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Why we go to school

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Lately, I’ve been disturbed to find that many of the students I have met, at all levels, tend to treat school as a dull chore that must be endured on the one hand, and on the other hand, a forum for socializing.

I’m disappointed when I hear students complaining about how difficult their tests are, or claiming they did not learn anything from their class because their teacher was a “low talker” or their teacher was bad.

Certainly, teachers vary in their ability and effectiveness, but none of them will be able to teach a student who does not take the idea of schooling seriously.

Teaching and learning is a give and take: it takes a good teacher to create an interest and inspire students to learn. But it also takes a good student, who shows an interest in learning, in order for teachers to be motivated to teach effectively.

The qualities that allow students to excel are not endowed by nature, but are the result of the influence of their first teachers, i.e. their parents. By their example, parents’ involvement with the learning process during our formative years stimulates our interest and curiosity in learning new things.

Yes, I know what it’s like to be a student — been there, done that. I can also say that I had my moments of weakness and lassitude during those years.

For example, I used to rejoice whenever classes were cancelled. But over all, it was my good fortune to have parents that took education seriously, and were able to impart some of that attitude to me.

Yes, part of the reason that students don’t find school fun or interesting is that classes are not interactive or challenging enough.

Good teaching is not about imparting information; it’s about teaching students how to think for themselves, and indeed to teach themselves.

You know the old saying, “give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish, and he can feed himself for a lifetime.”

During our elementary years, we must acquire basic skills: the alphabet, reading and writing, basic mathematics, general science, etc.

When we reach high school, we should be able to apply these basic skills to more sophisticated problems, i.e. algebra, geometry, trigonometry, physics.

English grammar and essay writing must be perfected at this stage as well, and hopefully the excitement and joy of great literature, carefully selected, of course, can be inculcated.

With this kind of preparation, college can be a chance to become a full-fledged adult, applying the basic tools and knowledge mastered in high school to subjects of our choosing.

Learning is both a means to survival and an end in itself. To learn the art of thinking is why we are in school, not only to solve simple problems or gain specific information, but also to learn to use the tools of logic, comprehension, and critical reasoning, which are not only required in our professional lives, but also for our survival as fully human subjects in this complex world.

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