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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Why School is Soul Destroying

I have a lot to hold against school at the moment. I completely understand that it's so important and I'm eternally grateful that I have been given high quality education, however I believe that the school system in the United Kingdom (and most likely elsewhere) are doing something wrong.

On the 13th August, Years 12 and 13 received their grades which either determine a place at university or will shape the predicted grades for universities to see. Obviously there are other options, which I will touch upon later.
To me, it seems as if examiners are purposely failing students. If a student was one or two marks off the higher grade, it felt like they revelled in the student's unhappiness and refused to be slightly more generous. If the exam is entirely subjective, such as English (and in my case, Drama) it appeared as if the examiners remained biased to their own views and gave a lower grade than students deserved.

Whilst I find that incredibly annoying, there is something that is bigger than this that I'd like to focus on. School is ruining the fun of education. I have two personal examples to justify this point...

I have two wonderful psychology teachers who manage somehow to keep my class motivated, educated and their love for the subject shines through them and radiates onto us. One of these teachers appears to stay true to the value 'learning for learning's sake' - studying a subject purely for the love of it. In lessons, she frequently shares genuinely interesting facts, to which she is met with blank facial expressions and the same question is posed:
"Will we need this for the exam?"

Do you see how damaging this is? When you think about it, we're supposed to study the subjects that we love, when soon the love will be replaced by the robotic routine of absorbing information and regurgitating it all over the exam paper. There's no time or brain capacity to learn for enjoyment, which is deeply saddening.

My second example follows the way that my practical AS Drama exam went. Our teacher had told us to 'use the inspiration' of a practitioner and apply it to a script of our choice. My friend discovered an unusual and intriguing script, which we performed to the style of 'Epic Theatre', as developed by Bertold Brecht. No-one else had done anything like that at school. We worked for hours during and after school every week, organised rehearsals out of school and worked solidly at school on this performance.  Both of our teachers helped us with this performance and constantly gave us praise for our work - we were sure that we would get top marks. It took over our lives. At social occasions, my friend and I would vent about how annoyed we were with the others the whole time and we would regularly rehearse our lines (and everyone else's, obviously). We were examined by the moderator, who was also being moderated, and one of our teachers.We performed our hearts out and were proud of it. This was the first time in ages, if not forever, where I felt self-confidence, both in the theatrical world and in real life. 

On the 13th August, we were greeted with a letter 'B' on the report card, rather than the A that we had hoped for. And I know that a B is a great grade, it was just heartbreaking because we expected too much. Our teacher later told us that the chief moderator decided that our performance wasn't "Brechtian" enough. 


We were too creative.

Our performance didn't get a high enough grade because we were creative. In a creative subject.

To me, this is not okay. I am not talking about my grade anymore, I am speaking of the fact that students everywhere are having the creativity sucked out of them like a vacuum and then come university and adulthood, when we are allowed a little bit more wriggle room to be inventive, we can't. We have been trained to be machines with cloned brains, not allowed any freedom to be ourselves.

Right, I think I've had a long enough vent! I had been intending to make this post since that eventful day of the 13th August, but I couldn't write it for weeks and then, once I did, my internet was being very temperamental and I eventually forgot about this post. I need to get all of this out there though - not so that everyone can read my problems with school, but so that people can take this and be reminded to maintain their creative energy aside from school. This is why my friends and I created this blog, write poetry, songs and perform.

Thanks for reading,

-LF, LR and MG

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Standing With Ahmed

Every few days I check the news, because I find that it is important to be up to date with whatever is going on in the world. This morning, when I was doing my usual sweep through the Internet in order to be up to date with the world, I was drawn towards two stories that may not seem connected, but to me are deeply rooted in the same plant pot.

In the last twelve hours, the hash tag ⌗IStandWithAhmed has gone viral. This hash tag is a result of a fourteen year old boy being arrested for bringing a home-made clock to school, a clock that a teacher falsely accused of being a bomb. Ahmed was arrested in school and released shortly after, when the police released that it was literally a clock he had made at home because he is a fourteen year old boy pursing mechanics. 

The second thing in the news that has captured the world's attention in the last few weeks is the refugee crisis. When there are hundreds of thousands of human beings crying out in pain, living in conditions that are so far from anything we live in, and enduring the heart-wrenching experiences of fleeing a place that you and your family have called home for hundreds of years, I really ask my self why the world is doing next to nothing. 

I question why countries are closing their borders, and turning away as families are torn apart, mothers are loosing their children and people are loosing their identities. I question why the acceptable response to these tragic events is to sigh and look apathetically at the news reports flooding in of the horrors these people are coming from, their harrowing journeys only to be met with hostility. 

You are probably wondering what the two stories have to do with each other, so I will explain the link that I have made:

The world is focusing on the wrong facts and figures. Instead of stretching out our hands and opening our hearts, we are creating a society where it is acceptable to close our eyes and focus on the wrong things. 

