Monday, April 14, 2014

How School Changes the Way You Think

You can't deny that school affects the way you think. But is it always for the better?

1. This, Not That

In school, you're expected to know and use proper terminology. Your geography teacher expects you to know the difference between race and ethnicity, your language teacher wants you to know about similes and metaphors, and science-oh, science. There's weight and mass, speed and velocity, acceleration and free fall. These terms get drilled into your head and they don't go away. That would be fine if you only need them for tests, but someday you'll get into an argument about racism. If you correct someone for saying ethnicity when they mean race you sound snobbish. And probably racist. I flinch every time I see an ad for Weight Watchers. They should call themselves Mass Measurers. I grit my teeth when someone who thinks very highly of themselves announces that they shall now use a metaphor-only for it to be a simile.

2. Citation Needed

Science fair has permenantly altered my brain. I can't say anything simple like "Studies show that plants are more likely to freeze in low lying areas" without saying where I learned that. And it all has to be cited in proper MLA format. It's not just science. If I'm writing an essay for history or English I have to include my sources and evaluate how and why they're reputable.
Oddly enough, this works against me in school. Teachers like to talk like this:
"Studies show that students who use their planners are more successful."
"This university figured out that students who take one page of notes daily score higher on tests."
"I read this article about how getting eight hours of sleep helps you pay attention in class."
I want to scream, Where did you read this? You say this came from a university? Which one? Name the professor. Tell me what field they work in, their social and political background, tell me so I can search for bias. Who funded this experiment? What age, race, nationality, and gender were the participants? How many trials did they do? What motivated them to do this experiment in the first place? Why does science spend so much time confirming what the rest of us already know? 
Because according to what I've learned in school, this crap is actually important.

3. Your Warped Sense of Time

Back in January, some of my family members made resolutions for the New Year. I'm confused. Years start in August. Everyone knows that. I know that just like I know waking up at 6:30 is a good idea, 10:40 is lunchtime, days of the week disappear in the summer, and it's perfectly logical for a class to end at 12:51 instead of 1:00 or 12:50.

4. Everything You Every Knew Was a Lie

Do you think Marie Antoinette shouted "Let them eat cake?" And Paul Revere announced "The British are coming?" Misquotes, both of them. The real facts don't mess with popular beliefs. I wish they'd meet in the middle sometimes.
Again, in school they act like all this crap is important.

5. Getting Along

All aboard the fallacy bandwagon!
My English class is in the middle of our argument unit and I've lost the ability to take anyone seriously. When I read the newspaper, I automatically reach for a pen to mark logical fallacies. And when I try arguing with someone in anything less than a formal debate-"Mom, your argument fails because you rely solely on ethos appeal and ad hominem attacks." My class has started calling out our teacher on hers. "That's a hasty generalization, Ms. Thompson! Your slippery slope threat won't work on us. Oh no, we're staying off this bandwagon."
She loves it. The rest of the world? Yeah, no. This ties into #1. If you want to have a normal conversation with anyone, don't get an education.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, missed this post. Love it. And, I do remember the argument unit, it certainly changed the dinner conversation at our house.