Why do we hate school?

Do we really hate school? Or is it schooling we are not even a bit fonding of?

I have been reading a series of interlinked blog posts about this topic. I started here, then it took me here, and later there… and I still haven’t been to finish the mesh of interlinked posts…

This post is mostly based on the comment I posted here, and which linked to here. I can relate to both posts. I myself think school is a tall walled world, which most people wouldn’t choose to go to if they had a choice. This summer, my cousin told me how Sara, his 9 year old daughter, always makes a  scene when she has to get up and go to school. ‘Every morning the same words – I hate school, I hate school’, and he goes on to say that, neverthelss she is always ready for the Wednesday classes, when they go to some kind of farm and learn about the animals, the berries that you can eat and those you  can’t; the bugs and the names of the flowers. ‘She knows all this stuff by heart’ – he says, ‘but that’s not really schooling…’ what he means is that her overall grades won’t be influenced by her knowing all of this. It is only one subject, and one that isn’t that important (in his assumption), because the kids go outside…how on earth can they be engaged…? From his words I understand what he says is that it’s not serious, sober teaching – what society has learned to expect from school –  but it’s definitely serious engagement – something Sara really relates too and knows/learns with [her] heart..

In my family, to whom high education was never a tradition, it thought that we ought to take advantage of schooling, or else -we will have to get a job and learn from real life. That always puzzled me – I thought school was for real… well I soon understood that it wasn’t and learning only really kicked in after I graduated and had to embrace the reality of life outside those gates.

I went through school thinking I was never smart enough although I always got good grades.[ contradiction!!]. The problem was that I developed this capacity of “guessing test questions”. I studied (pauken is actually a better word) for the questions. I memorized answers. I did homework because it was part of the assessment criteria – because the rules told me to – not because I wanted to, or saw any meaning in it, besides it meaning I was compling with the rules.

By the end of the test , I would forget those answers (you can imagine how quick they went forgotten)  and started focusing on memorizing the next set of questions and answers. I felt a fake. I hated test season with a passion (it stole my time for creativity and pen friend letter writing activity – from whom I developed my taste and learning of foreign languages, cultural differences and any thing that was related with other countries.) However, I had good grades. I didn’t feel I deserved them, though. I never felt I had learned anything, or that I would ever be able to materialized what I had memorized in a given discipline. But no one really cared. Actually everyone was very pleased. What mattered were the grades and the fact that I would go from year to year without getting stuck in the same grade. My family was happy. My teachers too. I was not a problem according to the school system.

I always liked learning, although I didn’t know it was learning. I thought it was just having fun. Hence, in my learning I really have to relate to it and more than anything else, I have to relate to the elements that compose a real environment, i.e., the people, the artifacts, the possibilities to communicatek, share, participate, teh atmosphere that involves us all in. School is not an environment. I never felt it personal or near to my heart. School(ing) is just a set of rules (a game as Prof. Wesch puts it) – and the more subtle you are to try to get by, the smarter you are thought to be. But pursing “smartness” is so different from developing intelligence – and that is what schooling is failing to achieve!

This problem is deeper than the issue of implementing technology in the classroom. A classroom is a classroom – teachers’ territory (no doubts here). What we need is to get the technology be part (be uncounsciously embedded) in an environment where reality learning can occur. That takes more than a set of tools and machines. It takes, above all, people willing to make the difference, as well as a dramatic change in policy and curriculum (from teaching to learning curriculum).

I didn’t learn my first language by memorizing group of words – I acquired language by relating to it (by touching the objects, by asking what it meant as those words appeared to me –in real context). I learned more about 20th century national History from the tales my grandparents and relatives narrated during the cold, winter weekend evenings around the fire place than I did from 50′ timed classes, in which names and dates were ‘spit’ at me for memorization purposes ‘…pay attention, because these are important and can come up in the test’. (the threat was only ready to be shot at us if we didn’t seem to be paying attention)

What is needed is more reality learning, and environments, not classroom or 50’ classes divided into subjects. What is needed is learning to be a consequence of experiencing with reality.

