Viewpoint: Drive to produce passionate students

Jon Platt
Jon Platt
“Good teacher, he really seems to care … about what I have no idea.”

By John Platt

This is my favorite line from Rodney Dangerfield’s classic comedy Back to School. Not only is the delivery and context gut-wrenchingly hilarious, but the words are powerful and accurate to my life.

We live in a culture that really seems to care. People care about politics. They care about their jobs. Some care about the environment. And many care about proving the other side of the aisle wrong.

We’re, almost naturally, a passionate society. But we, as Millennials, have no idea what it is we care about when it comes to our future. We lack a sense of calling. And, from the way I see it, the reason we’re so lost is because of our education system.

As we go through each grade we’re taught to be better and better cogs — operating in the machine as we’re told. In fact, that was the point of a public education system when it was established post-World War II. If we get them young, the thinking went, we can train them to be better employees when the time comes.

In doing this, educators and legislatures quantitatively removed passion from the equation.

It’s understandable. Passion is unmeasurable. They’re not concrete like test scores and attendance. Computers can’t track a child’s natural interests. And, in obsessing over grades and gold stars, we’ve removed most of the intrinsic desires to build, create, and care.

But, it’s detrimental because encouraging controlling techniques, like extrinsic motivators, will only produce students who are extrinsically motivated. There will always need to be a carrot at the end of the rope. People raised in a “do this and you’ll get that” model will never see all the potential available inside of them. They’ll be too busy looking outwardly for approval, which doesn’t always come.

Teachers, whether instructing six-year olds or seniors in college, should emphasize the autonomy of the student. That’s what produces people with a natural drive, instead of complacent cogs.

While leveling to a lowest common denominator would be much easier, the need for passionate and independent students should drive educators, administrators, parents and legislatures forward. Because the future is in the hands of the students we’re shaping now.

Jon Platt is a junior journalism major from Kilgore. He is a reporter for the Lariat.