So. Say you’re studying, and you’re unsure of when the Battle of Saratoga is or what the molar mass of magnesium sulfate is. Maybe you’re looking for rhetorical devices for your English essay and want to double-check the difference between tone and mood. The simplest thing to do is to open your phone or laptop, pull up Google Chrome or Safari, and look up the answer. All set and done, right?
Except, two days from now, you’ll probably forget, and you’re going to have to look it up again. Two weeks from now, if there’s a test, and a reference to acetylcholinesterase (yes, that’s a real thing) pops up, you won’t be able to delve into the recesses of your brain and pull that knowledge out. Two years from now (okay, two months), you’ll forget what you learned.
If this was a thesis paper or a research report, I’d tell you about the many scientific studies that talk about how writing notes by hand helps the brain remember them better than typing notes on your computer, how the time it takes for you to learn the knowledge is directly related to the time it takes you to forget said information, or how today’s acquisition-mindset society is a detriment to all of humanity. But this is not a thesis paper or research report, so I won’t have to tell you all of this.
What I’ve done so far is set the stage for what I’m trying to say, and if you’ve read up to here, then there are one of two forces that have helped you get here: either you’re a fast reader, or you’re somewhat interested in this. The very fact that you’re reading the Chronicle in a time where your phone can receive live CNN and NBC news updates is remarkable.
The definition of knowledge and the significance of certain types of knowledge has changed over the years, a process expedited with the internet. The school system has not caught up to the twenty-first century.
This is not a bash of our education system; I recommend reading Savage Inequalities if you’re looking for a more blunt and informed source. But think about what we’ve learned in clas, and how much of it will be oh-so-important in the next two, five, ten years.
Seriously, think back to what you learned in middle school. Have you ever needed to recite (apart from your classes) the entirety of the US Constitution Preamble and list the Twenty-Seven Amendments and the major Supreme Court cases that go along with it? Or, the different tectonic plate movements and what kinds of boundaries are formed? We learned this in middle school and just as we learned cursive in elementary school, there are rare instances where these facts come in handy – unless you plan on going into that field, in which case, they are very helpful.
What I’m saying is, there’s a place where this knowledge is useful. Jeopardy! thrives off of random trivia. The high school’s academic team (oh yes, there is one) wins trophies for knowing obscure dates and diseases and sports players. Unfortunately, not all of us have ambitions to go on Jeopardy! and win millions (I would encourage everyone to join the Academic Team, but I will concede my biased opinion on this particular topic).
The important thing to address here is that we are learning the skills necessary to succeed in “real life”: the adult world, the one where people seem to be so obsessed with their own lives and money that they lose some of their moral values. We do learn collaboration, time management, teamwork, stress-handling mechanisms, failure and success, leadership. But at what cost?
The knowledge that we learn is being adapted to suit the needs of the world. There are more STEM classes and language classes, more robotics teams and more accessible Chromebooks for everyone. This is progress. Progress is good. However, nothing in the world is free (TINSTAAFL for all who have taken economics or business classes). What have we lost?
Materialistic concerns first. We got Chromebooks and bathrooms with stalls that don’t lock, toilets that don’t flush, and a constant shortage of sanitary paper. We have hydroponic systems and some classrooms that are boiling and others that are freezing. We have NAO robots and gas leaks every once in a while. We have liters upon liters of acids and bases and classrooms filled to their capacity and a shortage of teachers. These are my observations; if the Board of Education would like to explain these discrepancies, I’d be more than happy to listen and offer advice on improvement. Of course, the members of the Board of Education are hardly accessible, despite being mere feet from the school in their newly renovated building with spacious meeting rooms, open offices, and smartboards that no doubt work.
Concerns of the mind next: I argue that the education system has lost the soul of humanity.
Did I just make that claim? Yes. Yes I did.
Humanity: the quality of being humane. Humane: being human. Humans: who we are. What are we? President Jefferson had some ideas: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What is life? The richness, the sense of fulfillment, the vibrancy. Liberty? The freedom of the soul, the emancipation of truth, the appreciation of individuality. Happiness? The expression of joy, the uncurbed taste of exhilaration, the glorious rise of the spirit. We’ve lost that, backs bent over textbooks and keyboards. We’ve lost what it means to be human. When we memorize vocabulary, we lose the wisdom of Socrates and Diogenes. When we memorize former Congressmen, we forego the American culture that has been cultivated for centuries. When we learn about the US, we sacrifice the time and effort to be fascinated by the cultures of Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia – the Classical Ages, their Golden Ages, the Middle Ages.
We have lost the essence of our species, the triumphs and tragedies and the problems that have plagued all societies across time. What will the current adults do when they address this very real problem?
What will we do when we have the chance to be heard? Go read, and the gates guarding the world will be thrust wide open.
In a way, Tocqueville was right about American society. We want everything in a hurry and lose quality.
Just so you know, the Battle of Saratoga was the turning point in the Revolutionary War and occurred in October of 1777. The molar mass of magnesium sulfate is 120.37 g/mol. Tone deals with the author’s emotions on the subject, while mood refers to the reader’s emotions.