Posts Tagged ‘School’

     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. <>.

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. <>.

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. <>.

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. <;.


“How to Escape Education’s Death Valley.” Ken Robinson:. Web. 20 May 2014. <>.

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. <>.

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. <>.

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. <>.

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. <>.

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. <>.

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.” Web. 13 May 2014. <>.

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. <>.

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. <>.

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. <>.

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.


As a kid, what kinds of things do you want to do? Probably eat, sleep, playing games (Video or physical), make messes, and be loud. Our parents teach us constructive ways to make a mess (Art) and constructive ways to be loud (As a drummer, I can confirm this, haha). They teach us to play games, teach us mind games to help remember how or when to do things. And then they feed us and put us to bed. If, and when, we do something wrong, we’re disciplined. We should all be turning out pretty great, right? Yet we don’t. Why? All of these things are creative, and school sucks the creativity out of us. In math, there might be more than one way to do things, but you have to do it the same exact way as the teacher, in order to not get a bad grade. In English, you have to write and rewrite papers in the same format, the same pattern, over and over, in order to not get a bad grade. We’re not allowed humanity because the average student spends 3-15 hours of homework. And why? You guessed it. In order to not get a bad grade. 

We started out without a lot of homework. We, with an almost unanimous decision, decided homework until 3rd grade was not allowed, and we preferred if there were no homework until 7th grade. Homework, as we know it, started out in our country as a way to compete with Russia in the Cold War era, as adults were worried that their kids would not be adequately prepared for the future, as technology and society had begun to evolve rapidly. After periods of fluctuation, we have settled once again on heavy amounts of homework, and it has yet to be adequately challenged. Why is this, though?

“Moralistic Views: Who We Believe Students Are… … Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and therefore children should not be idle. This philosophy assumes not only that children don’t want to learn but also that learning is inherently distasteful.

“The Puritan Work Ethic: Who We Want Students to Be… …’Get busy!’ The tenets of the puritan work ethic most evident in homework culture are the following:Hard work is good for you regardless of the pointlessness of the task. Hard works builds character. Hard work is painful; suffering is virtuous… …The premise of Corno and Xu’s article is that “homework is the quintessential job of childhood”—as though children need a job. Which begs the question: Is our job as educators to produce learners or workers?”

“Behaviorism: How We Think We Can Control Students… …No philosophy is more firmly rooted in education than behaviorism. The idea that behavior can be controlled by rewards and punishment is so embedded in the day-to-day practices of school, one rarely even notices it (Kohn, 1999). Discipline, grades, attendance policies, honor rolls, and even the way teachers use praise and disapproval—all reflect this philosophy that behavior can be controlled by external stimuli. So it’s no surprise that teachers believe rewards and punishments are the way to makestudents do homework. When punishments don’t work, teachers often increase the punishment, as if more of the same will accomplish the goal.”

This whole idea that homework is required is completely flawed. Some homework? Sure. If you just need the students to read something occasionally, or to look something up, or just give themselves background knowledge. That’s totally fine. But 1-3 hours a night? 4-15 a night? That’s insane. That’s inhumane. That’s not what school should be. “People don’t go to school to learn. They go to get good grades, which brings them to college, which brings them the high-paying job, which brings them happiness, so they think.” (Pope, 2001, p. 4)

“The premise of Corno and Xu’s article is that ‘homework is the quintessential job of childhood’—as though children need a job. Which begs the question: Is our job as educators to produce learners? Or workers?

“Membership.” The Cult(ure) of Homework. Web. 13 May 2014. <;.



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
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

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 (, 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



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.