The Real Problem With America's 'Renowned' Educational System
From the looks of things, I’ve done pretty well for myself in the educational arena.
I sat my way through the front rows of every elementary school class I was in, I graduated from high school with a 98 percent average and comments from teachers regarding my “exceptional work ethic.”
I won scholarship competitions that facilitated my ability to pay for a college education.
After four years, I left with a Bachelor's degree in Communications, a magna-cum-laude-stamped diploma and 17 years worth of hard-earned education under my belt. From the looks of things, I did it right.
Then, I watched this and decided that things needed to be looked at differently.
For those of you who chose to forgo the link above, I’ll do my best to describe it.
To start, it's one of the most emotionally driven, eye-opening, raw displays of courage I’ve seen in quite some time.
On her daytime talk show, Queen Latifah features three women from Get Lit, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the power of poetic expression to at risk teens throughout the country.
The performance is wildly moving and discusses sensitive subject matter that, as a generation and culture, we shy away from because we've been taught to do so.
Using the repeating mantra, "Somewhere in America," they speak to a broken education system that stresses the importance of perfect attendance and football championships, yet prohibits discussions about victims of rape or long lost acts of discrimination.
"Somewhere in America" teenagers are able to view the KKK website but are dissuaded from reading "Catcher In The Rye" or "To Kill A Mockingbird."
"Somewhere in America" the 1 percent mimic their version of the "ghetto" by rapping along with Jay Z in their daddys' sports cars while people living in the ghetto wonder how they will put dinner on the table.
"We weren't told what we aren't allowed to say. We were just taught to hold our tongues. The greatest lessons we are taught don't come from a syllabus. The greatest lessons we will ever be taught aren't even remembered," they said in their performance.
Somewhere in America, anywhere in America, we are only learning one truth.
As Americans, principles that are drilled into our brains at young ages condition us feel an overwhelming pressure to stick to the set path.
An unwavering sense of urgency to do everything we're told to do sculpts our lives. Read, write, memorize. Study, pass, graduate. Find a job, form a relationship, settle down.
As Americans, this is what we’re taught is the recipe for a good life — the only recipe for a good life. This, and only this, will lead us to that good life we’ve been mentally trained to believe we want.
So, we better not wander off the path, make spontaneous choices or allow our hearts to guide us to some far-off place. It can’t happen; this is not the recipe.
We are taught that in order to be successful, we must banish ulterior journeys toward success.
That in order to be happy, we mustn't deviate from traditional behaviors associated with happiness.
Applying radical, reinvented standards of living to our everyday worlds means we are doing it wrong.
But, the way I see it, deeming an act or behavior ad "wrong" is all relative if we consider, for a moment, what constitutes a wrongdoing.
Would one consider it "wrong" to build shopping malls upon century-old burial grounds because the nature of those deaths have been kept secret from society?
Would it be "wrong" to condemn a blue-collar family to a lifetime of debt because the hierarchy doesn't provide a salary that will help put their children through college?
Is it "wrong" to question or stand up against a democracy rooted in rhetorical questions and zero answers? Am I "wrong" for posting this blog on a public forum?
The only thing I believe about the truth is that there is never just one.
While we are fed a list of American-approved facts and stats, we are inadvertently turning our cheeks to the uncomfortable truths that affect so many.
Being born into a society that condones and facilitates this type of thinking is out of our control, but continuing to accept ignorance as a form of learning is something we have the power to change.
And, it's something we must change, starting today.
Knowing what I know now, if I could go back and do it all over again, there are a few more things I would choose to learn.
When selecting a career path, I would allow my passions and interests to guide me instead of being dissuaded by societal pressures regarding success.
When looking in the mirror, I would take pride in my body instead of turning to the media to remind me what my measurements should be.
When a woman chooses not to bear children, she would find her purpose instead of being told that she is dismissing the only one available to her.
When sex education is taught in high schools, teenagers would understand the importance of safe, consensual relations instead of being shamed or condemned for feeling empowered by their sexuality.
And, when you find a career that fulfills you, a person who makes you love harder or a dream around which you want to build your whole life, you would tell anyone standing in your way to screw off.