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Why We Show Up

Ask any student in the average public high school why they show up to school, and you will hear some variation of the answer: Because I have to.”

We don’t show up to school every day to get educated. We show up to school because truancy court will complain if we don’t. We show up because we have nothing better to do before we turn 18 and get shipped out to college.

If you ask us if we want to become educated, on the other hand, you’ll get a variety of different answers that represent our respective cultures, upbringings, goals, and aspirations. Wanting to become educated, in our minds, has absolutely no correlation with school, and it isn’t our fault—there has been little to no proof, from our observation and experience, that we are showing up for anything other than to fill up a seat and increase the attendance figures.

Quite frankly, we go because it’s a matter of compliance. Even those who go to school in the noble pursuit of higher education soon resign themselves to the fact that they want to pursue higher education usually because their parents, teachers, and peers have pushed the narrative that college is important.

That being said, students are more than happy to show up—voluntarily—for sports, choir, band, church, and work. Yes, there is still a measure of compliance in all of these activities and their respective institutions, but for some reason, they’re excited to go. Why isn’t it the same with school?

It’s not that most students don’t value getting educated—they’re not getting educated by being forced to show up to school each day in the first place. On the contrary, they’d love to learn. And when the institution puts them in programs that do adequately facilitate their learning and development, they are exceedingly excited and willing to participate.

The problem lies in the fact that students know better than anyone how aimless our current education system is. Calculus might be the single most important class in the world…but you’d never know, because nobody is coming out and explaining the applicable significance of calculus. (That is, if it’s really there.)

Maybe, just maybe, if we were invested and had a stake in our own education, that would be different. Learning would no longer have such a connection with grades or compliance but with truly learning things that change or enrich us in meaningful ways.

As of now, this is absent at nearly every level of education. The institution is not giving us what we need. Whether or not we stay in school, we have to start showing up for our own education.