The Power of Knowledge (And Why It’s So Constantly Taken For Granted)

It wasn’t until I was watching the Democratic debate recently, while I was listening to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders discuss the environment, that it hit me. Hydraulic fracturing–a topic I had recently covered in my science class–is more than just a unit that I had to memorize to pass another quiz. No, it’s much more than that. What I am learning in class, contrary to popular belief, is actually beneficial to my life. Because my teacher had us sit through a documentary on fracking, read a chapter on it, and apply it through homework and assessments, watching the debate was so much more engaging. I could actually formulate opinions on which candidate I sided with, and felt much more confident about what was going on. If someone had asked me what fracking was a few months ago, I would’ve given them a funny look and assumed it was a new slang term or dance move.

In high school, especially in advanced classes, it is not uncommon to hear a student groan “when am I ever going to use this in real life?” I hear this about three times a week in every class, to the dismay of my teachers, who have seemed to run out of answers. The truth is, the teachers probably don’t know when you’re going to use this in real life. And neither do the students. Until they do. That’s why it’s so important. The books we read in English class often have deeper meanings, and allow us to see the bigger picture, relating to themes that often imitate real life. The equations we learn in math–well, actually, I haven’t thought of a good explanation to how I can use calc in the real world just yet. But listen, I’m getting there; the answer’s out there, I’m sure of it.

“Knowledge is power” may seem like nothing but an overused saying, but there is truth to it. Seriously — there is no tool more beneficial to us than knowledge. Education is so important yet so underrated. It constantly baffles me how there are people fighting for their right to learn how to read in other countries, while here I am, complaining about essays and homework. I’m only human; just because I understand the value of learning doesn’t mean I don’t need a break every once in awhile. Sometimes I feel like I’m just memorizing facts in order to take a test, then immediately forgetting them in order to make room for the next unit. In fact, if you asked me about what I learned in a class last year, I probably couldn’t tell you. Once I took those AP exams, I was completely checked out.

In America, every kid is given such a powerful opportunity for the first 18 or so years of their life–and that is the opportunity to learn for free. Why is it so constantly taken for granted? Learning is so enriching. It should be an experience that is sought after, and exciting. Instead, students are constantly overwhelmed with lengthy assignments and exhausted by due dates. This is not the fault of the students, or the teachers. Maybe we have lost the value behind education since it became all about numbers and test scores. Most kids are either running themselves dry trying to ace standardized tests and get high scores for college, or have given up because they feel discouraged or hopeless.

I am so grateful that I have been granted the opportunity to pursue my education beyond high school, and that I will be attending college next year to further my pursuit of knowledge. But maybe we can ease off on the pressure we put on kids to be a perfect 4.0 GPA, 2400 SAT, 36 ACT carbon copy. We are so much more than those numbers. Maybe if there was less of a push for students to fit a certain standard in order to be admitted into a high ranking college, there could be more of a focus on the actual content. Then, students could be more engaged in what they’re learning rather than what grade they get. I’m not saying what we learn isn’t important–it absolutely is–I’m just saying that there could certainly be a change in the way we learn it. Knowledge truly is power, we just sometimes forget that when we’re up at 3 am trying to cram in some study time before a big test.

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