Education

I always hated the school system. There was little substance in it. I didn’t know what I was doing or what I was doing it for. When I left home school and joined public school my 8th grade year I always counted the hours until I could go home. I was behind in every subject. I was never able to get my reading done, didn’t know how to speak up in class, and was horrid when it came to tests. To be honest I had few friends and only one teacher who gave a crap about me.  Things didn’t get much better in high school. They found out what was wrong with me- I was diagnosed with dyslexia. After a few weeks of special treatment for my “disability” I knew I wanted no part of the help the school provided. I was treated like I was stupid and put in the classes with students who had behavior problems and did drugs during lunch. There was little reason for me to try in school. The only thing that saved me was art. Painting and drawing were what got me through the day. I chose to pursue the subjects with as much passion as I saw star athletes and 4.0 students pursue their subjects.

The problem was everyone got an “A” in art class. Even the 4.0 students, who usually were the worst at making any kind of substantial piece of art. They were too used to working inside the frame, doing the assignments just the way they were told for their artwork to really mean anything. Education only became relevant when I chose to learn for myself. I was no longer going to figure something out in order to make the teacher happy. I wasn’t going to turn in an assignment when it was due; I was going to turn it in when I felt it was done. To tell you the truth I never had top grades in my art classes. Even though I had some natural talent in the area, came in almost every lunch period, and stayed many times after school, I was never able to get my assignments in on time or finish the ones in which I lost interest. At the end of my junior year I was a mess when it came to grades. If I had taken my SAT’s I would most likely have scored in the lowest percentile. Collage just seemed like a nightmare I would never be able to do even if I wanted to.

Then something happened that changed my life. My mother gave me a priceless gift I will never be able to repay. She gave me an education. My senior year I dropped out of high school. My mother, who majored in English, chose to home school me. My mom’s dad (my grandfather) told her she was going to ruin my life. She was  sacrificing a huge amount of time. On top of all this she had a student who didn’t care anymore, someone who was sucked dry by the school system. I didn’t want to learn. I didn’t need to know how to write. I didn’t need to learn about politics. I thought I knew how to reason and I didn’t need to understand how other people thought. If someone didn’t agree with me then screw them. Yet my mom didn’t give up. She pushed me in my art and then worked from there. She talked to me about my ideas and she allowed me to dream. The stupid stories I had in my head were interesting to my mom. However, she wouldn’t let me keep my ideas to myself, she made me express them.

Learning to write wasn’t easy. I didn’t know the difference between “there” and “their”, an adverb from a verb, or why one shouldn’t start a sentence with “that” or “this”. I hardly knew how to write a proper sentence. In my opinion people were just supposed to know what I was saying.

Slowly my teacher showed me how to write a sentence, build a paragraph, and express my ideas. I began to want to learn. I began to value other people’s opinions. I began to believe in myself.

She gave me a priceless gift. A gift I use every day. A gift that can truly change the world. I write this today because I feel everyone deserves my mother’s gift.

One of the figures who has entranced me of late is Malala Yousafzai. She is a sixteen year old Pakistani who was shot in the head because she thought woman should be educated. Yet now her voice is stronger then ever and she is going everywhere advocating education for all. She even says she forgives her shooters and wants them to be educated just as much as anyone else. She is absolutely convinced education will bring on peace and understanding. She says letters and words can be stronger then any weapon. 

I felt frustrated at times hearing Malala speak so heartily about the importance of creating an education system. I thought to myself the education system she believes in will never work. There are just too many teachers who don’t care, not enough money for funding, and too many people who need to be educated. How much can a teacher truly do in a class room of thirty? I suffered through a system that told me I was stupid and incapable of learning. Malala faced the same problem with her society telling her she wasn’t capable. However, Malala is convinced the traditional text based system of education will open doors for her. The very place I considered a prison she considers a paradise.

Malala is a strong advocate of reading and writing. The school system considers these two things to be the pinocle of what one needs to know to be educated. Subjects like math, science, and even music are taught through verbal linguistic means. We use textbooks and memorize symbols to learn about math and science. We are taught how to read music before we are allowed to play music. Art and physical education are considered the slacker classes where everyone gets an “A”.

There needs to be a great change in the way we think and the way we teach before Malala call for “education for all” could be recognized. Just as important as allowing the woman the right to be educated is the need to create a system where visual, spacial, bodily kinesthetic, interpersonal, and musical thinkers  can be educated. What if we had a system in place that allowed multiple intelligences to succeed? I have a family full of dyslexics. My mother has constantly tried to explain to her children’s teachers the importance of understanding multiple intelligences and teaching different kids in the way they think. Instead my teachers and my siblings teachers kept pushing us verbal linguistically. All we ended up learning was how stupid we were. All we ended up feeling was exhausted and frustrated. All we ended up wanting to do was shut down.

There are millions out there who don’t think they are smart. They think this because they are faced with a school system that tells them they are incapable of learning. My history teacher my junior year told my mother I was incapable of learning his subject. He didn’t know I had been going home each night repeating the stories I had heard in his lecture that day. I was telling my mom about the interesting characters we were discussing in class and the influence they had on the building of our nation. I even began doing my own research in American history, studying great American figures like Abraham Lincoln and looking into the rich history of American pastime Baseball. The only thing my teacher knew is I couldn’t do well on his essay and fill in the blank tests, which accounted for 80% of the grade.

I am not saying there is no significance in understanding symbols and equations. I am not saying we should neglect to teach students how to read or write. In order to compose this very essay I need to have a firm grasp on reading and writing. However, I also need to know how develop an argument. I need to have a firm idea to build upon. And I need to have a unique voice. Yet in school all my teachers could see was I couldn’t spell and didn’t understand grammar. Why was it that I was never told about my strengths in creating original ideas, developing my points, and having a unique voice? If the student who couldn’t spell still got credit for understanding the meaning of a word, if the student who couldn’t read still received credit for grasping the value of a piece of literature, if the student who couldn’t recite their math facts still was acknowledged for understanding the concepts of addition or subtraction, then we would be getting closer to a fair education system. The education system is only as good as the future it prepares us for. If the system does not take into account how each individual learns it can not prepare the individual for his or her best future.