Earlier today, shortly after waking up, I was faced with this Reddit post by user SubatomicMc, detailing how he, for recreating the Team Fortress 2 Sentry Gun in CAD, with the intent of making a replica that'd follow people around using a camera, was threatened with expulsion, and his parents were on the school's side, according to him.
Basically, he, an 8th grader, wanted to do what Valve, creators of Team Fortress 2, a professional game company, paid a professional movie prop company money to make for their office, as can be seen here. Something with a lot of potential for a successful career in movies and games. And the school and his parents want to punish him for it.
Now, if this was a rare occurrence, the exception to the rule, it wouldn't be that big a deal. But it's an issue that spans all countries, all schools, and it's something that speaks to me on a personal level as well. Story time!
Way back when I was in first, second grade, I always had an enourmous interest in art. Drawing, painting, sculpting, you name it. MS Paint was my favourite program on the WinXP computers we had at school, and I loved drawing and redrawing the flag of my country on it with pride and excellence. That much was fine to the school.
However, later on, around 3rd grade, I think, I started using the computer we had at home. You see, it had Counter-Strike and Half-Life installed, so I one day decided to try the former out after seeing my dad go at it. And man, did I like it. I loved the way everything looked in Counter-Strike. The realism of the textures, the locations.. I didn't care that it was low-res, low-poly, or that the doors and cars were way oversized for the characters; I just liked the representation of that reality that was always occluded from me as a child. It was something that someone managed to do, and I wanted to be able to do it as well.
I started watching the news around that age, seeing the stances policemen took when firing weapons, how they moved in active combat zones, what kind of places they went to, the kind of weapons they used. I even went as far as imitating how they walked and stood still when at home and outside (childlike fun). The UMP .45 was one of the weapons our police force used the most at the time (nowadays they use FALs more than anything, but that's neither here nor there). And it was a gun that was also featured in Counter-Strike.
So I started merging my two interests together - art, and the police force. I started drawing members of the riot police, helmets, ballistic vests, and of course, UMP .45s. And the school didn't like it one bit.
They reprimanded me for drawing "those things" in and out of class. They took my drawing book and threw it in the trash, destroying almost a year of practice, and my motivation. It took me over 11 years to get me to start drawing again, after I joined the furry fandom and regained my interest in art. Nowadays, I make guns in 3D programs such as Blender for use in videogame development. A job. And something that I could be far better at had the school not gotten in the way.
Nothing about my interests in guns and art ever made me a more violent person, nor did any of the school's efforts ever push me away from it permanently. But you know what did make me a more violent person in the years leading up to high school? The fact that I was told what I could and couldn't do. The stress of not being able to do anything unless explicitly ordered to. Of not having enough time to do what I enjoyed, and being punished if caught doing so. Everything the school did to me culminated in a broken, sad, and angry individual. I had to fix myself on my own by learning that the world isn't so one-sided the hard way.
Schools don't exist to prepare you for the world, to prepare you for life, to teach you how things work, to fuel your creativity. All schools exist for is to teach you how to learn. But at what cost?
Now, don't take this the wrong way. I'm not saying abolish schools, or don't teach math, or remove kebab. All I'm saying is that the current way we are schooling our children - and by we I mean the entire world, not just the US, not just Brazil, the entire world - is shit. Completely worthless.
It cuddles students into believing the world is great and that there's always only one side to every issue. Guns are bad, didn't you know? It teaches students that the only thing that matters is grades, that it doesn't matter if any of it will be useful to them specifically, that their individual strengths and weaknesses don't matter. It creates people that hate learning, that hate everything related to their first 18 years of life.
It creates resent, and a lack of edge. Resentful adults that want the entire world to be a hugbox where no harm can come to anyone. The exact kind of people that run the kind of school SubatomicMc is, or rather was, studying at. After all, that's what they were told when they were growing up.
Another Reddit user, Hoosky_Official, posted a comment on SubatomicMc's thread that details his experiences with the American schooling system, and they examplify the issue once more. Here is what he wrote:
This has to stop. Schools need to start valuing students' individual skills and stop demonizing them if we truly do want a productive and functional society where people can be happy. You don't create anything by breaking someone. All you're doing is destroying who that person is and making their life, for now and for years in the future, worse.
We need a schooling system that yes, teaches people how to learn, that teaches people what happened a hundred thousand years ago and up to today, that teaches people how to put 2 and 2 together and up to multiplying matrixes, that teaches people how to turn on a computer and open a folder in Windows and up to creating tables in Excel to calculate student grades, etc.
But we also absolutely require a schooling system that encourages creativity, from creating artwork to imagining potential solutions to potential problems, that encourages discussion and debate, from what to do to a student that stole the other's pencil to what to do to a convict that raped 4 children, that prepares people for the real world and the things they may have to face, that doesn't punish students for exercising their creativity by creating things most people can only dream of creating.
My lack of artistic merit nowadays is just one example amongst millions of other people's. People that had their school get in the way of their personal interests, that stomped out any kind of potential the child once had. This has to stop.
I sincerely hope SubatomicMc can set a precedent on this sort of issue. Legal and hopefully social precedent. That his example can serve as an eye-opener for the hundreds of adults and teenagers that think there's nothing wrong with the way things are, or that put the blame on the wrong things.