Back to Musings and Other Quandaries

Losing wonder

How the educational system does the complete opposite of what it should do

October 2, 2021


School is the origin of lost dreams. A wasteland of hopes for the future, aspirations, and a graveyard of unfinished diplomas. The entire experience of school is a tragic play that unfolds before everyone’s eyes. The education system in its current form is a recipe for failure, for teachers and students alike. We need to ask ourselves, what’s the point of sending kids to school if all they leave with is a bunch of useless facts and void of wonder?

Education today

If there is anything the education system is good at, it is teaching in the most soulless way possible. The burden is then placed upon the teachers to compensate for the failures of the curriculum and prevent slideshow-induced comatose. One teacher can be the difference between loving— or hating—school as a whole. I lose sleep at night because every day, somewhere in the world, a fantastic scientist, artist, writer, or engineer is lost because of school. Those people develop a disdain for learning, and the reason I know this happens is that I’ve seen it with my own eyes and especially because it almost happened to me.

It only took me 11 years of diligent studying for me to not hate math. Every day when I went to school, everything I learned felt pointless or disconnected from reality. Why should I care about igneous rocks, Shakespeare, or the quadratic formula? Exactly. Why should students care? That is the question that for all the time spent designing curriculum, is never answered once. It frustrates me to no end just thinking about it. Everything you learn in school is pointless until someone shows you. A deliberate effort must be made to inspire kids, not by dumping facts and hoping it will all make sense. Nobody should have to wait 11 years to love a subject, and it seems egregious to even consider that an okay scenario.

Students have to be given a purpose, a constant reminder of why they are doing something. I didn’t love STEM because of school but because of YouTube, surprisingly. Channels like Veritasium, VSauce, 3Blue1Brown, StuffMadeHere, Michael Reeves, who make complicated topics fun and interesting, are what got me through the day. Those moments when something I was learning in class was related to what I watched are what made the tedium of homework and boring lessons completely worth it, and in the end, made me enjoy school so much more.

What is wonder?

When we were young, why did we all dream to be astronauts, doctors, superheroes, artists, and ninjas, but left those dreams so soon? Most people would say that they were simply dealing with the realities of the world, but I think we could learn a thing or two from young children. What makes kids experiment, fail, learn, and wonder? Kids aren’t motivated by money or success like adults. There must be something intrinsic that is buried deep down in us all. That complete lack of reason and motivation behind their interests is exactly what defines childlike wonder and curiosity. You learn things, just because.

The difference between learning and education is that one happens when you want to, and the other occurs regardless. The tragedy of the education system today is that students become educated but lose what it means to dream, be hopeful, and wonder. Students shouldn’t have to dread school but should be excited to be there and learn a thing or two. We can’t expect everyone to be engrossed in every subject, but it only takes a little bit of wonder to inspire and make learning enjoyable. While there is a time and a place for schools to teach facts, teaching wonder is much more valuable. While education can bring you far, curiosity can bring you anywhere.