Don’t take your education for granted

Nora Ptacek, Co-Junior Editor-in-chief

 Cartoon by Morgan Stuedemann

For most people, back to school is filled with a certain amount of resistance and grumbling. While there is nothing wrong with missing summer, it’s also important to keep in mind how grateful we should be for the quality education available at North and its surrounding schools. Not every high school in the nation has rigorous AP classes, high expectations, and a passionate student body.

Appleton North Junior Dagny Norbeck experienced how classrooms shift as she attended school in California. The first of three high school’s Dagny attended was San Jose High School, where she only went for a day. At her school, she was one of the few people not fluent in Spanish, which made it challenging when questions were asked and answered in Spanish. The students, whom were all so friendly, were not motivated in school. It was just the environment they lived in, most didn’t have plans to continue onto secondary education after high school. On the first day, teachers would give monetary incentive for answering questions. Sometimes $15 was the return for answering a question. The teachers just wanted to keep these students in school; that was the goal, to have them arrive for day two.

Dagny, quickly realizing that this was much different than any school in the Fox Valley, transferred the next day to a school called Gunderson. This was your more typical high school, except it had a single fine arts class: crafts. No band, orchestra, or choir, just crafts. In the classes, expectations were lowered drastically by adapting the standard grading scale to have a C average. Few people failed, simply because the expectations were lowered to ensure that they didn’t.

Abraham Lincoln High School is the second school Dagny attended while in California.
Abraham Lincoln High School is the second school Dagny attended while in California.

The third school Dagny attended was a magnet school, or a school that receives more money for a specific area of education. This school received extra funding for arts, making it a better school, but it still lacked something almost unexplainable. Dagny spoke about how the environment was not one of pep assemblies or student sections, and most kids lacked motivation. Students had no school spirit, they didn’t care. There were very few clubs, no passion for sports teams, and the students didn’t dress up for the school dance. “It didn’t really feel like a school. I felt like people were going just because they had to be there, they didn’t really care about anything else,” Dagny said.

So Dagny is now back at North and she has an important message: We take our education for granted.

It is important as school starts up to realize that not all students are as fortunate as we are. Socioeconomic status and inequities of race are unfortunately still prevalent in the quality of education students receive, which was the focus of This American Life Podcast, the Problem We All Live With. And that problem is the growing achievement gap and a dire need to reinvent education in some areas of this country. While this may not be a future plan for most Appleton North students, at the very least we can acknowledge how fortunate we are and be grateful for the quality education and opportunities we have.