My father's disapproving face made me feel inadequate and very small. I
didn't know that music was such a bad thing. I had just come home from
school, and it was the day I had finally worked up the courage to tell
my father what I wanted to study in college the following year. I had just
begun my senior year in high school, and everyone was already beginning
to fill out college applications. I knew that he would not be very happy,
but I did not expect him to react in the way he did.
"Music?" he asked cynically. The way he spoke caused my eyes to drop to the floor with shame and my heart to break as I could almost hear his answer. "You want me to send you to college in the United States of America and pay all that money so that you can study music? Why did you even bother mentioning this? You should know that music is not a practical major. What will you do with it in the future? Sing?" His sarcasm was getting to my nerves and upsetting me. I silently walked away, holding back my tears.
All over the world, there are many students who face the same problem I faced when I spoke to my father about what I wanted to do with my life. After reading "College Pressures" by William Zinsser (1998), which deals with pressures on college students to do the best and achieve the highest grades, I realized that all over the world, the choices are taken away from the students. In his essay, Zinsser says, "One of the few rights that America does not proclaim is the right to fail" (p.139). That, I believe, seems to be true all over the world. Although students decide whether they pass or fail, it is the pressure on them that does not allow them to follow their dreams even though they know they might fail. The pressures at home from family, the pressure of living in the world as a failure, and the pressure of society to be the best are all examples.
It seems that the arts aren't viewed as being as important as medicine or engineering. When parents force their children to study something, they are just taking away a big part of their lives. When my father forced me to attend a university I didn't want to attend and study a major which didn't interest me in the least, I slacked off and didn't see much meaning in studying or paying attention in classes, or even attending classes for that matter. My grades were slipping because of my lack of attendance, and my father was not very pleased. The pressures of attaining the highest grades are also difficult on a student. Although grades are somewhat important in proving what a student has learned from a lesson, they can also be very inaccurate and deceiving. How can a teacher give one student an A-minus and another a B-plus? What is the difference?
An idea that really interested me was in an essay written by Arthur E. Lean (1998) called "The Farce Called 'Grading.'" In his essay, Lean states that grading tends to punish the less able student, who may be trying really hard and studying constantly, but does have the capability he needs. In my experience as a student, I have seen many students spend all their time studying and achieving low grades, whereas others did not study and achieved high grades. Another interesting issue brought up in Lean's essay was the punishment of students by lowering their grades. In my opinion, a professor who lowers a student's grade because of many absences or a disciplinary problem is doing something wrong. The professor has the power to pass or fail this student, and by using this power he has been given, he is taking unfair advantage of his authority.
Grades become so important to students that they turn to cheating on exams and duplicating assignments. They do not care about what they learn. They only care about what grade they will receive at the end of the semester: Will daddy be happy? I know this is true because I am one of those students. Students don't really pay attention unless the instructor mentions an exam or something that will be graded. The system of grading has pushed students to not care about what is being taught, but only about what their grade will be. Ernest L. Boyer (1998) is the author of an essay entitled "Creativity in the Classroom." Boyer is the president of a foundation at Princeton University. In his essay, one professor stated, "Students don't seem to have the attention span they used to. It's hard to hold their interest" (p. 93). Another teacher said that students want to be "spoon-fed" the information they need to be able to attain a passing grade on the exam.
Many students feel that when they receive low grades they are stupid, their self-esteem goes down, and they have little confidence in themselves. It is very crucial for a student to have self-esteem. Confidence leads to success. Students who do not believe that they are capable of success will probably never achieve it due to their lack of confidence.
When I read Sydney J. Harris' (1998) essay, "What True Education Should Do," I realized education truly does have many forms. Within the essay, there is a quote that I found to be extremely interesting and true. "The most important part of education," once wrote William Ernest Hocking, a distinguished Harvard professor, "is this instruction of a man in what he has inside of him" (as quoted in Harris, 1998, p. 3). I agree with what Hocking is saying very much. It seems as though students spend most of their time studying the information given to them, rather than experiencing things that interest them and their way of thinking. In the end, most realize that although they may have attained a lot of knowledge, they may not have a feeling of satisfaction. I also believe that people are in need of receiving information. We would all be ignorant otherwise. When we are taught, at that time we are able to explore what we have inside of us and apply our thoughts to what we have learned. In my opinion, however, instructors must emphasize eliciting information as well as inserting it.
I would like to conclude this essay by sharing a quote from Socrates. Instead of educating people with words directed towards their minds, Socrates directed these words toward their hearts: "Look into your own selves and find the spark of truth that God has put into every heart, and that only you can kindle to a flame" (as quoted in Harris, 1998, p.3). As for me, I think the true way to educate people is to allow them the freedom to choose what they really want to study. People should go where their hearts lead them. They should also learn what their hearts tell them to learn. In my case, my heart was singing a beautiful song that only I could understand. There are things in music my teachers could not explain to me, but I could understand them perfectly well, and that is what I believe to be true education.
Boyer, E.L. (1998). Creativity in the classroom. In R. Spack, Guidelines: A cross-cultural reading/writing text (pp. 92-103). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Harris, S.J. (1998). What true education should do. In R. Spack, Guidelines: A cross-cultural reading/writing text (pp. 3-4). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lean, A.E. (1998). The farce called "grading." In R. Spack, Guidelines: A cross-cultural reading/writing text (pp. 130-134). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Zinsser, W. (1998). College pressures. In R. Spack, Guidelines: A cross-cultural reading/writing text (pp. 138-144). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.