To Learn or to Educate?

It's yet another weekday, and at promptly 7 AM the alarm goes off, telling me to get ready for another day of school. I grudgingly press snooze, hoping for another 30 minutes of sleep while dreading the excruciating day ahead of me. To be quite honest, I haven't been excited for school since I was 11, where on some days we had parties and just ate food; coloring was homework, and learning was still fun. As you get older and progress through the American public education system, you are more wary of school with each passing day. Where are the schools that everyone seemed to enjoy; where are the East Highs from High School Musical? This childhood idea of a high school utopia lets down students everywhere once they experience it for themselves.

Of course, there are a multitude of reasons for this utter dislike of school 99.9 percent of students have. One of those reasons, obviously, is the ridiculous amount of work you are given and expectations you are supposed to meet once you get to high school. It is not a rare occurrence for me (or other students) to stay up until 2 AM finishing homework and studying for tests. And even this 10 hours of consistent studying per day is not nearly enough. After each year, it gets harder and harder to get into a good college. Acceptance rates keep plunging, and test score requirements are exponentially increasing. As students, the only motivation we have to do well in school is to get into college. But you can't just have a good GPA, you have to meet a never ending list of requirements: amazing SAT and ACT scores, endless extracurriculars, leadership positions, spectacular essays, volunteer work, teacher recommendations, etc., etc. To be honest, at times it seems like one company is ruling my life. No, not some designer brand or worldwide corporation, but the College Board -- from AP classes to administering the SAT, it pretty much monopolizes my life. Isn't there a law banning companies like this that take reign of people all over the nation who aren't even 18?

Meeting requirements from the school and the College Board should not be the basis of our education and learning, but yet it is. Some teachers say that if you put your passion and energy into learning and fully understanding all the concepts, the grade that you want will simply come to you. I have tried that, I really have. I've taken time to learn and like and understand the subject, but then the other 50-100 pages of homework I have for other classes gets neglected, and I end up leaving test rooms with C's or F's in my hands. We can't find time to fulfill basic needs like sleep, and we definitely don't have time to learn anymore! We have time to know what's on the test and get the grade we hope for. So what should I say in my all-important college essay? "Dear Admissions Officer, sorry, I tried to learn, but it hurt my grades. I promise not to learn anymore, but I'll just make sure that all my projects and homework are up-to-date and completed. After all, who cares about learning as long as you have a 4.0 GPA?"

Another unfair advantage some students have is the teacher they get. I sign up for the class, but I cannot pick the teacher. I may be lucky and get an amazing teacher who understands all my wants and needs, or, more than often, I get the teacher who is too lazy even to stand up during class, and doesn't even answer students' questions comprehensively. I have seen this for myself, and the gap of understanding between students with one teacher versus another for the same subject is tremendous. To solve this issue, the school board could make teaching requirements and pay higher, but since education is a local affair, this could not take place everywhere, and reform would be highly costly.

Clearly, everyone acknowledges the inherent flaws in our school system, but will anyone ever do anything about it? Will there ever be a day where students get enough sleep, don't have stress or anxiety because of school, or have time to learn and appreciate the education they're being given? Socrates once said that education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel; but it seems to me that most of us are just filled-up vessels. Even the poor teachers are too busy meeting the curriculum requirements to light up any kind of flame. Maybe the kindling of the flame is where college comes into play (just once you get in).