It is high time we stopped preparing people for exams and helped them cope with real life. Technology might – will – help make that connection, because the truth is that the society is already embedded in the technological (r)evolution. Everybody has already noticed that…everyone except ‘the school’, that is! Strange, isn’t it? Especially if we think ‘the school’ should epitomize vision, innovation and future.

5 Comments on Why do we hate school?

  1. Your post is really interesting. Where does school stand in the 21st century. I think that in the new world we live in surrounded by web 2.0 tools, We have to rethink education, school, teachers, pupils. I am considering “homeschooling” my children so they can use the wonderful web to become 21st century citizens. Also, where and when (apart from school) in your life are you closed in a room with people exactly the same age as you? Does that help you to develop yourself better? Not too sure about that.

  2. Great post Cristina. Yes, schools do need to change I think to allow students who are already immersed in the technology to make use of it. But I don’t think it is really about bringing in technology or not. I think it is much more about our understanding of learning and our having respect for students in ways that allow them to take control of their own learning. Helping them to be able to do that as well. It is about creating community and discussion. It is about passion, creativity and curiosity. If technology helps with those elements that are necessary, then we need to be open to it but it isn’t the technology that is really necessary. (….and this from someone passionate about technology!)

  3. Cristina Costa // November 17, 2008 at 8:08 am // Reply

    totally agree. Has I have written somewhere, I thin there is, and there always has been good and bad teachers, and consequently great and really horrible learning experiences which will carry with us all the way. I think there are two main types of educators we will always remember – te ones who are really good, and the ones who were really bad (for whichever reason). Those who care to understand the individual, to make their teaching personal to others – those have one of the keys to effective learning. The other belongs to the learner, naturally. Learning requires both types of agents to be ready for the learning journey. My best teacher ever taught in a school where there wasn’t even a phone. She was just brill and left good memories.
    I just think that now this iCT movement into schools, we might be able to recognize better that learning is not a lonely journey, nor is it about pouring specialized information into people’s mind. That has never been the point…maybe now it becomes more explicit for more people! ;-)
    Transmitting information is easy – processing it and helping students making sense of it – that’s the hard part and that should be the mission of the teachers – to help students make sense of their path – not carrying them there. You paid better attention to the road when you drive yourself. When you are driven, you usually miss the most important landmarks and won’t be bale to make it back without help.
    It is also true that without guidance it will hard to get to a place that is unknown to you. SO what we need is people who are able to take us places while letting us explore the reality around us.
    thanks for your posts (I am sorry I don’t know who you are ;-()

  4. Anony Mouse // July 17, 2009 at 1:33 am // Reply

    I’m not a concerned parent, but I am a concerned student. I go to a selective high school in Australia and don’t really learn anything that will help me any time in the future. Since the start of the school year, I’ve lost all motivation to learn. But hell, I’m not even LEARNING. I’m spending six hours a day sitting in tedious hell, thinking ‘What am I doing here?’
    So it’s not just in America that this happens. It’s everywhere. People in society complain that teenagers are lazy, ignorant, and aren’t grateful for the education they get. Lazy? Sometimes true. Ignorant? Some of us are. Grateful for the Education we get? If I got a proper education, then I woulc indeed be very grateful for it. But sitting behind a desk and doing nothing? That’s not an education. That’s just a waste of time.

  5. @4: I think it’s common to all generations of learners that there will be some point where one says “School is a waste of time and what am I doing here…”. I say this because I myself as well as my father and grandfather had the same thoughts. I was a nitpicking horror-student myself until some teacher found a way of handling me. And that way was inspiring me to think, to reflect on the topics of the course because it was interesing and it helps me today.

    So like Steve Jobs said: you need to find something you love. If you found it I’m pretty sure you will recognise the need for learning more on that topic and you will become aware that some of the topics thought in school ARE proper education (sometimes with the wrong means and teachers)

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