5 Important Lessons from High School

Why does the school system suck?


Finishing high school is a huge step toward an entirely different life. You get to decide lots of things on your own. You get to start a new life; one where you have more liberty to do everything. You're probably starting a new job to save money for college, or starting college right away. You're also moving out to a different city, or even country.


Graduating high school marks an important milestone in your life. Throughout the years of high school, you should have learnt a few lessons about life. Albeit not the best teacher, high school is one of the most crucial stages of the process of transformation from teenage to adolescence.


Granted, not everyone leaves high school with the same ideals and lessons. Some, mind you, do not gain any knowledge from high school after graduation. The only thing that they gain is a diploma - and we know that's not enough.


I am not a scholar of education, nor do I have any evidence-based information about the efficiency of the education system. But speaking from experience, I can now see - after two years since my graduation - the lessons that I have learnt from high school. The ups and downs of adolescent life and the continuous ambiguity of the near future.


1. Don't Stress Over Your Grades

Graduating high school with an excelling grade record will get you accepted into whatever university/college you want. It's an important aspect of getting your things together after graduation. If you didn't get the right grades for the subject you're going to major in college, then you'll have to redo exams and make supplements to your grade, one way or another.


But here's an interesting fact, two years after graduating: these grades do not matter. At all. Well, that is wrong to say on many levels. The reality is that they do matter, but that depends on what your plan is. If you've majored in Physics and Chemistry in high school (for some unholy reason) and you're planning on majoring in English Literature, then these grades don't matter.


In Israeli universities, exact science subjects like physics, chemistry, medical sciences, math, or the similar, need higher grades than their peers of "not-exact" sciences: languages, history, politics, or any subject based on philosophical theories and assumptions.

This creates a messy competition between high-scoring students in high school to favor exact sciences over non-exact sciences. The philosophy is that you're wasting your talents and high scores if you're not studying something worth it.

You're a lesser person if you study something that requires way less than what you're scoring. "Aim high!"

This is why you've probably heard of students who have gone to medical schools or technology institutions just to quit mid-term. They're pressured into accepting the fact that they're phenomenally achieving. However true that is, it does not necessarily mean that the subject for which their grades can get them accepted will be to their liking.


Surely, this is not why these subjects require high grades. The baseline requirement is set to determine if you can stand out among other students. If you can't, you're out.


Medical schools require high grades because once you're finished, you'll be dealing with actual human lives. You ought to have learnt the basics and the complexities of the subject. High-grade requirements are for excelling people to aim higher. The fact that you score high grades does not mean you should study these subjects!


Why is this a problem, even in 2020? Because some countries do not require high grades in Bagrut, or matriculation exams to get accepted into medical schools. This encourages students with low grades to study in medical schools and return to Israel as certified doctors. Anyone who finds themselves below grade requirements in Israeli institutions will certainly try their luck abroad.

This does not mean that those who study abroad are not good enough. The majority of the people I know who've gone to study abroad had a different reason as to why: in Israel, not only do you have to pass the matriculation exams (Bagrut), but also the psychometric exam. Combined, these two grades set the bar for a calculated grade of acceptance to institutions.


Others choose to study abroad because of language barriers - apparently, learning Serbian, German, or Turkish from scratch is easier than improving their Hebrew. And a minority of others choose studying abroad because of their personal assessment of the quality of national educational institutions. They've got a point, I guess.


Now, do you really need to stress about your high school grades? It depends on what subject you're planning to major in afterward. If it's something that does not require high grades (not because they're lower in quality or importance, but because they do not require preliminary knowledge of subjects, e.g. to study medicine, you'll need basic preliminary knowledge in biology, chemistry, and mathematics) then you don't need high grades. This is no excuse for slacking off at school, kiddo.


I would say that it is a better option to play safe and score high grades in every subject you can, unless you hate the very core of Math, then I give you approval. If it's not something you need, leave it be.


Note, however, that you cannot foresee the future, and whether you'll drop out or quit education altogether is not up to you to decide today. Only time will tell, along with your perseverance.


Lesson 1: If you intend on taking exact-science subjects, you almost always need to stress over your grades. If you're going to learn Spanish, History, or Political Sciences, you don't really need 5 Bagrut units in Math. There's more to see in life than struggling to find the square root of some unnamed Latin letter or whatever.


2. Stay Good at That One Subject

Some students really shine through in high school. It may be a variety of subjects, and it may be just one. If you're one of those students who doesn't score less than a 100 in a subject (say, Math), then you should maintain that power even after high school.


Treat this as if you have a huge amount of investment money. Not only will this help you open new opportunities vis-à-vis your career or educational prowess, but it will also give you perspective on other unfamiliar aspects.


If you're good at Mathematics in high school, [I would say that] it's a social and moral obligation to pass on that knowledge, and benefit as many people as you can in Mathematics. You'll be surprised to know how many students are struggling every day with materials for various reasons.


You surely remember how frequently you were asked to help your friends and classmates with math problems and poorly taught materials in school. Now, after you've graduated, you can use this tool to benefit others, and perhaps benefit yourself as well.


It may sound counterintuitive to charge money for educational help, especially to students who're probably in financial distress. But a lot of students tend to rely on external, private education (educational courses) to help them succeed in school; and they pay somewhere between $45-$60 USD (200 NIS) per month. Accumulated to a whole academic year (10 months), that's roughly $450-$600 (2,000 NIS).


As you're not a certified teacher, you can't sensibly charge as much, but if you're good enough, even charging somewhere between $5-$10 per month, which is max. 36 NIS would give you a purpose. It's nothing compared to what they pay to substitute their state-paid teachers.


