When I was in biology class my sophomore year of high school, my teacher, Mr. Haggard, said something that really stuck with me. Of course I do not remember the exact words (it was a morning class and I am definitely NOT a morning person), but the essential message was, “I am not going to teach you how to be perfect students who become perfect employees. Instead, I am going to teach you how to be healthy, happy, safe, and successful youths who become healthy, happy, safe, and successful adults.”
According to the mindset discussed in Logan LaPlante’s Tedx Talk, far too often, and often to the detriment of the student’s learning, school teaches one “how to make a living” rather than “how to make a life”. Through the lens of such a mindset, being that perfect student and employee would “naturally” lead to the aforementioned health, happiness, safety, and success, but is it true happiness? According to the CDC, in 2005-2006 4.3% of kids 12 to 17 years of age suffered from depression which rose to 4.7% in people 18 to 39 years of age and then jumped even more to 7.3% in adults 40 to 59 years of age. Clearly, teaching people how to make a living is not working.
From what I have heard from friends, relatives, and even complete strangers, they end up “settling” into a job that can provide them with money, maybe a dental or vision plan, and a pension. The question is why? Why settle? As far as I can tell, people settle because they believe that they have to grind through life until reaching retirement and then, and only then, can they actually be happy, follow their passions, and live. However, by this point those dreams have often withered and died. With that being said, it is quite clear that making a living is not true happiness, so why do we continue to do it? We do it because we are taught that this is the status quo. Who teaches this? Schools.
Schools pile on homework and meaningless tasks rather than authentic learning opportunities. Because our society is built upon treating humans like tools and teaches use that the only things worth valuing are the ones that have a demonstrable benefit to the people in charge. That is why government lackeys care more about test scores than they do the rates of depression and anxiety in students, and thusly they care more about delineating the useful from the extraneous rather than nurturing passion and creativity. At the end of the day, the current system cares more about money than people.
That is why I believe the system needs to be revamped. We as educators need to revitalize creativity and learning because students are people first, last, and always. It should not be so that parents are forced to remove their children from school in order to ensure that they get the best opportunities. We as teachers, as administrators, as schools, should be providing those opportunities because that is our purpose. I for one am not going into teaching because I want to create submissive slaves to the ruling class who are unable to see any future than living and dying by the dollar. Instead, I want to contribute to learning and experiences that make students happy, healthy, safe, and successful no matter what that means for them.