As we speak, I am bending my spine to unhealthy angles over a desktop computer screen, procrastinating my AS French reflexive homework.
“Shame!” cry out my pressured grammar girl’s school peers.
“You’ve disappointed us!” my parents shout.
“Non!” exclaims my French teacher.
“Forget us,” whisper the universities.
My head feels like it’s going to burst with guilt – or must I rather say, culpability. Well, I mustn’t but I feel I should to compensate for my lack of French practice right now – but I can’t quite understand why? I’m doing something creative, aren’t I? Something worth my time. Pursuing my career aspirations through the act of practice.
Yet I can’t block out the incessant niggling that I should spend every waking moment of my time adhering to the more traditional methods and work of success.
Throughout our school career, the educational system attempts to train us into machines of great work ethic. My attendance at a selective, state, all-girls grammar school Sixth Form brings me in contact, every day, with some of the most successful specimen results.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when we were conditioned into believing that anything below full marks was not good enough, or who exactly gave me that idea. All I know is that the idea of anything short of over achieving sends chills down my back and, god forbid, a B, renders me petrified and speechless.
But how successful is exam success? And does it really give anyone a real leg-up in the job hunt sector later in life?
It has long been discussed that examinations are not a measure of intelligence at all but a test of handling exam pressure. Of how much your memory can hold before the expiry date, that is an exam. Academic schools churn out hundreds of high achieving students with similar grades and eyes cast down at those who chose a course that doesn’t give you a certain number of UCAS points. They all go for the same university place, the same career and what happens? Some are left behind in the selection process; but not because they did not try as much or achieve as much, but because the person or talent was lost behind the shadow of exam results and an admissions office or employer cannot choose one who did well in exams, if we all do.
There are only 100 numbers in a 100% and I know there are at least 200 girls who I will have to directly compete against, with similar academic success.
So, we must possess something that sets us apart. Of, course we do. We all know that. Extra-curriculars. Extra- curriculars. Extra-curriculars.
Yet, even they are quantified in a way that can be crunched into the equation of success and splurge out a number at the other end, masking the real personality behind them and all their true skills and talents. Grade 5 – 35 UCAS points, Grade 6 – 45 UCAS points, Grade 7 – 60 UCAS points. What happened to playing an instrument because you love its music? Or dancing because you have a body and you want to use it? Volunteering to simply be of help? The true point of the extra-curricular is to round you as a person not to crunch into a nameless form which gets sent off for judgment.
At the end of the day, this training for work has turned us into unimaginative drones. Through the teaching of work-ethic, of learning to choose Maths and Physics “because you’ll get a job” the young adults of the future lose their individuality and artistic talents and their thirst to live life for the experience. As Ken Robert says in his recent 15 minute lecture, “Children are getting educated out of their creativity”. The growth of students going into further education increases the competitiveness of the job sector and it should not yet be made more difficult by reducing the variation of future employees through this thirst for academic prowess.
In our world with its long, rich history of discovery it is not the best thing you bring that matters but the most original.
In a society where the number of jobs is shrinking with advancing technology and the number of people wanting jobs is increasing, it is time we redesigned the education system. Society will not progress with the A grades of a thousand identical paper cut outs killing each other over a university place that will leave them unemployed with a degree everyone else has, but with developing and liberating in everyone their talent to do whatever the fuck they want. To re-imagine the world in their eyes and give them the opportunity to shape it and see its outcome without an ounce of fear.
And I have decided I will do my French in my free tomorrow.
Ellie Siora is a lower-sixth student at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls.