The Missing Element: Why Kids Are really Bored In School

Ciara Newman, Staff Writer

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American kids spend about 14,000 hours of their childhood in school. That’s six hours a day for 180 days per year (the minimum amount of days required to be in school), multiplied by all the grade levels to possibly go through—from kindergarten through high school.

Kids wake up at the crack of dawn every day to go to institutions where learning is supposed to occur; where they’re supposed to gain useful knowledge that’ll help them in the future—a place that some people regard as the most essential part of their young lives. But is it really?

It turns out that kids only retain a fraction of the information they spend “learning” in school (which is nothing new). By the time summer hits, they’re tossing their textbooks, throwing useless papers into the garbage, and packing everything else away until school starts up again in the fall. Every test they’ve crammed for, every hour past midnight they’ve spent studying, every review session they’ve suffered through but endured, was it all in vain? Were the 14,000 hours of their lives spent in school worth it?

This is a question that’s been pondered upon countless times throughout the years, by students, teachers, and parents alike. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been many productive solutions. Sure, there have been some education reforms and new policies, but is telling students they have to get a certain score on a test to meet “college and career readiness,” as Common Core puts it, really achieving a goal? If they want everyone to become basic mindless androids, then yes. If they want to teach kids how to have a mind of their own, then no. Not at all.

Many of America’s schools are lacking the most essential ingredient to help students learn for the sake of learning, not just for the sake of passing a test. That ingredient is creativity. School sucks all of the life, all of the creativity out of kids. No wonder they have such a negative view of school, and no wonder we’re doing so poorly in comparison to other countries.

In 2014, Pearson Education collected data from countries around the world and compiled them into a list, called the Global Education Index, and it ranks countries based on highest performance and education levels. The top five countries on the list are South Korea, Japan, Singapore, China, and Finland. Where does America rank on this list? Number fourteen. Right underneath Russia.

This is mostly the problem: the goal of schools in America has never been to promote creativity and independent thinking. As the history students may know, one of the reasons they had schools back then was to better prepare kids for the workforce, a time where workers only needed to know how to work in a factory. That’s an old and outdated view on school, education, and the purpose of learning–it doesn’t have much use in the 21st century where spontaneous, creative thinkers are needed and valued, when everyone is starting to accumulate the same washed-up qualities on their resumés.

Sir Ken Robinson, educationalist known for his Ted Talk, Does School Kill Creativity? Argues what the real purpose of education should be in his article, How schools kill creativity: Forget standardized tests, here’s how we really engage our kids. “As I see it, the aims of education are to enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens,” he said. Notice how Sir Ken Robinson uses phrases such as “understand the world around them,” and “fulfilled individuals.” Since when has school done any of that?

Schools instill in students the notion that they are not good enough because they don’t get passing grades or 4.0 grade point averages. They are forced to learn things that don’t interest them, on topics that they can’t always use in the future. The pressure is always on them to be the perfect student, to make fabulous grades and pretty test scores, as if that’s the primary indicator of post-secondary success.

There’s a big issue at hand here, one that can’t solely be blamed on teachers. It’s the system as a whole. School is boring because we make it boring. Many students have no motivation to learn because learning has been ingrained in the minds of students to be associated with suffering, not with fun and creativity. But as with anything, we have the power to change it. And once we do, we’ll be headed in a more innovative direction in the future. As Walt Disney said, one of the most influential and creative people, “Our greatest natural resource is in the minds of our children.”

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The Missing Element: Why Kids Are really Bored In School