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The hallways fill with footsteps, the classrooms with idle chatter and the cafeteria with raucous laughter. The custodians have finished their summer work and are now resigned to try to contain the disaster of teenage students.
The teachers, coffee gulped and classrooms freezing, corral students toward tests, problems and self-direction. And the students themselves prepare for another nine months of sweat, toil and labor, a.k.a. school.
Welcome back. Though mentally it seems summer was a distant dream, an oasis on the edge of autumn, it was only a month ago when everyone frolicked through the bright flowers and biting bugs of a Missouri summer. But now the pools are closed, the leaves are changing color and school is in.
There are few subjects met with such apathy or unabashed hatred as school. It rises only to the lips as a curse, wrought with memories of all-night marathon study sessions, reading of moldy old books, and the worst crime — essay writing.
For many, school is a symbol of oppression, math a torture akin to waterboarding and writing only for people who are too lame to party.
Though I may follow that description to a ‘t’, I would propose a different view. To me, school is more than just a simple symbol of oppression. School is an opportunity, if you pardon my cliché. And despite societal interpretation of what school should be like, I find it mostly fascinating. Yes, sometimes math can be negative, and sometimes I fall asleep during fourth hour, but consider the following, a la Bill Nye, The Science Guy: most of the stuff we learn is awesome. For those who think learning is for squares, recall or a moment a simple piece of history — the Revolutionary War. That actually happened.
Those were real men, who believed in a cause so much that they found it necessary to kill other people to defend that cause. They were wracked with self doubt, following an unproven cause to almost certain death.
And yet into the uncertain night they threw themselves, freezing and tripping over corpses, tumbling into history books.
Isn’t that amazing? And not the pedestrian sort of amazing, populated by Internet videos of cats and tasteful design, but a sort of more cosmic amazing, where the actions laid down in the past set off a domino chain that culminated in the country in which we now live.
If we abandon our natural self-absorbed state for only a moment, we can sense the enormity of history. Those millions of lives extinguished before our own ring with the same loves, hates, joys and sorrows, unknowably complicated yet unforgettably simple. They yearned to be remembered as we do today. If that is the purpose of history, then the purpose of school is to gain that most vital of life skills — a sense of perspective toward past, present and future. And as it is not only history that makes an appearance in school, so is school filled out with subjects that practically yell to wake up and look around.
The goal that seems to be lost is that in school, we are supposed to learn about the world in order to better understand it and its people. Without a true appreciation of things learned in and out of school, one cannot, or will not, truly appreciate the life lived.
In the end, the idea of school comes down to the attitude of the student. One determined to hate everything will find plenty to dislike. One determined to gain, to understand and better his or her place in society, one who truly wonders at the marvels of the universe, will do so.
So, despite the desperate, essential apathy of this generation for once it must be begged to fully engage in school. One must believe, however reluctantly, in the peace only achieved through learning.
By Adam Schoelz