I'd like to preface this by saying that I am in no way arguing against educating people. I support education wholeheartedly because I'd rather not live in a world of idiots. Knowledge is the cornerstone of what makes us unique as a species, and it's such a shame to squander our human potential.
That said, our current educational system really doesn't work. To make someone learn and commit things to long-term memory you have got to make them interested in the subject. No one remembers something they aren't committed to. And yet, our schools don't try to make us love what we learn, or sponsor the notion that we should be able to pick classes that get us excited to be taught. They don't treat us like we're capable of independent thought, or understanding more than our ages. I spent an entire grading period of AP Lang last semester essentially learning that red is a romantic and angry color, yellow is a rich and happy color, blue is a calm and sad color, and to find that in writing (as if I couldn't already define the emotions of colors). We're all put in the same curriculum, with the same standards and the same textbooks, learning at the same pace- no matter the outcome.
Everyone is unique, and while one student might be exceptional at math, he could be rubbish at chemistry. He could spend every period in Algebra bored into a coma with the day's work completed in 5 minutes, and yet struggle to understand the basics of stoichiometry after hours of studying the textbook. Not everyone is good at mathematics, not everyone is good at spacial reasoning, not everyone is good at art, not everyone is good at music... but everyone is good at something. We should be allowed to pursue our talents and make them into our strengths, rather than focusing on berating us for our weaknesses.
As students in school, we don't learn because we want to grow as people. There's no thirst for knowledge in what we're working on. You study by the grading period, only learning what you need to pass the next test, and remembering what you'll need for the exam. I always feel like an exception when I get into a class I enjoy, because I'll go out and try to learn even after the bell has rung and we've packed our things to move on. Things for which I have a passion, I seek all the information I can about. I've taught myself since I was in elementary school everything I can find about film making, 3D modeling, animation, editing, compositing, Photoshopping, programming, game development... and yet I'll procrastinate on my homework. I feel like I've learned more online through forums and from excellent communities such as the Nerdfighters of CrashCourse and SciShow than I have in a classroom. I've been more intrigued by mathematical concepts and theories on Numberphile and Computerphile than I have in a tedious and obvious classwork lesson. If you look, it's not hard to see the web of brilliant and open individuals sharing their gifts with the world to benefit the next generation.
Really, I think the age of traditional education is dying. With the advent of modern technology, media has become much more available and widespread as a means of self-education. I see the future of learning in a virtual environment, from people passionate about what they're teaching with tools that make the subjects accessible and engaging. It's one thing to be told lists of useless facts and formulas (that you could Google if you ever do need them again in life), it's another to be shown why and how things work, and to be able to manipulate these concepts to explore them on your own. Education shouldn't be about teaching us what to think, it should be teaching how to think; how to reason and problem solve, and think outside the box to apply creativity and ingenuity to even the most mundane task. We should learn to constantly question the world around us and how we do everything, because without the motivation to experiment and wonder we stagnate as a species. In this fashion, I would call Mr. Bean more of a genius than the valedictorian who can recite all the nations of the world from memory.
To anyone struggling in school right now, it's not your fault. You're being forced through a system that grinds down individuality and stamps out "students" into set molds barely able to function on their own in the real world. You're being made to conform to something you really might not be. It doesn't mean you're any less intelligent or worthy, it only means that their system isn't optimized for you.
My name is Jeffrey Hepburn, and I'm a young writer, graphic design artist, and aspiring filmmaker.