Leaving English 11, after an arduous E period of digging into overly flowery writing, wondering why I should care that Janie is like a flowering tree, I emerge from room 81 with a smile on my face, because I am headed to Government, Politics, and Citizenship (GPC). Although room 82 is only a 15 meter walk from the English room, I suddenly feel refreshed and rejuvenated, not only because room 82 is the coldest at Oregon Episcopal School (OES). I sit down at the table at the middle back of the the room, take out my laptop and journal, and feel the bubbling in my stomach that comes with excited anticipation of what today will bring.
OES’s vision statement reads “Connecting people, ideas, and cultures to advance knowledge, create solutions, and enhance meaning” (“Mission, Vision & Identity”). Nowhere on this page of OES’s website: http://www.oes.edu/page.cfm?p=420, does it say anything about grades, due dates, and requirements of writing assignments. So THANK YOU GPC for being the one class to fulfill OES’ vision. Connecting people: Thank you GPC for allowing us to spend time discussing political figures and government positions, as well as discussing presidential candidates and the ideologies that these candidates bring. Because of GPC, I am more confident at deciding which candidates I agree with, and understand why people think the way they do. Ideas: Thank you GPC for allowing us to voice our opinions and share our ideas. Every time I walk into class, I am confident that knowledge will not be pushed down my throat, or asked to be crammed in for the next test. In GPC, I have learned more than in any other class, because I learn from everybody’s interesting and insightful ideas, not only the teacher. Create solutions: Not only have I learned loads about government structure, political figures and ideologies, economies, budgets, and student issues, but thank you GPC for allowing me to use my knowledge in concrete and useful ways. I am especially thankful for the opportunity to travel to Salem to testify in the Senate Rules Committee in support of a law to mandate background checks for all gun transactions.
(Me testifying in front of the Senate Rules Committee in Salem Oregon).
Enhance meaning: Thank you GPC for allowing us to schedule our own due dates and adjust in order to get the most meaning and understanding out of what we do. A good example is when we spent an entire class period discussing the state of the United States’ debt and deficit, when we were supposed to be discussing political ideologies. I think I learned more in from that day than any lecture could have ever taught me. Also enhancing meaning for me in GPC are the self-reflections that are due after each project, rather than a filled-in rubric given to me by my teacher. It makes a whole lot more sense to ask myself what I learned that have a teacher tell me what they think I learned.
To sum it all up, Government, Politics, and Citizenship is a fantastic course not only for learning about the world, but is also a great course for learning what it really means to learn. GPC makes me a better student in my other classes too, but has opened up my eyes to the problem of many of OES’s students: Focusing more on what they have to learn and less on learning.
I cringe and clench my jaw every time somebody in any of my classes asks a question such as: “How much is this test worth?” or even worse: “How much more do we have to learn?” I feel sorry for the student asking these questions, because before taking GPC, I myself had often waited to hear the teacher’s answer, or poured energy into a project or studying just to receive a better score, not for the experience and benefits gained for truly learning. But I also feel anger towards OES for allowing this type of mindless wandering of a learning experience. I feel anger that the questions in biology have more to do with the number of questions that will be on the test and less on why humans have evolved to have the traits that they do. I feel anger that in computer science, we spend more time discussing which test is going to be when, and less on how to effectively write useful and efficient Java code.
Come-on OES. Quit telling us about your new vision statement. Take GPC as an example and follow it.
“Mission, Vision & Identity.” Oregon Episcopal School. Web. 27 May 2015.