But you may call me Mystery. It’s what I am to most. Who I am really isn’t important. I’d prefer you remembered the ideas and not the man. I’m only here to share my thoughts and ideas with whoever is willing to read them. Rather, whoever is able to find them. I am no publicist and as such have no idea how far this will go. But I shall see.
I am an undergraduate. A freshman, to be precise. I attend an engineering university on a near-full scholarship. I come from a less-than-fortunate middle class family that deteriorated in every sense of the word as time went on. I didn’t do well in middle school but faired better in high school, not one to believe that circumstances defined me. I worked hard to succeed academically where I felt I failed otherwise. I’m a walking cliche.
Or so it seems. I have so much to say that is far from what would be expected of this cliche that I don’t know where to begin. Ideas concerning education, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, ethics, family, love, religion, government, profanity… how the fuck am I supposed to know where to start? But my story started with my education, so I figure I should continue along that vein. I could split my grief with education into a litany of sub-topics and probably will do so in the future.
Here’s my overall opinion on education: something is fucked up. Actually, most of it is fucked up. The little that is being done right is overwhelmed by the deluge of wrong. The truth is that formal education bares little resemblance to actually learning anything. From the initial communication of concepts to the final evaluations, the student and teacher alike are forced to follow a convoluted model of education that does not reflect the reality of learning. If I had to narrow the list of problems down to that mystical number of three that my English teachers swore by, I would list them as such:
1.) Assessment via testing and other facsimiles
2.) Compartmentalization between and of subjects
3.) Excessive governmental interference and influence
I’m fully aware that my views on education –in a nutshell, that you ought to teach yourself– are highly quixotic and are part of a minority group. I’ve looked into formal pedagogy and learning theories and am fully aware that what I say goes against the mainstream. The very notion of self-teaching is seen as a failure. Nonetheless, I have an immense dislike for nearly all of formal education. With scarce few exceptions, I’ve learned and retained more from teaching myself than I ever have from sitting in classrooms and lecture halls. I almost decided to not attend university, desiring to take the autodidact path instead (I decided against that and still don’t know if this was the right decision or not).
But I am not everyone else. The fact that today’s school system was ineffectual for me doesn’t make the system as a whole a failure. Regardless, shouldn’t there be some kind of balance between the quixotic ideals of learning and the practical necessities of education? Can you honestly look at education in the states today and say that a legitimate, non token balance exists?
I’ve been a student for as far back as my memory can go and I say that there is no serious balance, which is precisely why the big three problems exist and are wreaking as much havoc as they are. There is next to no emphasis on the quixotic aspects of learning. All evaluation centers around regurgitation rather than projects or even application. Teaching is always confined into explicit units, with little emphasis on the connections those units make with others and much less what the big picture is. In other words, bottom-up design. And of course, the government. Where would we be without No Child Left Behind?
Good question. Perhaps as I look further into the issue and become more experienced with teaching my opinions will change. That’s always probable. But for now, I’m sticking with what has worked for me and those I tutor. Even if it is a bit more quixotic than directly applicable.