“Let us reform our schools, and we shall find little need of reform in our prisons.” – John Ruskin
I have a big problem with a school system that segregates students based on so-called ‘competence’. The idea of an applied vs. an academic learning method needs to go, as a matter of fact, the university application process along with the standards used to judge a qualifying student need to be reformed.
What I also disagree with is the societal judgment that stems from that system; this common notion among the majority of people that a college student is “intellectually inferior” to a university student or that some students can be considered gifted, and hence given privileges over students who work equally as hard, and at times, harder.
My criticism comes from my high school experience, and I went to a school under the CSDCSO, not the Toronto district school board like most students, but I’m pretty sure that all schools within Ontario operate the same way.
In grade 9, a student has to choose the classes that would determine the course of his or her four years of high school and consequently, his or her life. Yes, life! Choosing applied courses meant guaranteeing only admission to colleges and not to universities, which meant, according to societal rules, only graduating and being permitted to work in a selected number of industries, acquiring a specific number of skills, and even being hirable by certain employers. If you don’t believe what I say, check out a job post for an income of $45,000 and up and see what the requirements are (Bachelor’s degree is almost always a must).
Colleges and Universities should be considered the same, and should have the same standards for admission. Most importantly, people should look them at as being the same thing. Practicality and theory need one another, which means that the idea of having one institution teach one and the other institution teach another leaves all graduates lacking something. Society likes to pretend that one is better (one being an elite of some sort), when both are equally important.
The idea of forcing someone to determine their career path at an extremely young age while giving them no chance of changing directions is dictatorial and disrespectful in my opinion. Which thirteen or fourteen-year-old can make such an important decision? Someone who has zero experience in the work force and in academia altogether needs time before anything, the school system selfishly takes that away. I’m sure that there is some statistical need to have some students in college and some in universities. Oh wait! That’s right! I forgot… they’re all moneymaking businesses, it’ a consumer market not academia, and high schools just help them generate their profits.
My other problem is with this program for gifted students– the idea of selecting a number of students and giving them access to resources that guarantee them a much brighter future is unfair in every way imaginable. I’m not denying that some students excel better than others, but why are we disregarding the fact that people learn differently? Sometimes at different paces and some even require a completely different atmosphere to learn. Everyone deserves a chance and every student should have access to privileges, because the truth is, everyone has capabilities but it takes the right system to help a student discover them and put them into practice. If a student is exceptionally smart, he or she can skip a grade or two, so they can move to a level where they are challenged and motivated. I am not sure about other school boards, but the CSDCSO gave out a test in grade three (GRADE THREE!), where the students with the highest averages were put into a group (all the way until the twelfth grade) and placed in privileged programs, trips and activities and even taken out during regular class hours to partake in all sorts of things. How does a system like that leave the ‘the other kids’ feeling about their own abilities? Inferior! Because to the rest of the students, these were the special kids, with the special rights, and they were just ‘average’.
I stand in complete opposition with a system that shamelessly segregates students based on a poor judgment of their performances. A student’s skill level fluctuates, especially in high school where he or she is still being taught how to learn. A student may become better or worse academically depending on multiple factors, varying from his or her own learning method(s) all the way to the teacher’s ability to teach. High schools should be considered an experimental step, not a life-altering point in the lives of students. The school system narrows down the possibility of having many promising students, by telling them ‘where they belong’, keeping them there and leaving them with no room for change or growth.
The choice of going into college or university should strictly be the students’; high school should not ‘classify’ them and then force them into disciplines that match their ‘learning abilities’, and the gifted student program needs to be extracted from schools and established in its own school, where no one needs to feel better than the other.
The system is unethical and uses a lazy way to split students and set a scale for their strengths and challenges. School needs to be revamped and re-educated on how to educate.
**The story behind this story:
Experience is one of the most valuable lessons, and I often use my experiences to form my judgments.
I went a school where my performance was often ranked much below average. In the mornings, I left a household where I was told that I could do it and arrived to a school that detoured me by telling me that I could ‘NOT’. I wasn’t a good student, I grasped things differently, and I’d say that I learned ‘slower’ than most, because my attention span was extremely short and my listening skills, bad. The constant criticism by the teachers resulted in my insecurity and belief that I was not competent enough, for anything, and I hid that problem very well. The only thing I could do was convincing myself that it was cool to fail. I was always getting grades between D- and F. It took me years (until the age of 22) to come to the realization that I was not inferior to the A+ students, but that I was just different, and I realize now that different NEVER means ‘not good enough’.
School taught me otherwise, I had a guidance counselor who, ironically enough, told me that ‘I should have failed’ instead of miraculously getting 50s, of how I should not apply to university because my grades can barely get me into college and of how lucky I was to even be passing.
It’s those schools that (in)directly tell youth that they “can’t do” that often produce adults that “don’t do”. Almost all societal problems can be traced back to a school system that operated based on a primitive and backward belief, one that classified students as “bad, “good”, “better” and “worse”. All students of all learning abilities and all challenges (because we all have them) need to have access to the same resources, because like they say, ‘education is a right’…right!