Opinion articles are pieces written by staff members of The Current. They serve to stimulate ideas and provoke discussion of topics and issues relevant to the MSMHS community. These articles provide a public forum for the personal opinions of the author and do not represent the voice of The Current overall.
MSMHS is a school that prides itself on having a sincere commitment to a series of values and beliefs about learning. We’re all familiar with the posters around the school that list our former core values. Some may even remember our since-retired motto, “Effort creates ability.” However, even though the motto and our values have been updated, that hasn't been disseminated throughout the school. In fact, in my observation, few students even know what these new values are.
This is a problem. Even more concerning is that our school has an issue of actually implementing these values in practical settings.
One of the major values that often falls by the wayside is self-directed learning. The idea here is that the MSMHS students will guide their learning, not just in school, but theoretically throughout their entire lives.
To paraphrase the official document, self-directed learning requires cultivating curiosity, building one's understanding via metacognition, and using one's skills to understand and navigate the world. I find that our school doesn’t do the best job of facilitating this and that we could do a better job of inspiring students to be independent thinkers.
One symptom of this that I’ve noticed is a lack of enthusiasm when it comes to learning. We’ve all seen this, and are probably guilty of it as well (myself included). Students aren’t paying attention in class and aren’t invested in the work at all. If we complete assignments, it’s because we have to get a good grade, not because we care about the subject matter. School is an elaborate game of completing work to get points, rather than an actually meaningful enterprise
Learning is simply an obligation that we have been forced to partake in for the past 10–13 years; it's not necessarily something we choose to do. This is something that the recent grade reforms have tried to address. However, the root of the issue is not to be found in grades, but rather in who is directing the learning, and how.
The solution that we should be focusing on is self-directed learning. I think part of the reason students aren’t enthusiastic is that they simply haven’t been able to learn how and what they wanted to. Rather, they’ve been stuck in classrooms and forced to listen to lectures, memorize texts, and essentially regurgitate other people's ideas rather than formulate their own.
What they’ve been made to do is antithetical to self-directed learning, and arguably works to discourage it. One caveat: I am not advocating for classroom anarchism, nor am I saying that lectures or memorization are bad things. I am saying that instead of having the classroom centered on the teacher, it needs to be centered on the students. Education needs to be about the students and that requires that they take some personal responsibility for their learning.
MSMHS already has the basic building blocks with discussions, projects, and opportunities for students to take charge and show their creativity. What we need to do is simply expand on what we already have, building a framework that can form students into independent learners.
The main goal is that students come to their own understanding of the subject, with independent learning as a cornerstone of the process. Students can’t simply be taught to memorize and recall; instead, the focus should be on applying, analyzing, critiquing, and creating concepts and information. In this model, teachers are guides to truth rather than directors.
Out of any other high school I’m aware of, MSMHS is the best equipped to accomplish this. We have a strong community that actually seems to care about students and their futures. Therefore, we have the tools to reform learning and develop each individual into the best thinker they can be.
Of course, my analysis is largely anecdotal, so you may find your experience to differ. But regardless, I believe there is a genuine problem not just in MSMHS, but in the education system as a whole. A problem where the potential of future creative and original thinkers is being squashed but the regurgitation machine that is high school. We at MSMHS have the burden on us to slowly help solve this problem, and be champions for independent human thought nationwide.
Illustrations by Kaiden Chandler.