Over the course of my existence, I've been exposed to many different institutions of learning such as private schools, community colleges, self-learning, homeschooling, community college, universities, public schools, etc.
There is one common theme that underlines every class at every school that I've witnessed: What is the take away?
I'd say homeschooling is exempt from this as the general focus in my experience was learning and discovering why what was learned was relevant and should be learned. However, specifically at my own university and the universities I've interacted with throughout summers to ensure I graduate on time with my double major, I've found the focus to be on finding the main, obvious point, and then moving on.
And while that seems like a worthy pursuit overall, I have come to resent that fact. You see, it is a result of this ambition that I've learned to skim. Yes, read at a faster pace in order, not to glean and understand, but to find the facts and move on.
I find this habit that is now engrained in myself inefficient, ineffective, and infuriating. Why? Because now, when I got read an interesting article, book, etc. that is my first instinct, to skim. In fact, it takes a great deal of work to remove myself from that mindset and read normally.
The end goal orientation of American education has gutted the love of learning and implanted a sense of "find, memorize, forget". The facts I've learned hang useless without context. I find my communications are stunted because I don't understand ideas but simply their main facts and who made them. Perhaps I can tell you the dates of Napoleon's battles. But what use is that? I can't apply his reasoning or use him as an example because I don't understand the motivation and circumstances that drove him to war. Why? Because I learned to skin.
Reading as much as fast as I could was the goal. Not exploring and understanding.
In summation, my curiosity had been killed for the sake of a syllabus.
When I studied at Oxford last summer, I saw a glimpse of hope. Each week we were given a question and a library card accessing over 11 million books. We were then told to come back with a paper and explain our conclusion. We couldn't just find some facts. We had to explore people's lives, their work, their worlds in order to understand what was happening, why, and how it has shaped society today.
I learned more in those 5 weeks than I did in 3 years at my own university. Why? Because I didn't skim. I was given time to explore, conclude, and apply.
I hope, perhaps upon graduation, I will forget this new skill of skimming. I hope it's not a permanent fixture in my mind. I hope I can train myself back into a love for reading that could devour 500 pages in a few hours. Time will tell if the change is irreversible.
So I encourage you to find where your love of learning live and feed it, encourage it, nurture it. Because it seems the system that is meant to is currently unable.