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Institutionalized learning hurts us more than it helps us

Institutionalized learning hurts us more than it helps us

Institutionalized learning hurts us more than it helps us
March 07
12:00 2022

From ages five to 18, classrooms act as students’ second home. They are where we socialize for hours at a time, learn, expand our minds and where we grow as human beings. Classrooms are a staple setting in several developmental years for children and adolescents, so why are we growing to resent them the older we get, when the opposite should be happening?

This article by the University of the People uses cognitive science to examine why exactly it is that students don’t like school. It highlights a plethora of reasons, but the most profound is its third point: schools place more importance on students memorizing material than understanding the information they are taught. 

Students are taught an abundance of new information throughout each semester. But more often than not, you’ll find they only retain the information needed to pass vital tests and quizzes for the class. Once students are past those events, the information leaves their brain to make room for more new information.

This is a vicious cycle students have rightfully learned to hate and something needs to be done to reform it.

It is incredibly important for a classroom to have achievable standards for its students, as well as a positive and welcoming environment, according to the Committee for Children. Having at least these three components helps students to not only be more motivated overall, but to actually have the desire to be in that class, complete assignments and most importantly: learn. 

The crux of this issue — institutions placing more importance on grades rather than learning — rests on the shoulders of graded homework, quizzes, tests and exams. A study published by the University of Chicago helps us to identify why exactly grades are viewed as so crucial to high school and college students.

Grades are often considered to be indicators of students’ level of knowledge and success, which is not a true statement at all. Just because a student makes good grades does not mean they are inherently smart. They might just know how to work the system that relies on test-taking and making “good grades.”

More specifically, this issue is harmful because it causes students to lose their passion for things they once adored. As students enter high school, targeted classes that are more career-based begin to be offered. These classes are supposed to allow students to begin developing key skills based on what they want to do after they graduate high school and, in some cases, college. However, these classes often have more rigorous schedules and higher expectations than the basic math, science, English and history courses students are used to. 

It’s these highly demanding classes that frequently become based more on grades rather than learning, which directly contributes to students losing their passion for a subject they used to think they wanted to live out the rest of their life doing.

The toxicity of institutions’ misguided priorities is clear. Something must be done to change these negative habits into more uplifting ones so students can thrive in the courses they really want to be taking, not just get by in the ones that are easiest.

Having made these points, I do not mean to imply the entire education system is flawed. There are some phenomenal learning environments out there that have altered traditional school components to accommodate students’ needs and wants of a more low-pressure school environment.

This is exactly how every school should be. Students’ desires should be of the utmost importance to teachers and administrators, so the schools and districts across the U.S. that have implemented things such as homework bans, similar to those set in place in Ridgefield Public Schools in Connecticut, are undoubtedly doing the right thing.

Schools must reevaluate how much importance they place on grades and shift focus to the importance of simply educating. Students shouldn’t go to school (nor do they want to go) just to be held to unreasonable expectations and placed in incredibly high-stress environments due to the precedent of ridiculous amounts of absurdly difficult homework assignments, quizzes and exams.

Students deserve to actually want to go to school, not be forced into it. Students deserve to go into the fields they really love, not be scared away by the rigorous systems of the classes that are required to get there. They deserve to love learning, but if we don’t make a change in the education system now, things will only get worse — and be highly unlikely to change in the future.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Natalie VanDerWal

Natalie VanDerWal

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