If you're skeptical about charging money from high school students, you can give some of your free time (if you have any) to give back to community: teach students or help them with their exam materials - via frontal or distance teaching - for free! Not only will you help students succeed, but you'll also feel good about yourself.


Lesson 2: Use the knowledge of that material you excelled at in high school to help other students, either for trivial amounts of money or for free. Set an example, and give back to the community. At least this way you'll know high school made you a career, or helped you learn teaching basics.



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3. Take All Advice with a Grain of Salt

I have sat with many teachers throughout my years in high school and discussed a lot about my future. What subject do you like? What do you want to become? Are you starting college right away?


They all stated facts and fallacies; come true, some not so much. It did not surprise me that they all gave different advice as to what I should do. I am glad I had the chance to listen to more than just one teacher who didn't want what was best for me. One praised my intellectual level of not conforming to society's regulations of "smart kids". Another groaned loudly in what was clearly abhorrence of the answer. At least three were not even remotely interested, letting out a throaty Nice, good for you. One agreed that I should pursue literary education in English and others were surprised.


If you ask your Math teacher whether you should study medicine or history, his answer will depend on how you present yourself in his class. If you're one of the smartest students, and he knows it, he'll tell you to pursue an academic career in an exact-science subject, such as medicine. If you're not the brightest in Math, he'll probably tell you to drop down to 4 Bagrut units instead of 5. The same applies for every subject.


Note that the advice you take from your teachers will always be affected by how they see you as a student. If you ask your mother, she'll probably tell you to go for medicine, law, electrical or mechanical engineering, no matter your grade scores. Learn to always take advice with a grain of salt.


Do not instinctively throw away the advice you are being offered; at the same time, do not take it as the holy word of God. Assess the points they make, and make your own decision. Why this is important is because many people think teachers know better, and so they take advice that could possibly ruin their dreams, or hold them back from achieving their own success.


Lesson 3: Take advice with a grain of salt by assessing points made by your teachers or advisers. It may seem a good idea to follow their advice, but don't make big life decisions based on a few opinions from your teachers. They know you as their student (often the tardy, no-homework, laid-back dude), but you know yourself better.


4. You Should Hate High School

If you're a normal person, you hate everything about high school. If you still do so today, years after you've finished, that's something else. But try recalling the days of high school; when you had to wake up at 7, do loads of tedious homework, and have your time schedule predetermined by the school system.


If you hated high school when you were in high school, it's a sign that you're a healthy, normal person. A school is a hierarchical environment in which everyone judges everyone else. Students are constantly judged for the quantity and quality of their work by their teachers and school staff. They are also prone to judgment and oftentimes harsh critique by their peers.


I haven't met anyone who liked high school. Sure, the routine of getting to meet with your friends and make jokes and pranks was something of surreal fantasy nature, but it's not reason enough to like high school.


It is normal to hate high school - or school in general - because it's not a natural setting to be in. My view on school systems in the world is that they're prisons for kids. State governments don't really care about the prosperity and progression of "intelligent minds". Their agendas consist of creating (read: manufacturing) model citizens. Intelligent minds can go to hell as far as creativity and science are concerned. If they are provided with basic education in the same room as everyone else, then that's enough.


The current education system is miserable. The decrepit agenda of committing to a worldwide system that does not diverge from the comfort of conformity that has been set since the beginning of human intellect. We don't like change, because it disrupts the proven-to-be-working agendas of governments, who are interested in maintaining the status quo in all aspects of life.


If you hated high school, your intellect is sound. Unless an immediate but gradual change occurs in the deep roots of the education system, school will be the core of abhorrence for all students of all generations.


Schools limit creativity. Everyone is seated in confined spaces, controlled by bells, and spoon-fed impractical, irrelevant information for more than twelve years. Basically, school is the kid equivalent of a manufacturing factory.


In addition, schools value numbers more than minds. To succeed in high school, you have to memorize the information on the night of the exam, dump it out the next day on the exam paper, and then forget all about it.


Lesson 4: The school system sucks, and it's the most normal thing to do to hate it. Schools are more interested in manufacturing model citizens than in fostering brilliant children.


5. Research Is Your Life Now

Once you finish high school, you're on your own. For twelve or more years, you've been handed information on a silver platter, with everything (I hope) explained to you in simple language. If you don't know already, it's all gone now.


You have to do your own research about every topic you're about to engage in, especially college admissions. While high schools do provide preliminary knowledge to graduates, it is still your own duty to "do your homework". You'll have to visit numerous websites, read About pages, and stress over the details and fine print on documents.


No one is there to help you. This is but another aspect of how schools have failed us. Not only do they not prepare you for the level of education and amount of work that is needed to succeed in college, but they don't even tell you how to get accepted.


You're allowed to slack off in high school; you could most definitely succeed in college afterward. But you can't slack off in college, because it's not remotely the same as high school. The amount of work, research, and self-help is way crucial to your success.


Lesson 5: No one will help you, and so it's almost inevitable that you need to develop a skill set of research. You'll have to dig up information and read loads of texts to get your shit together; and that's before you've even been accepted.

Final Thoughts:

Few people are concerned with changing society and how the penitentiary structure of the schools affect the way society develops (or does not). I have been a big ranter about why the education system "sucks", and how it can be changed. Regardless of my qualifications (or lack thereof) I think I have a point. The current education system has proven to be a failing, rusty system with an ancient agenda that is impractical to say the least.


Students who finish high school do not know basic knowledge about finance, taxes, governmental processes, college admissions, jobs, or anything related to the life that they will be experiencing after high school. So what, exactly, is the "model citizen" that is intended to be manufactured and molded? Someone who's intelligent enough not to commit crimes or stand against the failing state-issued curricula?


Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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