Real Talk with Caitlin Plummer: Real-world lessons that should be taught in school
Growing up, I had always vaguely understood that I was considered “lucky.” I’d been born into a middle class American family with a nice, two-story home and the funds to enroll me in dance classes and sports teams. However, I don’t think I ever understood the true alternative to the “lucky” life that I had been given.
However, recently I’ve began to see my life in a different light. There is a black hole where my future is supposed to be, because I don’t know where I am going to college next year and how that will change me. I have no goals, because I don’t know where to put them; no meaning in my life except staying up too late, watching too many television show marathons, and reluctantly drudging through schoolwork every day.
Now, we’ve all heard the kids in class who sassily ask the teacher, “How are we ever going to use this in real life?” Frequently, there’s not a very valid answer, except that the repetition of the basics of math, reading and writing will make us better at them and knowing a little bit of history and science will prevent you from looking like an idiot in daily conversations. I always just accepted that some things in high school may be irrelevant to the rest of my life and there was no way that could change.
Then, last week, I attended Meadowdale’s first ever Hunger Banquet, a senior project that raised money for the nonprofit Oxfam. I heard a retired teacher speak, who had created a “real life” class at Edmonds-Woodway High School. It was an international relations class, where he brought in speakers from around the world living in the Seattle area. They inspired his students with their stories and the students became active in raising money for different causes, beginning to make a difference in the world.
So why don’t many other schools have classes that are inspiring like this? Imagine if school was an inspiration for students instead of a necessary chore. The sad reality is that although schools are great at teaching you what happened around the world two hundred years ago, they don’t really ever teach you what is happening the world now.
I am embarrassed to admit that I am not a very well informed 17-year-old; yet, compared to most of my classmates, I am probably one of the most informed. I don’t watch the news because I can hardly stand the depressing stories and I don’t have time to sit and read the newspaper every day. I signed up for emails from the New York Times months ago and although I read all of their news alerts, I sometimes fail to place the significance in a real-world context. Even less often am I able to understand how these important developments relate to me.
Isn’t that what schools should be teaching, our place as young Americans in the context of the world? I realized this for the first time last week, when Meadowdale had its annual Care Week and focused on raising money for various charities. Free the Children, the organization that is putting on America’s first ever We Day in Seattle this March, gave us pins to sell, each with a different slogan about love. Each pin contributed money to a different cause, such as clean water, enough food, education, and opportunities for women. We raised money with the pins, but I think the most important thing about selling them was the increase of awareness. The “First World Problems” trend may be a joke, but it’s a valid concept to think about. Here we are, upset that our skin is breaking out right before the big dance, and there are kids our age across the world who don’t even have clean water to drink.
I believe schools need to focus on inspiring their students in addition to teaching them basic knowledge, whether it be through an international relations class similar to the one mentioned before, or just through integrating current event conversations into class periods whenever applicable. As much as students like to gripe about never using any of what we learn in high school in the “real world,” the fact remains that we are being taught math, science, history and English because those subjects do relate to the real world on a daily basis. How hard would it be to talk about new developments in NASA in Physics, or the history being made every day in the Middle East in World History?
Before we know it, teenagers will be the new generation in power. If we have never been exposed to the injustice in the world and the beauty of giving back our “luck,” how are we ever going to change it when our time comes?
Give purpose and inspiration to the young people, and maybe the world will begin to change.
Caitlin Plummer, a senior at Meadowdale High School and co-editor of Meadowdale’s newspaper, The Maverick, enjoys writing about a broad range of topics that are on her mind. She was born in Lynnwood and lives there with her parents, her younger brother and her golden retriever, Cinnamon. Her future aspirations include earning a degree in journalism and writing for a major news source.