Just coming back from Winter Break, my first day in school for the 2011 year was as run-of-the-mill as it could be. Mind you, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable – it was a fun day where we did lots of new stuff in each class. However, as I was riding on the bus, looking out through the tinted window to the student parking lot in the back of the school, I had an epiphany that I kept developing in the spare thinking time I had throughout the rest of the day.
I began by thinking about how I’d spent my Winter Break. I hung out with a record number of friends, I went on several crazy bike riding adventures (so crazy that I now have to go pick up my bike from my friend’s house the soonest I get a chance), I played my favorite video games, I made progress on several video projects, I read, I did my homework (although writer’s block ended up forcing me to work on it on Sunday night, before school), I spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve with my awesome family, and I also … grew fond of a certain kind of freedom. As you can well imagine, the first thought I had as I walked out of school the Friday afternoon when Winter Break began, was, “Now the fun starts.” That fun didn’t necessarily encompass schoolwork, but it did encompass intellectual projects of my own, in addition to the usual plans for debauchery that accompany anyone’s mind at the beginning of any form of recess, from work or school.
And that’s exactly what I’m getting at. We spend, give or take, 8 hours in school; listening to lectures, working, talking … yet, intellectual pursuits, at least for me, don’t end there. This is especially true for people like me who are taking Advanced Placement courses that involve long hours of studying and reviewing (usually in the form of reading) because of the massive amount of material the curriculum dictates. Now, each class at my school lasts two hours, and we have three classes a day. In those two hours, somehow, an entire chapter of material can be covered, a class discussion on the issue of gay marriage can be led, a lecture on factoring polynomials can be given. What would two hours of math be like at home? Obviously, you can’t discuss, and you can’t listen to a lecture by a teacher in the flesh, but you can read and do practice exercises, and to some extent (if not completely), teach yourself the material! This is especially true of my American History class, where the meat of the class is found in reading assignments encompassing 30-page narrative chapters about American history.
My point is, all school is is a set of three 2-hour batches, with an extremely short 30-minute lunch break sandwiched somewhere in there. Somehow, however, school forms the core of many teenagers, whether educationally or emotionally speaking. This is the place where we get an education and form relationships (business or otherwise) with memorable human beings we call “friends”. It’s not like it’s absolutely, 100% necessary – as illustrated by even rigorous courses like the ones I’m taking, self-teaching and individual scholarship is wholly possible, and it’s likely not reserved solely for the intellect-seekers. So, why is it that we go to school? Is it because of the friends? Because of the frenzy?
Certainly, this is the subject of much debate amongst my friends, at least, one of which recently posted a Facebook status update complaining how she found little to no reason to go to school after Winter Break. She’s a senior, so her lethargy is comprehensible. Yet she’s also an Advanced Placement student. So what is it about school that can be emulated at the home, and why do we need to travel elsewhere to do it?
What may be a plea for independent scholarship actually has its roots in emotional and spiritual phenomena. Over Winter Break, I discovered a sense of freedom and excitement that accompanies only the riskiest of debauchery – only this time, there was some scholarship and studying involved. For example – I’ve taken up the project of formulating a journalism course for the incoming freshmen next year, and so I spent lots of my time during Winter Break thinking about how it would work out, watching journalism movies and reading journalism texts. I’d usually do this in the morning, interrupt my studies with a bike ride to my friend’s house or even the local grocery store (usually when my mom needed me to do the grocery shopping) and finish off the night with a little bit of reading or chatting with family members. It sounds so peaceful, so lax, right? Yet, in these two weeks, I’ve never felt a greater love for the pursuit of knowledge, thereby demonstrating how the institutionaliztion found in school isn’t necessarily the most effective way of spurring interest for intellect in students.
I’ll continue this analysis tomorrow or past. Good night, all!