This piece was an earlier contribution from Ryan Galer, a student graduated from the Newburyport High School, Class of 2007, and written in his senior year. Published as a column in the Newburyport Current's "Natural High" series featuring NHS students' contribution. His progressive thinking is also shared in the virtual sphere on the "Helium ~ Where Knowledge Rules" Website at this link without. Find more of Ryan's thoughtful posits archived at that this link within.

My Personal Philosophy of Education

I'm a senior in high school, who happens to be an up-and-coming education radical. Instead of taking a second semester of Physics, which pertains little to my objectives, I am engaging in an independent study with my former American Literature teacher on education philosophy, reform, and activism. I must mention here that I am loving every moment of it! I have pitted Jonathan Kozol against A.S. Neill, criticized The Paideia Proposal, and investigated the multiple intelligences. I have requested interviews with Kozol, our interim principal, and our Superintendent of Schools. I received both good and bad news from Kozol: he is too busy to do an interview...because he is writing a new book! He also invited me to join an education action group he is starting! Nonetheless, I still plan to discuss education with the other two local experts.

Plenty of kids my age consider becoming teachers, but few have similar research interests. Even more students complain about the education system, but how many look so deeply into its alternatives? Let's just say, it took more than a year of stressful monomania to reach this point. Moreover, while I am glad I have found my passion, I would not wish such inner turmoil on another's chest or conscience.

Over the past four years, I have worked strenuously to be at the top of my class, but I have come to realize that high grades alone are not enough. I have succeeded in the system, but I will not let that hinder my discontent, bred through thousands of hours of classes and homework that I did not want or need. I appreciate the skills school has taught me, but for many years, I have longed for the precious time I now have for independent inquiry. My study, therefore, serves two purposes: to investigate the education system including its alternatives and to experiment in self-education.

My independent study project requires me to evaluate our school system, observing and analyzing its strengths and weaknesses retrospectively. At least in the our school system, I have found that I have had relatively competent teachers, some even inspiring, and small classes. In my high school classes, I have had the opportunity to have engaging class discussions and diverse styles of learning, including debates, playwriting/acting, and the occasional rap. Does that sound fun? Dare you call it innovative? Sure, this city is pretty hip and our school system is supposedly better than most.

Thus, I was thoroughly surprised, even a bit shocked when I discovered the public education system had cheated me out of a real education: self-education. School had also stolen my childhood. We kids liked to play, so why couldn't we? I am not so sure younger students even have recess anymore, as they waste more time preparing for the useless MCAS. Sure, we would all feel good with test scores that say our kids can read and do math, but how many kids actually like to read and solve equations? Supposing I had a child, I'd rather see him race through books that I loved as a kid by his own free will. However, if he would prefer climbing trees, perhaps his future involves more botany or he could be the next Jane Goodall. Test scores have not affected my schooling nearly as much as they do elementary schoolers now; nevertheless, I still have lacked freedom in my life throughout my childhood and teenage years. The problem with America, and perhaps the entire world, is that we all think that we need teachers to teach us everything. Yet, many of us would learn to think for ourselves best through acting on our own thoughts, not by doing a project from a teacher's list, diverse though that list may be.

As I said before, it took me a long time to get to this point. Junior year of high school was painful, as too many teachers wasted my time and I spent too many hours a week on history homework, most of it pure memorization (thanks to the College Board's AP curriculum, which is allegedly college level). You may insist that I chose these classes, but I feared other classes would bore only me more, while looking unattractive to any college admissions board. What else was I to do? Prompted by my often-frustrated journal entries, a teacher gave me some essays about education to read and contemplate. Some readings, particularly those that advocated reform, resonated with me so well that I cracked like a glass at the proper frequency. The rest is history (and not my teacher's fault)... until my next article, which will further detail my studies' findings.

Ryan Galer is a student at Newburyport High School, to be graduated with the Class of 2007. Other related articles are archived on website can be found at this link within.

(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Current and the author.)
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