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Message to Readers

I have submitted this copy in the competition :)

I hate school

October 18, 2020

How many times have you heard a teenager say, ‘I hate school’?  If you’re a parent of a teen you would’ve at least endured the common complaints and maybe faced the question, ‘can I stay home today?’. Or, if you’re lucky, you might have even been graced with a full performance from your high-schooler, involving dramatically staged stomach-aches, feeble fake coughs and arguments against the accuracy of a thermometer that yields no unusual results.

As a teenager myself, I can certainly announce that I’ve said those words – ‘I hate school’ – on many occasions, and that it’s a phrase that echoes regularly among the students around me. This has become a common expression in our society and we’ve learnt to brush it off with ease, dismissing it as the product of a lazy generation or a spur-of-the-moment exaggeration. But have you ever stopped to consider the weight of those words, and that maybe they hold greater meaning?

While many can easily disregard this declaration, when I hear it – when I say it - I feel sad. Because shouldn’t learning be fun? Yes, we don’t all like every topic, and yes, occasionally boring tasks must be undertaken to understand something. But at its core, shouldn’t learning – the acquisition of knowledge about the world around us, who we are, how we came to be here and the amazing phenomena that every day holds – be exciting?

After all, learning is one of the most natural human processes. At the age of three, children learn a new word every ninety minutes, and by the time they turn five, they’ve memorised thousands of words as well as the complex use of their language. It’s even believed that there is an inherent thrill in learning new things and it’s naturally something we enjoy. 

Yet in a survey of thousands of U.S. high-schoolers conducted by researchers from the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence and the Yale Child Study Centre, approximately 75% experienced negative feelings in relation to school, with the most common emotions reported being tired, stressed, and bored. An innate love of learning, but a dislike towards school? This just doesn’t add up. Something must be going wrong.

In my experience as a grade nine student, many of the problems with our school system come down to one key issue: pressure. I would even go as far as to say that, to some degree, the mainstream school system relies upon pressure.

When you went to school, you might remember entire days of copying notes or listening to teachers ramble on. While things have improved, lessons still follow a very rigid structure which exerts unnecessary pressure, and there’s a long way to go. This inflexibility not only restricts the depth of investigations and is contrary to the vital skill of independent learning, but it doesn’t allow for the fact that people learn at different paces, meaning that students are forced into an exhausting robotic efficiency by a fear of falling behind. This is even worse when accompanied by the all-too-common threat that ‘unfinished work must be completed for homework’. 

And this brings us to another issue: homework. Ah, homework. It’s the bane of the average teenager’s existence – and rightfully so. After six hours of school - an emotionally and physically draining experience - homework is the last thing that anyone would feel like doing, but In 2007, in a study of American students, it was found that every week, high-schoolers spent an average of seven hours doing homework. School is supposed to improve teenagers lives, but instead, it’s consuming them.

The other primary source of pressure in schools is assessment and grades. And please don’t tell me that it is up to the students to stop worrying about grades, because the focus on grades is not their fault but that of the system they were thrust into, where success is valued more than actual learning. Parents will choose schools based on their results, so schools will pressure students to do well. But so will parents and peers and themselves and every pressure’s a weight on their chest until they can’t breathe anymore. And there forms the wicked cycle of success. The resulting stress can lead to difficulty concentrating and processing thoughts, so in this sense, pressure is also utterly counterproductive.

From what I’ve seen, this continual pressure can do one of two things to teenagers. It can either force them to work constantly - which appears perfect at first glance but can have damaging impacts on both physical and mental health - or it can cause them to give up on work altogether.

So why is there so much pressure in schools in the first place? Mostly, it’s used to motivate students. But aren’t there better motivations? What about curiosity – one of the most natural driving forces of learning – that is so often overshadowed by this need for constant success? 

Though our neglect of curiosity has greater ramifications. It also makes it hard for teenagers to simply recognise the potential that they hold, beyond the mundane life made for them. Teenagers are given so few avenues to make change – especially given that school consumes so much of their life – and are told that they have little impact by the media; their opinion undervalued and ignored. At school, teenagers are taught how to live in tomorrow but not how to change today. Their voices remain dormant in their throats not because they aren’t desperate to use them, but because they don’t know how.

 So next time you hear a teenager say ‘I hate school’, don’t scold them over their "laziness" and "lack of dedication". Instead, ask them why and listen to what they have to say, because their opinion is precious. I believe that humans all have the capacity to love learning, and many more would if our school systems changed. Because I love learning, but I hate school. And I know it doesn’t have to be this way.

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  • Paisley Blue

    Great speech!! Best of luck with the competition!!!! :))

    3 days ago
  • Jasmine khawar

    It's true everyone loves to learn, I also love learning, I love studying. But, I think I've said that I hate school, but very less, only sometimes when i felt I'm frustrated, exhausted and It was because of the pressure. Sometimes I even thought that "I wish I was home schooled!" I agree there's a lot of pressure, they focus more on grades, but what if a student wants to be something else.....everything you wrote is correct!
    I wish teachers and parents will take these ("I hate school") words seriously.......

    3 days ago