in some schools. Another game, Minecraft by Mojang, is used in engineering to design buildings and make rough drafts. If that’s not super ridiculously cool, please just realize you’re in the 21st century in America.

     All of this, though, is just in vain if we don’t know why we need to fix things, and change things up. We just have to look at the students themselves. An article by Psychology Today says, “and anxiety has been increasing. The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s. We are getting more anxious every decade.” This isn’t okay! It’s almost guaranteed that if you ask a group of random kids, they’ll say that the highest stress comes from homework and inhumane expectations to get good grades. Most students now take AP and/or Honors classes to boost their GPA. This makes their overall GPA higher than 4.0. Student Nora Huynh in California got her report card, and cried for hours due to the fact she got just less than a 4.0 GPA. She is also to be excessively tired, really irritable, and has constant headaches. Asking some of my classmates, they all said that headaches are very common. The anxiety and stress levels we put on our students — to get good grades, heck, to get better than perfect grades, to have a job and pay for their own “toys”, to go to a college and pay for it (Even though student loans this year are already about to reach the $1 trillion mark with a half a year left)– is inhumane. We’re kids for goodness sakes. Not animals you can herd and manipulate. Not mere products of the assembly line in a factory we call the American Education System. It’s not right.

     So what– what’s the point. What am I trying to get at? I’m trying to say that our school system needs to change. It needs to move away from the wartime manufacturing plant that began in the Cold War, and shift into an innovative, productive, and efficient liquid machine. We know how it is, factories and big huge machines are done. It’s the age of smartphones, the age of Solar Freakin’ Roadways! It’s time to make our school system the same way. Easy. Efficient. Almost like liquid. It shouldn’t be painful to learn. It shouldn’t literally drive us insane. Yet it is. So it’s time for change. I want us to take a stand. I want us to make the change, not just for us (Let’s be honest, by the time anything changed we as students will be long out of school) but for our kids, and their kids to come. Make school about the students, about the learning. Not about homework, hours of studying, and sleepless nights.

 

     As students, as young adults, we have as much voice in how our lives work as anyone else, and even more. We should be talking to people who matter – Mayors, Governors – and working with them. Our work will just be ranting and complaining to them unless we have a solution to give. We start by talking to our school leaders, both student government and administration. Bouncing ideas off of each other, showing them that this can work and needs to work for the sake of the people! This needs to be a social movement, an uprising. It can’t just be a few schools, it needs to be many schools in many states, so that it spreads like wildfire. An idea of a school with MUCH less homework. With social media and gaming integrated into the system. We have the technology, we have the understanding. We even have the motivation to do it.

 

So let’s do it.

Works Cited

 

Alexie, Sherman, and Ellen Forney. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. New York: Little, Brown, 2007. Print.

Junior (The main character) makes friends and gives perspective on the social and economic details on going through school. This applied to my project because it gave me insight on how a less-fortunate student perceives things, apart from my rather blessed life.

 

“Anxiety Attack.” Teen Ink. Web. 15 May 2014. <http://www.teenink.com/poetry/free_verse/article/441596/Anxiety-Attack/>.

The author of this poem has anxiety. She is sitting on the bus, when out of nowhere, the stress and noise of school and the bus triggers an anxiety attack. This was helpful a lot, mostly as backing evidence as to why our school system right now is both ineffective, and very dangerous to our health.

 

“Comments (3).” Edvoices Education Reform The Poem Comments. Web. 22 May 2014. <http://www.edvoices.com/blog/2011/01/24/education-reform-the-poem/>.

The author of this poem is so into and devoted to his beliefs. It’s incredible. This poem could be the backbone of what I was trying to say: Our school system needs to change, or else this country’s going to crumble.

 

“Hey Science Teachers — Make It Fun.” Tyler DeWitt:. Web. 15 May 2014. <http://www.ted.com/talks/tyler_dewitt_hey_science_teachers_make_it_fun>.

Mr. DeWiit talks about how even though he was psyched to teach some Chemistry, his students were not. So he goes on to talk about what to do to make school more engaging, as well as just an over all more enjoyable place. This is exactly what I hope to do, as not every student is able to just sit down and learn by word-of-mouth.

