I recently attended the 2016 Red State Gathering. At this event I listened to speeches given by advocates of conservative principles, outlining their views on the future of the conservative movement (check out my livestream of Glenn Beck’s speech). After each lecture the speakers would finish their addresses with a Q & A session, and I heard one question that stood out to me.
A millennial stood up and asked (addressing the speaker), what is your view of the future of conservatism and what role will millennials play in shaping it? I had a real issue with the second part of the question, and believe that this shines a spotlight on a serious problem that many millennials struggle with.
My initial thoughts were: are we–Millennials–this arrogant, that we assume we were preordained to play some significant role in managing this nation? Do we not understand that there are no established roles, that opportunity doesn’t just come knocking? I believe that if my generation wants to play a major role in politics, then just like the previous generations, we need to create a role for ourselves. Not wait for it to handed to us.
Now upon further contemplation I came to the conclusion that I was missing the real problem. Rather than display arrogance in assuming that everything will just be handed to us, this millennial showed the signs of a much larger problem. This millennial is the product of conveyor belt education.
Conveyor Belt Education
Simply put, conveyor belt education is a one size fits all model for educating our youth. Everybody will receive the same education, be required to pass the same tests, and be ranked based upon their results. Now the theory behind this method of education is great, because it allows for everybody to be equal. But does it?
Imagine with me, what would happen if we ran our healthcare the same way we run our education. Doctors would disregard their patients’ symptoms and attempt to cure everybody, that steps into their office, with the same prescription. Why do we assume that everybody has the same illness, when people have different ways of learning and everyone has different goals when it comes to THEIR education?
I like a quote by Matthew Kelly on the topic of education, he said “Albert Einstein wrote, ‘Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’ The question I have for you at this point of our journey together is, ‘What is your genius?’”
This system of education neglects each individual’s personal genius, and assumes that everyone must end up at the same place. Where you may ask? This is an important question but will lead to a separate topic. For all purposes of this article I only wish to point out the fallacies within this style of educating.
This system places students on one of two paths based upon their test results, the basic level and the advanced level. Now having personally started in the lower of the two and then having advanced to the higher level in high school, I can say that the real difference between the two paths is the work load. They feed the same information, but the advanced path gives more of it and at a higher intensity. What I have come to accept as truth is that both of these paths don’t prepare students to become thinkers or problem solvers, rather they teach students how to pass tests.
The Baby Bird Syndrome
I would argue that our millennial friend is a baby bird. What is it that baby birds do? They spend their days sitting in a nest, waiting for regurgitated food to be placed in their mouths. High school taught me how to absorb information and chew on it for a few weeks, regurgitate it to pass my quizzes or tests, and then forget it just in time to repeat this cycle for the following week’s benchmarks. At the end of the year, I would have a cram session the week before my final exams and try to memorize as much information as I could in order to pass. I know that I am not the only one who used this strategy to pass high school, this was a common practice among my peers.
Now this works out great if the objective of education is to pass tests. But I don’t believe that this should be the objective. This style of “learning” places students into a role of a dependant, completely relying upon anyone with answers. Let’s reflect upon the actions of the millennial at the gathering. Rather than ask himself how millennials can have influence on the future of conservatism and act upon his ideas or the ideas of those around him. He asked what is our job in furthering this cause? What are we to do to have influence? And he asked–subconsciously–hoping to receive a checklist that he could mark off.
Our youth are not being taught how to think, but to wait until they are told what to think. In a way it’s like that saying: I am rubber and you are glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you. Millennials are being taught how to hold on to what they are told/taught and then bounce it back during test taking time.
This is the formula: Listen. Reserve. Regurgitate. Students are expected to first listen. Then they reserve the information in a part of their brain until it’s time to regurgitate it to pass tests.
Now it’s important to understand that I don’t blame teachers for the baby bird syndrome. The system is to blame. In many instances teachers receive bonuses in pay or awards based upon their student’s test scores. We measure the teacher’s ability to teach by how well their students test. If teachers can make more money by raising their student’s test scores wouldn’t it make sense to teach them to pass the tests? I can remember hearing nearly all of my AP teachers during after school study sessions, say “I think these are the things you will need to know for the exam.” And one time a teacher told another student that she did not need to know a certain fact because it wouldn’t be on the final exam. There has to be a better method for measuring a teacher’s success.
I think that Albert Einstein does an excellent job at illustrating teacher’s responsibilities to their students. “I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”
There is Recovery
Despite graduating high school as a CollegeBoard “AP Scholar,” I left high school thinking that I hated learning. I had no interest in reading books or doing anything of this nature, and college seemed like a necessary evil. But in reality my problem wasn’t that I hated learning. It was that I had mistaken test taking for learning. I was being taught how to pass tests, not how to think.
It has taken a lot of reflecting and pondering for me to come to this understanding. I have had to research theories on education and have spent the last few years trying to break myself of the poor “learning habits,” that I learned as a former public school student. Now that I have learned this, I can’t stop reading and learning. Educating myself has become my new craving.
One resource that I have found especially helpful in my recovery is the Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd), I see this as a solution. Although I am a college student, I want a self education and to learn through mentors or books. My goal is to obtain an education that will best prepare me to become a thinker and allow me the ability to be prepared for my future career.
“I never let my schooling interfere with my education.”