Point: The School System: Creates Mindless Workers or Intelligent Beings?

Katelyn Timple, Opinions Editor

   School is molding us into mindless workers. We lack creativity. We think the same way. We aren’t curious anymore. If, as a student at school, you feel like a drone going through the motions without learning anything, the system is doing its job. The education system is too rigid and focused on academic performance, failing to nurture students into intelligent, well rounded people who think critically. Even if complete change is unrealistic, incorporating opportunities to apply critical thinking and creativity in schools can have a notable effect. Until that happens, schools will continue their tedious process of shaping students into just another cog in the machine.

   The education system is far too linear, putting students on the same one-size-fits-all plan and failing to foster independent thinking. According to the New York Post, “We created an assembly-line system meant to churn out assembly-line workers…. The bell rings, you move to where the schedule puts you, the bell rings again, you do as you’re told. Everyone gets processed in the same way, and at the end of the line you emerge with a certificate of quality” (nypost.com). It sounds like a mundane process, but it really is the foundation of what students experience for six hours every Monday through Friday, mirroring the eight-hour-day work structures permeating society.

   Every student being taught this same approach and being told this is the only correct way to think about their surroundings fundamentally eliminates encouragement of independent or out-of-the-box thinking. “[School] is teaching [students] to think a certain way, to go down a certain path in life. It is telling them, ‘go to high school, get a diploma, go to a good college, find a stable job. And if you won’t do that, you won’t be successful,’” said Technology Entrepreneur Eddy Zhong in his TED Talk, “How School Makes Kids Less Intelligent”. This assembly line system subjects students to a strict schedule and a single thinking process, molding them to fit into those mindless 9 to 5 desk-job positions everyone dreads.

   School is overly focused on academic performance, which, in consequence, shifts students’ concerns and efforts to meeting the minimum requirements for a grade instead of learning the content. Why do students seemingly care more about grades than learning? In Eva Ren’s TED Talk, “What Your Grades Really Mean”, she suggested that schools are focusing on the wrong thing. She said, “It seems that schools’ sole preoccupation is to determine who can follow the curriculum the best. We are taught to memorize information found in a textbook only to regurgitate it onto next week’s test paper before forgetting all about it.” It’s true. Most students put in the least amount of effort to meet “learning requirements” on tests or projects to get the grade, most forgetting the content just a few days later.

   Senior Max Zahirovic argued schools use the strict grading policies to prepare students for collegiate education. However, he adds, “This internalizes the idea that good grades lead

to a successful life, which is not definitively true.” In reality, all grades reflect are how well one can meet — not exceed — standards and take exams. At some point, school becomes less about learning fundamentals and life skills and more about getting a ranking of academic achievement to move onto the next flawed education institution. Ren said, “By high school, most of us students will stop asking questions and we will roll our eyes at the few who do.” It’s a truth most students see on a daily basis, and just another indication that our current learning environment kills our creativity, curiosity, and desire to learn. The prioritization of grades in academics shifts focus away from learning and shapes students to be another mindless worker in the hive, following guidelines  (with minimal effort) to produce the best possible product without any creativity or independent thought.

   The American school system prioritizes grades and a strict schedule, reducing students’ desire to learn, efficiently training the next generation of mindless workers. If most of society loathes the 9 to 5 cubicle worker archetype, why don’t we acknowledge the active molding of youth (that have the capability to change) into them? Why don’t we change it?