 

“High School Students’ Health Suffers From Too Much Stress.” MindShift. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/12/high-school-students-health-suffers-from-too-much-stress/&gt;.

 

“How to Escape Education’s Death Valley.” Ken Robinson:. Web. 20 May 2014. <http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley>.

Here’s a Ted Talk that talks about what’s wrong with our school system and how we can get out of it. It’s like it was made for my Capstone. This is one of those talks that I don’t need to say anything else because it’s rather self explanatory.

 

“Math Class Needs a Makeover.” Dan Meyer:. Web. 22 May 2014. <https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover>.

Today’s math curriculum is teaching students to expect — and excel at — paint-by-numbers classwork, robbing kids of a skill more important than solving problems: formulating them. Math class is one of the biggest culprits of what’s going on and what makes school not as effective or efficient.

 

“Membership.” The Cult(ure) of Homework. Web. 13 May 2014. <http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108071/chapters/The-Cult(ure)-of-Homework.aspx>.

This article is very clear in that the way we do homework is a combination of unnecessary, inefficient, dangerous, and just plain ridiculous. It goes back to the beginning of homework, in the 20’s and 30’s, and tells its story all the way to what it is now. This is great for my Capstone, because I know that students A) Don’t respond positively to homework, B) Don’t need homework, and C) That our belief in homework is based on an old era of war and competition.

Partanen, Anu. “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 29 Dec. 2011. Web. 13 May 2014. <http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/>.

This article by Ms. Partanen states that while America does see that Finland has a great education system, there’s a lot that we ignore. This includes public/private schooling (There are no private schools in Finland), and that the economic requirements for school are very low. This goes back to the origin of my Capstone, and takes a look at other countries’ systems and how they handle school.

 

“Racial Discrimination Continues to Play a Part in Hiring Decisions.” Economic Policy Institute. Web. 15 May 2014. <http://www.epi.org/publication/webfeatures_snapshots_archive_09172003/>.

Economic Policy Institute has tons of articles having to do with jobs, school, and money. This one deals with the racial determinants in work, and it also gave them about school. The reason work is such a big deal, is because without work, how do you send your kid to school? To college? How do you support you kid so that they don’t fall into the trap and pattern that you did? I only used a graph from this site, to show the kinds of differences white children and adults and non-white people have.

 

Ryan, Julia. “How Much Homework Do American Kids Do?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 19 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 May 2014. <http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/09/how-much-homework-do-american-kids-do/279805/>.

Julia Ryan makes some great points about the health effects of excessive homework, as well as just blatently puts out how much homework many students have. And it’s way too much. As with The Cult(ure) of Homework), I used this article to show how homework affects students.

 

“Video Games Play May Provide Learning, Health, Social Benefits, Review Finds.” http://www.apa.org. Web. 13 May 2014. <http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2013/11/video-games.aspx>.

This article talks about how recent studies have shown that video games actually aren’t all bad. Actually, they’re rather good for social, problem solving, and strategy skills. I used this article, as well as the TED Talk by Jane McGonigal, as proofs to why video games should be integrated into the education system to sustain creaetivity.

“What We Can Learn from Finland’s Successful School Reform.” Rss. Web. 13 May 2014. <http://www.nea.org/home/40991.htm>.

Finland didn’t always have the incredible schooling that we know now, and this article talks about that, as well as how we can do it. I used this article in my argument against large amounts of homework.

“The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life.” Jane McGonigal:. Web. 14 May 2014. <https://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_the_game_that_can_give_you_10_extra_years_of_life>.

Jane McGonigal talks about her experience with a severe concussion, and how she learned to cope with it. She played a game to ease her life, to give her life meaning again. She took the suffering out of the pain she was feeling. This TTalk was an incredible source of arguments to how video games are helpful in our lives, in the right amounts, obviously.

 

“The Struggle to Create Creativity.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 28 June 1997. Web. 15   May 2014. <http://www.economist.com/node/91903>.

This article goes into detail about how our current school system is great at teaching, yes, but A) isn’t great at learning, and B) isn’t great at sustaining the creativity required to go through life. I used this article as evidence of why our system needs to change soon, as it’s stealing all individuality and creativity from us.

 

All credit goes to Youtube user CDM Del Mar for the video!