Why do we go to school?
Because our parents told us to? To do well on tests? To make the teacher happy? Or to learn?
As a teacher having to give students’ homework, tests and grades I often experience that the students primary reason for being in school and doing the work is to satisfy me as a teacher. There is a distinct perception that they are doing the work for my sake whether they receive grades for their work or not.
This is a general problem in our school system, not necessarily the part about satisfying the teacher, that’s more of a side effect, but the fact that children don’t actually go to school to learn. One of the primary problems within our schools is an increased focus on global test-results that in many ways have nothing to do with actually teaching the students to learn. Instead students get caught in crossfire between governments trying to win over each other in the global race for knowledge supremacy. Teachers are caught in the same crossfire as the students as their positions are dependent on them bringing in the results often necessary for schools to maintain their funding. So when students do homework to make the teacher happy, most teachers don’t actually experience genuine joy out of receiving essays or grading papers. They simply want to keep their jobs and feel that they’ve achieved something. Obviously there are also many teachers who genuinely enjoy when their students learn something new, but unfortunately the working conditions a teacher face seldom allow us to focus on children learning. This should in itself be quite alarming, as the primary purpose with education after all ought to be learning.
Unfortunately it is not only the students that are focused on learning just to make the teacher happy or pass the tests. I see this even with parents and it has the effect that when homework is turned in, it is done so from a starting-point of being ‘passable’ with the least amount of work and independent effort put into it. The parents of course have been indoctrinated in the exact same system, so it is no wonder that they too emphasize making the teacher happy.
We can see the outflows of this disjointed relationship to learning in adults that have been processed through the machinery of the ‘education-factory’ and are now coming out as packaged products ready to step into the job market and society at large.
We focus on making our bossed happy, to satisfy our partners needs, whether it is a need for emotional intimacy, blowjob fantasies or a secure life. We try to make our friends happy, to show them that we care and generally to make everyone else happy by presenting ourselves in our best Sunday clothes on a daily basis, not to mention forcing ourselves into the cookie dough cutters of what a ‘real man’ or ‘real woman’ looks according to the authority that is glossy magazines and morning talk shows on TV.
An explanation as to why we in school focus on ‘making the teacher happy’ is that this phenomenon stems from an era where teachers had supreme authority and command over students and more or less without supervision could decide a student’s academic faith based on personal preferences and random bias. In some schools this might even still be the case to some degree. Now we simply have the added bonus of going to school not only to make our teachers happy but also to excel in test results.
The new paradigm in education is a marvel of irony. While lawmakers and think tank experts and politicians claim that increased testing is the road to success and that this is the path to more children learning better, learning more and learning faster, the results we are seeing show the exact opposite. In Sweden for example the recent PISA results sent a shock wave of dismay through the country because Sweden is at the bottom when it comes to reading, writing and math abilities. No other country has fallen as much as Sweden has over a ten-year period when it comes to test scores in math. And to add to the irony, this has happened juxtaposed with an increased emphasis on tests in the Swedish education system. It is even more ironic because Sweden is the country with the highest income equality in the world (though this is also dropping) as well as being one of the richest countries.
I meet students on a daily basis whose entire focus is to do the least amount of homework, while being alarmingly stressed about next week’s tests and all they can think about is when they can go home and play computer games because that is the only time they feel free and relaxed to do what they want. So when they talk about computer games, their faces light up, they are engaged and their insight and understanding of the game is often expansive and reflective. It surprises them when I as a teacher take an interest in learning about Minecraft or World of Tanks and while I emphasize embracing the students interests, I also see that it is alarming that the only subjects that students express enjoyment about are those taking place outside of school.
I am sure that each and every one of us enjoys learning. Expanding one’s understanding and skills is in itself enjoyable but how many of us can say that this is what we associate with going to school? When we enjoy learning, we learn faster and we integrate new information at a much more substantial level. The thing is that a passion for learning doesn’t necessarily have to be linked to a predisposed enjoyment for the subject. When I was in the 7. Grade I hated German (a mandatory foreign language subject in Denmark), not only because I found my teacher extremely boring and prickly but also because of having adopted an entire history of resentment towards Germany because of the events taking place during WW that I wasn’t even consciously aware of. But in the 9. Grade I had moved to a new school and got a new German teacher who was absolutely in love with Germany. She even took us on an extended fieldtrip to Germany where I got to live with a family for a week and I discovered a Germany I had no idea existed. She was lively and charismatic and through her passion for the German language I eventually overturned my hatred for the classes, the language and the country to an unconditional acceptance and enjoyment of learning.
So let’s imagine for a moment an education system that focused on learning, an education system where schools and teachers wouldn’t have to worry about funding or resources because this would be managed according to a ‘Best for All’ principle, an education system that wouldn’t have as its primary objective to get ahead in the global race for knowledge supremacy, an education system that places the children’s ability to learn first.
Now – imagine being a child and going to school in such a system. You might not even have to rush in the morning, but perhaps you would get up early any way simply because you enjoy learning and want to learn as much as possible, participate in projects or develop new ideas together with other students. Imagine a school with adequate space, a school that would prioritize nice cozy places to sit and read, abundant science and art labs. Imagine how, if you have a passion for astronomy or comic books that you would be able to immerse yourself fully in studying this subject with other students and with teachers who would assist and guide you to expand beyond your current skills and understanding of the subject. Imagine what a school would be like if the primary emphasis was the enjoyment of learning. Would you do your homework? Would you strive to excel? Would you want to go to school and learn?
It might sound Utopian but the fact of the matter is that it is possible to establish such an education system and that we would all be better off if we did. It wouldn’t even require a massive change because the schools are here, the resources are here, the teachers are here and as a teacher I would argue that most teachers would welcome such an opportunity with open arms. What is however missing, is the most important ingredient required to make such a change a reality: the starting-point with which our school systems are managed and the underlying policies that influence them.
The joy of learning is at the brink of extinction like a wild animal that can’t sustain itself in its natural habitat because a world of hostile urban invaders threatens to swallow it whole.
With a Guaranteed Living Income System we can bring back the joy of learning to the forefront of our education system by making education a top priority. Because based on the Principle of what is ‘Best for All’ we understand that education and learning, where we really develop and expand ourselves as human beings, is an incremental part of preventing the total destruction of our habitat, this earth, and thus ourselves.
Because if we don’t, then it will be too late and we won’t be here to see what could have been possible. We won’t be here to see the smiles on our children’s faces when they wake up to go to school. We won’t be here to go to school again ourselves and start over and re-discover our joy of learning.
So let’s not wait until it is too late.
Here is the proposal for the Guaranteed Living Income System. I urge you to read it and if you agree – jump on board and joins us as we steer the sinking ship that is this world to shore.