Tag Archives: students

“I’m smart. You’re not.” — What’s wrong with our educational system?

Children learn very early in their schooling how to determine intelligence: grades. But is intelligence really this black and white?

This post is inspired by a conversation I had with three good friends from my highschool. As we were having dinner, we started to talk about the relationship between the general beliefs society, how the media affects those beliefs, and the crucial lesson that is almost completely lost in the educational system: how to think critically.

Society’s beliefs are made up of so many factors, but the general consensus is apparent to everyone in the population: bad grades = stupid

With regards to schooling, this consensus has driven us to severely undermine the potential of students based on their performance in school. We are told at a young age that if we work hard, we will get a good education, which will then lead us to a good job. This is something many youth don’t believe, and they have reason not to. Post-secondary degrees no longer guarantee jobs, but students aren’t being presented with appealing alternatives. This is to say that young adults that don’t get a post-secondary education, be it by choice or because of poor grades, are being viewed as “failures” by society.

I think this view is mostly because of the interpretation of good grades as intelligence. This is so false a notion I cannot even fathom how much I hate this mode of thinking. BLARGH. There are seven types of intelligences:

Your grades do NOT measure your intelligence! The only intelligence that gets measured in the common classroom is logical-mathematical. Every other intelligence gets shunned within classroom walls or is only implicitly acknowledged. Classes that are available to students which focus on the other intelligences tend to be undermined. Our society doesn’t value “skills that aren’t in the standard curriculum” (frenchfirecracker) and this is stunting the potential of many students. As a result, intelligent people are thinking that they are not intelligent because their strength lies in intelligences that aren’t reflected in their school grades.

When I was going through highschool, university was the most realistic option. My parents were (are) both working and I had good grades. I had not even considered any alternatives to a university education. I wasn’t aware there were any alternatives—like apprenticeship and vocational studies—as I completed my application forms to McMaster University and the University of Waterloo. In highschool, there was this constant unspoken pressure that if you wished to pursue a career that wasn’t in science, math, or business, you would have a hard time getting a job.

I knew many students who weren’t getting good grades but were so, so good at things outside of the classroom. These students were often the ones that grew up hating school and learning.

Education is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. – John Dewey

The youth of today are being saturated by so many mediums of knowledge: television, the internet, books, video games, etc. There is just so much access to new things to learn from, be the information vocational (career-related) or not. It’s no wonder students get bored in school. Why would anyone be interested in knowing the various mechanisms a benzene ring can undergo under acidic conditions when they can instead be learning about something that truly interests them from random websites on the internet? Our students are not getting “dumber” nor is ADHD an epidemic  among them. It’s just that the things they are learning in school and the way in which it is presented to them is just so  boring when compared to things they can learn about on their own, that they would choose to learn about.

What can be done about this lack of interest amidst an oversaturated life of knowledge? I’m not really sure. One thing I do know is that encouraging students to think outside of the box is the best way to prepare them for any sort of future. The educational system doesn’t stress critical and creative thinking enough, at least not for my taste.

School shouldn’t be all about getting the right answer. In the bigger picture of life, there isn’t always a correct answer. What should be more emphasized is the process of getting to that answer by thinking creatively and critically.

This post was inspired by this video by the RSA (an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges) on Changing Education Paradigms. Please take a look and let me know what you think! Is the way our schools are structured enough to prepare our youth for the future? What should change? What needs to change?

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Would you ever… work or study abroad?

Would you ever cross oceans and continents, leaving your family and friends and everything familiar behind in the name of your future? Take international students for example. At the University of Waterloo, where I attend classes, there are a number of students from different parts of the country, continent, and all over the world. I know some people who have also moved far from people they care about for a job. Would you do it? Have you already? I wonder where the biggest challenges come in adapting to a new environment. Language is probably a really big one. There is only so much one can learn from the classroom. Food is probably another issue. The most difficult hurdle in adapting to a new location is likely the cultural difference. In a different society, different behaviours are deemed deviant; what may be unacceptable where you are from might be accepted in a new environment.

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UCLA study: Bad job market makes overly anxious students, but is there more?

A UCLA study is buzzing around the net and media claiming “college kids are more stressed out and anxious than ever before” (Slate.com’s Clarke, 2011). Studies said this was due to the job market. According to a rebuttal article on Slate, college students aren’t worried about the job market, they’re just living in an age in which anxiety ranks higher than depression in common detrimental mental conditions.

As a university student, I feel that neither Slate’s article nor the UCLA study are wrong their reasoning. However I’d like to add my own personal tidbit to the argument. Witnessing the stress of students firsthand, I’d say the most stressful aspect of today’s post-secondary education is that simply having a degree isn’t enough anymore. You can’t just graduate with a Bachelor’s and expect a wonderful 40k job, the job market simply expects better than that. You must be better than the competition to land your dream career, and that’s where the stress comes from; the competition.

As a Biomedical Sciences student, I know for a fact that almost everyone in my program is aiming for some sort of professional/graduate school program, be it pharmacy, medical school, dentistry, or optometry. Albeit it’s not surprising, seeing as how my program, here at the University of Waterloo, was previously called “pre-optometry/pre-med,” or something along those lines.

An interesting point though is that I was having a conversation earlier in the year with a woman working for the career centre at the university about potential jobs for science undergraduates. She said career advisors were finding that time and time again, many students in the life sciences programs were aiming for professional schools, especially medical school. However, the reality is that very few of them actually make the cut. For those who don’t, they become depressed and don’t know what else to do.

The feeling of not knowing where your life is taking you or where you want to take your own life will create a lot of anxiety in any student. We spend all this time, effort, and stamina toward getting the best grades in the false illusion that “my plan may not work out, but as long as I have really good grades I’ll get somewhere…. right?”

I think the best thing any student can do now is to research.  Get an idea of what jobs are out there that you’ve never heard of, something your parents never told you about. An example is a medical illustrator (http://www.universityaffairs.ca/so-you-want-to-be-a-medical-illustrator.aspx). There are tons of jobs out there that just aren’t prestigious enough to get the attention they deserve, but can be just as, if not more, satisfying than whatever career path mom and dad set for you.

Never wait until the last minute. Don’t wait until your last year of undergrad or high school to figure out “you know… I’ve been taking all these math courses… but I really don’t like math.” The courses you take in your earlier years will determine which ones you can qualify for in later years. So choose wisely.

Most importantly, ask for help. Never be afraid to ask a guidance counsellor or academic advisor for some words of guidance, some references, some key resources.

Be true to your desires; be open-minded; keep your options open. But for goodness’s sake, calm down. There is no such thing as “I don’t have time.” There is only “I don’t make time.” Unless you’re a double-degree student who’s also the executive officer of 4 clubs, in which case may you have my blessing to be prosperous and hopefully not addicted to caffeine.

But seriously, whther you are a student or not, time management is key. You will indeed run out of time if you don’t manage it wisely. Just make sure your schedule includes a relaxation and some fun stuff to do.

(Slate.com’s article on the UCLA anxiety study and responses to it, http://www.slate.com/id/2283221/)

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