School is an institution of society, built to educate the youth and prepare them for adulthood. This is where students take their first steps into society, and spend the pivotal years of their early lives, forming their identities. But the focus of school tends to drift to subjects for which progress is easily measurable, in an attempt to quantify the intelligence of children and teenagers- when in reality, school means something much more than that. Classes could be capturing so much more of the world than than SAT and AP scores. There are many things that could be taught in class to encourage a fulfilling life- to take a broader viewpoint of “education”.
The first is morals. While some people may claim that this enters the territory of what is the parents’ responsibility to teach, the same level of moral education cannot be guaranteed for all students if it is simply left for individual families. Studies conducted for a Korean documentary, “The Private Life of Children” (KBS 아이의 사생활), show that having high moral standards has a strong correlation with earning good grades. Students need a class in which the significance of common ethical issues that arise in school can be considered, such as bullying or cheating. More than being lecture-based, the class would consist of plenty of time for students to discuss moral issues amongst themselves and have honest, quiet reflections by oneself. Studies have shown that many people only need a “moral reminder” to correct one’s actions for the better (research by professor Dan Ariely)- why not put moral reminders into classes?
Another subject that students could benefit from is art appreciation and evaluation. Of course, KIS offers a rich arts curriculum, including the visual arts, music, and theatre. However, these courses focus on teaching students how to create art themselves, and appreciation of existing art is a skill that is treated as some sort of a “side lesson” that comes from taking the course. This prevents a multitude of students from learning how to truly appreciate and evaluate art. For example, a student could have a great interest in learning about the history and complexity of music, but play no instruments and lack confidence in his singing voice. Another student may love to go to art exhibitions in her free time and would love to learn more about the analysis of visual art, but feels she lacks the talent to take a particular course, especially when the majority of students taking art in high school are well-experienced and specialized. The Arts is what enriches our lives, stimulating imagination, philosophy, and creative thinking- why not give students a chance to appreciate the beauties of life?
The third is mental health. An underestimated percentage of student populations suffers from mild to severe mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety. But these issues tend to be ignored in contrast to their physical counterparts. Mental health is a vital part of life that deserves more attention in schools. While KIS has taken a step to solve this problem by hiring a school psychologist, this seems to serve a certain minority rather than give the general student body a proper education in mental health awareness: of how mental disorders are no more “weird” or “embarrassing” than physical disorders, how we should be aware of those surrounding us who may be suffering from one, and when and how we should get help. It is only logical that schools place the same amount of emphasis on mental health as well as physical. The class doesn’t always have to deal with specific disorders: general mental health, such as dealing with stress, is a big part of what could be the mental health curriculum.
A final class that students may need is sex education. Of course, unlike some other “courses” previously mentioned in this article, sex education already exists and is widely taught in schools. But- that’s right- KIS does not have a proper system for sex education. This means that high schoolers graduate without ever having properly received education on one of the most important and relevant topics in their lives. In some cases, a lack of formal sex education leads to students relying on their friends or the internet for information, which can be highly dangerous. While it may be a somewhat awkward subject for many students, it is clear that this is an unavoidable part of the curriculum of life.
There is no saying that all the aforementioned topics have to be independent courses. Practically speaking, each has slightly different means of ideal implementation: moral studies and mental health can be incorporated into advisory and counseling, sex education could be placed in the P.E. curriculum, while it is easy to imagine art appreciation as a separate semester course. But the important thing is that all of them- covering the vast, overlooked dimensions of our world- deserve more attention.
It is time we considered on a deeper level what the true meaning of education is. School is meant to assist the youth, and subjects that focus less on the scores and more on “life education” have potential to revolutionize an education system clouded with myopia.
-Jisoo Hope Yoon (’19)
*Featured Image: https://www.nyiad.edu/images/cms/design-articles/six-secrets-setting-free-creativity01-hr.jpg