Sometime between elementary school and college, many people lose their will to learn. Kids enter kindergarten having boundless energy. They’re enthusiastic, curious — there’s never a day when a kid doesn’t want to go to school. But as these kids grow older, and especially in high school, the enthusiasm fades, curiosity fades — they’d rather stay home than go to school.
Worst of all, kids start to lose sight of the value of learning. We’re all born with innate curiosity, but schools quash that curious nature from us. Instead of allowing us to explore, we’re told what to learn. Even when we find something that really grabs us, schools seem to try to do their best to destroy that passion. There’s no room for creativity; schools try to mold every kid the same way, try to make kids the output of an assembly line. The emphasis is on memorization instead of problem solving, following rules and orders instead of creative thinking.
As a naive kid just entering 9th grade, I loved writing. I loved to share my thoughts with people, and writing was the perfect way to do so. I was excited to enter high school, and the class I was probably most excited about was English. I still remember my first assignment; we were shown four drawings and we were supposed to write an essay on one of them. “Write anything you want”, the teacher said. I thought, “What a great assignment, I can be as creative as I want”. That night, I wrote the best essay I’ve ever written and couldn’t wait to get it back.
I receive the essay back and I get 80%. My immediate reaction is shame, I’m ashamed that I got such a low grade when I thought I wrote a really good paper. But then I look at how my teacher scored it; -8 points for not putting the title on the top line, -2 points for not underlining the title, -2 points for not putting the date, -2 points for not writing a 5 paragraph essay, and another miscellaneous -6 points. There was no comment on my content. None. I was shocked, who grades for style over content? It ended up being a long year with this teacher as it was either her way or the highway — and her way embodied stifling creativity. I was never as eager to write an essay after that class.
The key through all of this schooling is to keep the value of learning. Learn because you love learning. Especially in the last two years of high school, many of my friends had their main goal as getting into a top college. They would do whatever it took to get to Harvard, MIT, Yale. And instead of learning for the sake of loving the material, they would try to learn as little as possible to get a good grade so that entry to a top college was possible. Sometimes, I’d fall into this pattern of thinking as well. But at the end of your life, what will be more important — that you pursued your passion and your love for learning, or that you did whatever it took to get to Harvard and missed out on a lot of opportunities?
Two quotations from my friends just show the difference between really loving what you’re learning, and just learning for the sake of getting by.
“I’ve always been a solid B math student, no matter what. It is what it is, I’m not doing it for the grades, I’m doing it because I love it.”
“I will go bribe the professor or something to make sure he gives you an A, It’s more likely that you’ll like a class if you get an A.”
Be more like quotation #1.