I remember my first day of high school very well. All of the freshmen had to assemble in the theatre for an introduction to high school by the current seniors with the main message of: do your homework, pass your tests, and — more importantly — don’t mess up your GPA! For when your GPA is not up to the standard of your college of choice, you will never accomplish your dreams. Being the pink-haired, studded-vest, loud, fast music and ripped up jeans type of 14-year-old, I thought to myself, “I don’t need no high school prison telling me I won’t make it in life if I don’t get with the program and abide by their regulation.”
Later, I found out that even if I made good grades, if I didn’t pass the standardized tests which also rank me amongst my peers, I would have done all of that hard work for nothing. When you’re so young, what does that tell you? It made me feel like mistakes were not going to be forgiven, so why should I even try? A lot of my friends either felt the same way or got so anxious about their performance at school, that they could not fathom life being any other way. Grade point averages, standardized tests, and other forms of testing are methods which imply that the individual’s worth is based off of their performance compared to the likes of their peers and not based off of their individual abilities.
At the end of my freshmen year, my GPA was a whopping 1.7. I had a hard time recovering from living on the streets of California during the last months of the school year and did not have the time nor the ability to care about something as meaningless to me as a grade point average. Throughout the rest of my high school years, I was able to successfully raise my GPA to a barely-graduating rate of 2.7. That’s good enough to get into community college, sure, but I was under the impression that any university would look at my GPA and laugh — a waste of time. I felt like the actual number of my GPA did not show my character as much as the increase did, and I couldn’t understand why that would not be taken into consideration. It made me feel like I wasn’t going to amount to anything even though I was determined to be the best that I could be.
Needless to say, I didn’t do too well on the standardized tests either. You mean, I lose more points if I answer a question wrong than if I don’t answer it at all? What kind of conditioning is that? Not trying is better than trying? I felt like this same oppressive aspect was applied to the grade point average: if you make a mistake, you will be punished by not being as competitive in the college market. I believe “college market” should be used to describe college admissions and the relationship between college and student. The more higher-performing students they have, the more government subsidies they get and higher tuition they can charge. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and not everything about receiving a college education is bad at all — it’s how you get there that causes such financial and psychological problems. This is why it is important for higher learning education centers to not base admissions off of frivolous scores and averages, but off of the individual as a well-rounded being.
What our society has is a mental slavery to standardization — one that Slate.com claims to increase depression and anxiety in over 80% of students. It suppresses the individual by forcing different personalities into one classroom and teaching them as a group and not individual beings. Does this mean that every student should have one teacher? Well, as a mandate, that may not be plausible. The solution to this problem is to repeal compulsory laws of forced education, and to return education to a free and compulsory market where the individual is allowed to express himself and perform in manners which apply to his personal abilities. Such and education would allow the individual to choose how he will be educated which will allow for greater self-awareness and a more intellectually and emotionally fulfilling society.
Contrary to popular belief, formal and public education has not been around forever. Humans have the capability to learn great things without the force of state mandates for every child to attend school. Perhaps these types of laws proved to be beneficial to some people at some point in history, but any long term regulation has adverse affects on the generations that come after the laws. As humans and our technology become more advanced, society should be able to adapt to its advances. It’s about time America rethinks its education system, and give it back to each individual and beautiful student.