Ahmed Mohamed is a fourteen year old boy, an innocent fourteen year old boy, a talented fourteen year old boy. 

Now tell me what part of that makes you think of a terrorist? Because there must have been something that provoked the teacher into calling the police. 

Oh yes, I know what it is. Ahmed Mohamed was arrested today because he is a Muslim. So really what happened was, a grown adult, someone that should have known better, decided that it was their place to insight their own preconceived prejudices and get an innocent boy arrested because he was a Muslim boy, taking an interest in mechanics. 

But it gets better. It gets better because effectively the world is turning their back on these refugees based on prejudices; based on stereotypes that have one purpose in society, which is to destroy any of the basic humanity that people have. 

I am struggling to put into words how angry and disheartened I feel right now. The world is misplacing its concerns. Western superpowers should be worried about what is actually going on in these middle-eastern countries that is causing such an influx of refugees. 

We should be focusing on trying to fix the root of the problem instead of misplacing our prejudices and stereotypes onto innocent people that need our help and support more than anyone. 

The message Ahmed's school sent to him today is that they have a certain expectation that he will be a terrorist. They show him that they don't see Ahmed for a fourteen year old boy with skills that will change the world, instead they see him as a potential threat because his faith is not the same as theirs. And you know what that says to me? It says that we have not evolved at all. It shows me that white supremacy is just as prevalent now as it was one hundred years ago, and that destroys me, it really does. 

As for the refugee crisis, I really do beg people to open their arms but to also look ahead, look ahead to fix the problem that is not going to stop until a superpower puts it to bed. 

Whilst usually my posts are not this political, I feel so strongly about this, that I could not have passed an opportunity to write about it on this platform. I hope you will stand with us in standing with Ahmed and learn to open your hearts to the refugee crisis. 

-LF, LR and MG xxx

Monday, 7 September 2015

Dear Examiners: My Future Lies In The Details

The best thing about taking exams, is the feeling you have as you get up for the last time, as the person at the front comes round to collect your paper, and dismiss you. The invisible chain that has kept you anchored to your desk for the last two months has been cut off and you are now allowed to do whatever you want, guilt free.

That feeling is a mixture of freedom and relief, but also, it is the knowledge that you have now done everything in your power to make sure that whatever result you get is because you did all you could do. Part of the freedom and relief is knowing that whatever happens next is not up to you anymore.

Although over the summer the impending nausea that surrounds the word 'results' remains, in general, anyone expecting results likes to push the idea out of their minds and dull the scary notion of the future, with the summer.

It is in the days leading up to results day that we begin to re-examine our own performances, making false predictions as to what we have passed or what we have failed. Who we will be disappointing this year, and the many ways in which we will have to make amends to those people. Regardless of how well we suspect we may have done, there is hardly a person in the country that is making positive predictions in an attempt to hopefully far supersede the doubtfully low expectations that you have been subtly trying to work into your parents heads.

Finally the day comes, and you open your results. Staring at the letters that effectively spell out your future. For some people, this moment is filled with relief, you thank your lucky stars that you have met your own requirements along with the ones of your parents, the college, sixth form or university that you want to attend, and spend the rest of the day celebrating.

However, this year in particular, and I'm sure in other years too, there seems to be a large proportion of people that have come out of results day, with more painful consequences. Some people have got grades that they secretly suspected they would but hoped would never actually be true. But some people are genuinely flabbergasted by their results, shocked and disappointed at the view of letters far less satisfactory than the first three of the alphabet.

Faced with the possibility of your future slipping away through your fingers, you try to think of things that you can do to make this whole thing go away. The only thing you can think of is that this must be a mistake.

But what if I told you this actually was a mistake;

This year, I have heard countless tales of people in my year at school and in other schools across the board, who have had their papers remarked, and been regraded totally different grades. I have a friend who was moved up 18 marks, and another who went up 11. This madness is what makes me write this letter in the first places.

Careless examiners are messing with peoples lives.

Not everyone has the money to remark papers, especially not at the ridiculous prices that you are expected to pay for the privilege. I accept that the exam board will reimburse you for the money you lay out initially if the grade changes, but that is irrelevant because these mistakes should not be made in the first place.

What about all the people who decide not to remark because they don't believe their mark will change?
What about all the people who don't have the money to layout and have to go the rest of their lives wondering if their mark could have been something else?
What about all the people who just give up?
What about all the people who lose their university places and end up on a different path than what they were supposed to?
What about all the people who feel as if they have failed, all the heartbreak and stress over a false mark.

My future, and everyone else's lies in the details because when one examiner makes a mistake, it can cost a lot more than £40 per re-mark to fix.

I understand that examiners are humans and humans make mistakes, but at the end of the day these are mistakes that people cannot afford to make.

I hope that people have better luck in the future, and that from now on, examiners will pay attention to the details more than they have been, because that is where the future lies.

-LF, LR and MG