We Are Quick to Go Back to School When School is a Failing System

Featured Image: Ariel Davis


It is no secret that U.S. schoolchildren take nothing away from school that they could use in the real world. Home economics credits are not even a mandatory requirement to graduate the California high school curriculum. Instead of arguing about opening schools amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Education should be making a more practical curriculum while the date to have students and staff in school is undetermined. 

As a high school student who has been in the public education system for nine years, and online learning for over two years now, the flaws in each of the systems are detrimental and plentiful. Cheating is simple and the school curriculum is entirely inapplicable to the real world. Subsequently, the school system is then to blame for common mental health problems due to the stress inflicted on students.

Lately, online school looks a lot like the unsupervised intake and reiteration of information.

To be fair, that is exactly what online school is. Realistically, parents do not have eight or more hours, five days a week, to stare at their child watching a screen. According to K12, a leading system for online youth education, high school students that aren’t in an Advanced Placement (AP) course will spend 6-9 hours per week for each of their 5-7 classes. Also, realistically, students will not let that happen. 

Laptops have multiple windows you can open at the same time, Discord is a free and private form of quick online communication, textbooks can be opened behind a computer screen, and calculators are slim enough to fit under the line of video chat sight. When someone has an opportunity to cheat with no strings attached in order to get around to more entertaining activities, the idea is tempting, if not already happening.

It is no surprise why students in school cheat, it is the same reason citizens break laws — because they do not like how their environment works. If a school system was created that the students who participated in them liked, not only would cheating rates reduce, but kids who merely pass would be willingly engaged enough to thoroughly exceed. Often, I find that teenagers slack in a subject because they either are not good at it or do not find it intriguing. 

The 2014 Gallup student poll recorded 100 students in each 9-12th grade for their engagement in what they learn in school. The three options in the poll were “actively engaged,” “not engaged,” and “actively disengaged.” The cumulative percentage for “not engaged” and “actively disengaged” for each grade was the following: 

  • 9th grade: 60%
  • 10th grade: 67% 
  • 11th grade: 69% 
  • 12th grade: 66% 

If people do not care for a certain topic, they will never use it in the future, and they definitely will not make an entire career out of it. The school system needs to foster the learning of what a child is naturally talented at, not force them into what information is never going to be applicable to their unique lives.

Growing up, I was informed of the stereotypical police, astronaut, and doctor career options Never did I realize that land surveyors, fire photographers, and medical writers all exist, too. Then, when I did acknowledge their existence, it was only because I looked it up during my mid-teen, mid-life crisis concerning what I want to do when I grow up.

Schools should not leave teenagers panicking about their future — it is purely inhumane to do so when schools preach “setting up students for success” whilst being the cause of so many existential mental health challenges students face today. 

Gallup also found that disengaged students were more likely to feel 7.2 times more discouraged about their future than their engaged counterparts. Feelings of discouragement are directly correlated to thoughts of being useless and being a failure, exactly the environment a child should not be exposed to. A 2018 study done by the Pew Research Center showcases that some of the pressure to get good grades runs in 88% of the teens surveyed. Consequently, teenagers also reported anxiety and depression being an existent problem in 96% of their communities. The truth is that not everyone is going to be a world-renowned mathematician or historian, and it is not fair to every kid gifted with an individual talent to be forced into a system where they have no choice but to pretend to understand that those are their only options. 

Before we even consider opening up schools to infect the rest of your family from a kid exposed to COVID-19, we need to fix the problems pertaining to how the next generations learn. Educators have the free time being laid off and partially employed — there is no excuse for going back to a system that children get through by cheating because they simply hate it. If practical change cares enough for it to take place, authority figures have to listen to the youth who endure their routines. Enough with the teacher and student walkouts, legislative action needs to happen to save the upcoming generations, and now is the perfect time to start.

Dachel Fohne

Dachel Fohne is the Founder of Poets of Wonder, and the former Co-Director of Writing for Simply Neuroscience. Common themes in her work include philosophy, psychology, and sociology.

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