School Teaches Students How To Be Bad Workers

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, 1983

nation at risk

“During my time in school, I have developed many skills that teachers did not intentionally want me to learn, but in a way forced me to because of the way they teach and implement the school rules. These are basically ways to cheat the system discretely. Things such as writing a whole essay not knowing what I am really talking about and not paying attention in class but acting like I am.”

High School Junior, 2016

pamphlet

Here’s a few things I did in school.

  • Plowed through weeks and months of class by daydreaming, doodling, playing games, reading unrelated stuff, messaging, and otherwise generally dinking around.
  • Talked my way out of deadlines, extending them, sometimes indefinitely.
  • Copied homework, answers, and projects, receiving credit for work I didn’t do.
  • Ignored everything until the night before the exam and pulled all nighters to finish essays.
  • Made judicious use of sources to pad and lengthen my sloppy writing and reasoning.
  • Lied to teachers about my mental state, or home state, or some kind of state, in order to avoid consequences and work.
  • Learned to nod when applicable, look ahead for the answer to the question that was coming my way, write down responses after they had been given out by others, and generally DO as little actual work as absolutely necessary to still pass the class.  

By the end of high school I was really, really good at a lot of this.  I could read a teacher’s sympathy or mood or general demeanor like a politician.  I had a solid, workable bank of excuses and avoidance techniques.  I could lie so convincingly I believed my own lies.  I eagerly joined group projects because I knew another student, one more interested in higher grades than I, would do most of the work for which I would receive credit.  I mostly mastered the art of determining the minimum work needed to escape scrutiny and still get a passing grade.  (On occasion I misjudged.)  I even developed a solid folder of techniques for making it appear that I’d done far more work than I actually performed.  I developed as well a genuine, heartfelt disdain for work itself, for anything that smacked of repetitive deliberate effort, self-improvement, or vague purpose. Continue reading “School Teaches Students How To Be Bad Workers”