Posts Tagged ‘Change’

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.

 

     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.

My first sign is when
I notice the way I walk
In zigzags
Not straight
Then the pounding starts
In my head
No pain at first
But it is soon to come
My heartbeat races
Though I am sitting still
My throat becomes dry
I drink in big hungry gulps
It does nothing to stop
What is happening to me
My breath comes
But it is short
Jagged
And unfulfilling to my lungs
My head is too heavy to hold up
But the inside is light
Like there is nothing in it
My hands start to tingle
I cannot feel them
I cannot breathe
I cannot think
Then I am crying and unable to stop
The confused and misunderstood tears
Rolling down my cheeks
I am not certain where I am
Maybe in a dream
Because none of this is real
I stop caring about the tears
Because I realize
No one can see me
No one can hear me
I try to remember
How to breathe
And what it feels like
To know without a doubt
That someone cares
I hear voices all around me
I hear the words
But the meaning of them
Is lost on me
I do not understand
What is being said
Or who is saying what
Then I hear a word
That I still know the meaning of
At least I think I do
It is my name
More words after that
More voices
I stumble away without responding
And I fall into the arms of two people
Whose words make perfect sense

Anxiety Attack, by user Shapeshifter56 on teenink.com

Anxiety attacks aren’t just about being anxious, or nervous. Anxiety attacks are something that is extremely prevalent in many people’s lives. They can begin due to stress; any range of mental issue, heredity, substances (And the withdrawals that come with them) are all causes. They can last anywhere from 5-10 minutes, to upwards of a couple of hours. They’re paralyzing, they’re scary for both the person experiencing it and people observing. They’re something we need to be trying to avoid, and school isn’t helping.

School is a cause of anxiety attacks for the majority of teens. Between homework, relationships (Both intimate and friendly), parents, teachers, any amount of things, anxiety attacks occur more often than ever before. Homework and the idea of succeeding is something that every kid in recent years is trying too hard to achieve for the sole purpose of not wanting to get an F. The problem in that isn’t that the child wants to succeed – That’s awesome they want to be good and do well. The problem is that in order to succeed, the student isn’t allowed any humanity. Especially now that we can get jobs to get money, we have no time for ourselves. We go from school, to sports, to work, to homework, and then go right to bed. And this, after at least a couple weeks, will wear a kid down to the point where he breaks.

My, and Finland’s (http://www.nea.org/home/40991.htm), idea of not having as much homework would erase a lot of the stress that comes with school. Not as much homework means less homework-based grades, which means overall better grades, which means happier parents and teachers. Most of all, though? The student is happy. They have more time to themselves, to be a kid. We shouldn’t be pushing kids of any age through this kind of pain and suffering. It’s not alright. We need to fix it.

 

Talk by Tyler DeWitt, filmed at TEDxBeaconStreet

 

After having some conversations and looking at some websites, I’ve made a few conclusions, as well as have some opinions from other people. In class we talked about our topics. One student was looking at how the human mind responds to music and how we could use that to influence our lives for the better. Did you know that in the Cold War, both sides (U.S. and Soviets) had figured out a specific frequency that could brainwash and control someone’s mind? Like hypnotising somebody’s body to a sound. IT’S CRAZY.

Now, when I brought up my topic, a lot of people agreed that our school system in America was really bad. Most everybody I talked to said that the way school is, they’re not really learning anything and that it felt like being “manufactured” so to speak. I eventually spoke up about how Finland runs school, and they all loved that. There’s not as much homework, and school is available to everybody. I’m not talking about racist separation, or sexist separation… I mean economic separation.

 

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In an article by Lee Price of the EPI Research group, it’s stated that more of the white population, even with a criminal record, will have a better time getting a job than completely clean black people. This directly relates to how much money people make, and thus the kind of living and education a child receives. This kind of economic restriction that exists is pathetic, and it just doesn’t happen in Finland. Something that I found interesting is that there are no private schools in Finland.

User Tstev of TheAtlantic.com pointed out that by having public and private schools, some of the better, more efficient, and most of all more effective teachers work at private schools, even if just a few years. This leaves the public schools to maybe not have as good of teachers. Public schools also receive more spread out funding meaning old textbooks and equipment, class sizes are enormous, and it just doesn’t work. I understand there is a sort of bragging rights and exclusivity feel to working at a private school, and this is enough to make some teachers be willing to work with a lower salary. I always thought private school teachers made more, but as a fellow student Louis pointed out, and as The Atlantic confirmed, private teachers make less money than public schools’ teachers.

This is very relevant  to the book I’m reading, because Junior is a poor Native American teen. He normally goes to school on the reservation (The Rez, as they call it) but eventually moves to a school filled predominantly with white students. This happens after Junior gets in trouble with administration for breaking a teacher’s nose. “I wasn’t aiming for anything really. Well, I was planning on hitting something, you know? …… Something dead, you know, not alive” (pg 34). He decides to transfer to Reardan to give himself and his family some hope. Reardan is a public school, but it’s the same idea. Reardan is expensive, it’s 98% white people, everyone is smart and/or athletic. It’s very, very, high up on the food chain, and the school in The Rez is very, very low.

This is the kind of thing I want to eradicate. There should be one school per town, and it would be equal in all respects. Equal admission. Equal funding. Equality for the students, racial and sexual. I’m a firm believer in many things, and equality is number two in my list. It would by no means be the exact same, that’s the second thing I want to get rid of. But it should be equal. 3/3 and 12/12 are both 1, but they’re still both different things.

I want equal education, but without it being the exact same for everybody.

 

The book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian fits my idea of making your own way of doing things in order for you to succeed. For this Capstone “Project” I want to figure out if process Public Schools use is not only efficient, but effective. This book gives a perspective of a kid that school /doesn’t/ work with. He has some things wrong up in the head, and not just mentally. He’s a pretty funky kid, but he still finds his own way to get by in his little world. I think we could pull some ideas he had with school, as well as use ideas from other countries’ school systems, and make our own better. Because I think we need to make our schools work for everybody, big or small, yellow, green, or blue. At the moment it’s all just a big assembly line of sorts, and that’s not going to be effective for much longer. Kids need change. We need to learn, not just be taught. School needs to benefit everyone. Everyone.

 

Including Junior, from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.