Annie, Student at Stanford, CA
What do you hope for the young people in your life? What would make their lives a good life?
For any young person in my life, my hope for them is that they grow up being really informed about their identities and how those identities relate to the world. Because, I think as a child I didn’t know enough about that, and didn’t have any language for for figuring out who I am or the things about me that other people will define me as. So I hope that they have more of an introspective perspective on themselves, and a bit more intentionality behind what they choose to do, what they choose to study, and what they choose to invest their time in.
Does that differ at all from what you want for yourself in adulthood? Or are there additional things that you either want for yourself or for them?
I want to be able to make a career out of the things that I’m interested in. As an African/African-American Studies major, it’s not defined what you’re going into. I’ve been told so many times that you need to double major in something that is marketable, and you need to do something where it will be easy for employers to see your skill set. I want to push back on that and say no, I can make a career out of the things I love and am passionate about—it might just take a little longer. I want to actualize those things in my career path.
What role do you think schooling should play in achieving these goals you have for yourself or for other people in your life.
I think about this a lot. There are all these issues in the world that you would love education to solve, but it’s not quite that way all the time. You can’t solve all the problems at home at school.
I think education is crucial in its capacity to give people toolkits and making sure that they have everything they need in order to figure out how to use them. I would have really benefitted from having different educational tracks in high school, instead of just “here’s all these AP classes because that’s what is going get you into college, and then you’ll learn what you need to know there.”
I also think public and private schools can be better at equipping their students with aspirational tools. There are a lot of things I learned in school that I will never use, but I wish someone had been a little more upfront about how to make an impact in the world. Or how to use these things that you’ve learned in a way that is actually tangible and real, instead of just on an exam.
Do you think schools are currently playing the role that they should?
Well, I can only speak from my experience, but my personal experience in a public high school was very much just “get you through,” and then in college you’ll get what you need. But, until then, it was about test scores, and taking all the classes you need to take, and writing the right personal statements. It was all tracked toward getting into college and not about starting the crucial learning about yourself, and what you want and what you like. I feel like what I’ve heard from all my friends who were in college prep classes, or any other track, that those were also very much geared toward hitting the marks and then figuring it out later. I think that schools are doing what they need to do to get you to the next step. But not enough in that step.
What do you think is the purpose of school? Either for an individual or society?
There’s basic things like learning to read in an efficient way. There are lots of things you learn in school that if you didn’t learn them you wouldn’t be able to function in human society. You have to read, you have to know math…that’s the most basic level.
But there’s also this hope in a lot of schools —and I think it should be all schools —that you’re trying to invest in youth who will be the future. Equipping them as early as possible with the desire to read, the desire to learn should be very important, because that’s how we move forward as a society. If we invest in young people, those young people will grow up having a curiosity for learning and reading, and doing math, and innovating. I think that to move forward as a collective you have to invest in individuals.