BY EDEN FARBER / AJT //
Every new generation brings with it new talents – artists, politicians, pop culture symbols, thinkers and philosophers, rioters and rebels, innovators and inventors. And while one generation takes the lead and makes their contributions, another begins to look around, understand their world and determine what there will be for them to do.
Some generations fought for women’s suffrage or other civil rights; future ones may have to fight for the environment or the economy. Whatever it is they’re fighting for, they’ll have leaders, strength and the tools to go about it.
However, right now, I worry that my generation’s strength is depleted.
You see, I’ve both witnessed and experienced the low self-esteem and lack of interest in the world from when I began attending standard schools. It seems that many people in the school system are a little bit industrialized from spending all their days there.
The world as a larger entity – one without grading rubrics – is often frightening to students. As long as you don’t push against the walls of your little bubble, it won’t pop on you. But, at the same time, this reliance presents danger to the students.
As we begin to depend more on this system, we lose our grip on reality and what actually matters in the grand scheme of, well, the world.
This all sort of hit me last week, the last one of the grading term in my school. Within that one week, I watched helplessly as some of my best friends (or even acquaintances I just pass in the halls) cried and begged teachers for a “re-count.”
Please, give me back that point, round that decimal, add that plus sign, they beg – their dignity so far from the equation.
Some of the people I know to be strongest had fallen before the system. These are people who generally make amazing contributions to the world, are brilliantly insightful, or wear smiles that light up the hallways.
What does it mean to be “strong” or “smart” if the only thing you are on paper is “B+”? Apparently, not much.
So that’s it? We fold to the power of letters and numbers?
We say to ourselves, our friends or our parents: “Sorry, I can’t think about the coming elections, I have pre-calculus work,” or “I really want to go to my little sister’s birthday party, but if I don’t ace this next chemistry test, my grade will drop to a low ‘A’ instead of a high ‘A’ and I won’t make it into the Honors Roll.”
Or, even worse, “I know I haven’t slept more than two hours a night in a week, but this literature paper is more important.”
What does it mean that these assignments are more important than the world, friends, family or even one’s self? How can an assignment or assessment mean more than a human being? When did teenagers start believing more in their homework than themselves?
Of course, no one notices the disconnect between their importance as human beings and the importance of their schoolwork. Throughout our whole time in school, all we’ve been told is this: We do the work to get good grades, to get into a good college, to get a good job, to support a good family and send our children to good schools. Good, good, good.
However, all these evaluations – that these things are “good” – are subjective. A “good job” or “good college” for someone is different than that of someone else.
Everyone has different aspirations and capabilities; no one can be measured by their peers. So why are we all on the same track? And not just on it, but breaking our teeth over it?
It means that we have lost our individuality in the system and lost our mental health in trying to find it. Instead of learning for the sake of learning, or planning the future in anticipation of what we can achieve with our lives, we are feeding a system – one that was supposed to feed us.
I fear so greatly that the exceptional and brilliant human beings of my generation will be crushed by a culture of numbers and systematized future occupations, that people will identify less and less with a name and more and more with a number. I fear that when it is our time to paint the canvas that is our world, it will not be creativity that dictates it, but rules and regulations.
Let’s put an end to this systematic industrialization of human beings, and let our generation break the door down and finally see the sunlight of an open world.
Atlanta’s Eden Farber, 15, was recognized in the Jewish Heritage National Poetry Contest of 2010 and has published op-eds and poetry in Modern Hippie Magazine and the NY Jewish Week’s Fresh Ink for Teens section.