Richard Williams has sued the United States’ school system. In a YouTube video that has now gone viral, Williams describes the flaws that he sees in America’s twenty-first century school system and gives his own suggestions on how we can fix them. The video was posted about a month ago and has already been viewed nearly two million times on his YouTube channel. Educators and students from all over the world have given their own input on what they think of the video, and the responses are surprising.
Richard Williams is better known by his stage name Prince Ea on social media. He is best known for his spoken word performances that he posts on his YouTube Channel, and many of his videos discuss topics that spark interest in his audience. His word choice, emotion, and visual appeals captivate the audience and one cannot help but get lost in what he is saying.
In response to Williams’s video, I appreciate the time he took to reflect on the issues in our school system. He brought up some points that I was not aware of before. My parents have always told my siblings and me that school is our full-time job, but is a seventy hour work-week reasonable? Where is my work-life balance? I am a good student in school, I have an outstanding GPA, and I love learning. I have no problem with getting up every day and going to school to learn because my education is a privilege. The problem that I have is the amount of work it takes to be successful and the choices I have to make every day. As a student I am told several things that I need to do: pay attention in class, make good grades, and follow the rules. Why is spending time with friends, exercising, and getting eight hours of sleep nowhere in those criteria?
Every day I have to choose between having a social life, getting good grades, and being healthy, and every day I choose getting good grades as my first priority. Having to choose between these three things is always something that baffles me. I have not found a way to squeeze in five hours of homework, an hour-and-a half of exercise, an hour with friends, and eight hours of sleep into one day after getting home at three o’clock, but hopefully I can figure it out before college! I tell myself that my hard work will pay off in the future when I am able to live the lifestyle that I have dreamt about, but I have to ask myself sometimes, “What am I missing out on right now?” When I’m thirty years old and look back at my high school years, am I going to have any fun memories to look back at, or will these memories be clouded by all the time I spent studying, and cramming for tests? Will the number on the scale show that I spend seven hours a day sitting at a desk or the hour I chose to exercise instead of reading my textbook? When life is made up of moments, and there is no guarantee of tomorrow, you have to take time for yourself, but I feel as if I don’t have that time. There is a solution to this problem, but we have not taken the time to figure it out. Maybe the problem is that the student body is not voicing these problems enough.
Another big concern of mine is the competition that has sprung in school. I feel as if school has turned from being a place where I came to learn into an arena where I am fighting against my peers. One of my least favorite questions is, “What did you get?” I know I’m bound to be asked this question, but it annoys me nonetheless. Let’s think about it; when you ask that person you do not particularly like in your English class, ”What did you get?” do you really care, or are you just trying to see if you did better than him or her? Why do we feel so ashamed to say, “I failed”? Even if you do not realize it, you are competing with your peers every day. Competing to see who will have the highest GPA, who will get accepted to college and who will be declined, who is said to be successful and who will fail according to the slip of paper we get every nine weeks. You are being defined by these numbers, scores, and averages, but isn’t school supposed to be the place to learn?
I am very thankful for everything my free education has provided me. I get to learn, connect with peers, and pursue my interests every day because of our school system, but we cannot deny that we could make improvements in the way it operates. Continue to be successful, work towards your goals, and keep your priorities straight, but do not get so caught up in the numbers and do not be afraid to say “I failed” because at the end of the day you have to remember that failure always comes before success.