Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Where Schooling Failed Me

I'm not one to typically take potshots at American public school systems (though I'm not going to begin to touch Common Core here).  I can really only speak from my own experience with it, which was fraught with frustration. D for diploma, right kids?

Actually, for the most part, I was a C student. That actually includes college. My major (psychology) was not the best fit for me, and I didn't realize it soon enough to be able to change. College is expensive, y'all, and there was no way I was going to be able to go for a 5th year. And oh yeah, my college of choice's credits were notoriously untransferable, so I wasn't going to be able to go somewhere else to finish either.

But I digress.

My interest in science with a capital S is recent, to say in the least. The highest level of science I completed in high school was Chemistry, and I don't much remember it, other than as a tremendous yawn fest. My highest level of math completed in high school was Trigonometry, and that was taken voluntarily and a tremendous mistake; my math requirements were fulfilled, and it's not like I was interested in math. I just didn't have much in the way of electives.

But math was typically taught to me in this manner: On Monday, say, we went over the weekend's homework and had a lesson about it. On Monday night, we were supposed to read the next chapter, which presented the next equations (or whatever) we were tackling; we were then to do those problems, which we would go over Tuesday. And so on. See the problem? I couldn't teach myself math, and couldn't do the homework, as I wasn't taught how to do those problems prior to leaving school. So I stopped doing homework, as it was clearly designed to ruin my life.

Now with science, I would've had to get to physics in order to hit the topics I'm interested in: nukes and space (though some of it could conceivably have been covered in Chemistry, it was not, to my recollection). But you didn't get to Physics without going through Chemistry first, and I didn't take Chemistry 'til my senior year (I didn't take Biology with a lab, initially, so wasted a year and then had to take lab Biology to fulfill graduation requirements. Oh, my guidance councilors did me so many favors).

So, because I wasn't "good" at math and science, I was never able to be in advanced English courses. English was where I really shone, as you might guess. I read at a fifth grade level in second or third grade (I don't remember), and sure, I was in college prep classes, but not AP. Even college prep was sometimes too slow for me (though no less full of busywork homework....) I tended to read the books assigned to my class, and then books I saw written on boards for other classes. That's how I met Lord of the Flies and The Great Gatsby; my classes didn't read them, but other classes did.

I feel like home schooling would have been great for me in my high school years. That kind of self directed study (maybe unschooling is the actual term I needed?) may have brought me to my current interests and goals much faster. I feel as though I've learned far more on my own, after high school and after college, then I did during school. I also feel like the Internet has really fostered my learning and personal education, which is funny, because it seems to allow other people to have become very stupid indeed (I've seen articles on it. Was it Newsweek? Time?)

What do you think? How was school for you?


  1. As a former teacher, I could ramble on for hours about everything that's wrong with public education in the US today, but I won't. I also wish I had the answers, but I don't. :-\

    That's weird that you weren't allowed to take the advanced English classes. Believe me, I was NOT a science person, to the point where I almost dropped physics when I failed the midterm, but that didn't affect my AP English placement. And my school tried sticking me in AP History (which I also dislike), and I demanded a downgrade. I did the same thing as you, though, where I read books for the other English classes because they seemed more interesting to me. How I got through high school with "Catcher in the Rye" never being actually assigned, I'll never know.

    (Some how I wound up in AP Calculus my senior year. I did well on the AP test and got college credit, but here's what I remember of calculus: ___________________________ )

    1. Ooh, I didn't know (or promptly forgot....) that you used to be a teacher! I think there isn't one answer, really. There isn't one shoe that fits all the feet that need it.

      I think they (parents, teachers, etc.) may have ascertained that I wasn't the kind of gal to put in the kind of work that AP would require. And maybe they're right; I'm lazy. I know I am. But for something I'm passionate about, I'll be hyper focused and obsessive. So there's that. I was never assigned Catcher in the Rye either! I did enjoy it, though.

  2. Every year after 8th grade was a social education for me. I never had a problem with academics. The "A/B" honor roll, National Honor Society, J.E.T.S club, Math Club, etc. Yes, I was that student. My parents had a fit when they tried to put me in reading lab because I scored low in "Reading Comprehension" on the CAT.

    College was much better to me than high school. I graduated with distinction from Park University and have a B.S. in Computer Science. With a full time job as a software developer....I want to write fiction.

    That's what an education did for me. If I had discovered my love for writing at an earlier stage of my education, I'd have gone for a MFA and would probably be a starving artist, because though I love to write, I don't have the motivation to drive myself to do it for the commercial market.

    1. I remember the CAT! That's what I took earlier on, before the Iowa tests. I forget what came after those (SAT, anyway, though otherwise I don't remember much standardized tests in high school.)

      Hey, Computer Science is a great thing to be in nowadays.

      Depending on your proclivities, you could do a video game ;)

  3. I'm not the right person to answer this question, I think. I was the super motivated overachiever who went beyond the graduation requirements because it would look good for college. Four years of French. Four years of math. Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Chemistry II. Oddly, the one subject I did NOT overachieve in was English, and I became a literature major. And the English classes I did take didn't serve me well. For instance, I took a creative writing course, and the teacher never made me rewrite my stories because they were "good enough for our purposes." But he never asked me what MY purpose was, which was to become a professional writer even then. Sigh. Anyway, that's my story.

    1. French is what I took as well! I had it from 1st through 4th grade (then we moved) and then I took it my first three years of high school (with the 3rd year being Honors. My only honors class, in fact).

      That seems to be a thing teachers miss. I never had creative writing in my primary schooling, not until college, but even then, nobody asked why I wrote/what the story aim was, nothing like that.

      It's interesting, what the adults in kids' lives do and do not inquire after, or support, or what.