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SHEARERAs the new year begins, students at Wilsonville High School will start to prepare for the impending finals week after a long winter break. Finals week occurs twice a year at Wilsonville High, and, rest assured, those two weeks are some of the most stressful of the year.

Winter finals week is the first time where students are asked to recall minute details of the tons of information teachers have thrown at them from the beginning of school in September.

Eighteen weeks’ worth of learned knowledge is crammed into a two-hour-long test for each student’s six classes. As a dedicated student with a full course load, I honestly feel that the expectation for students to recall trivial details of learned subjects from many months prior is simply unfair.

The goal of high school is to ensure that every student has a comprehensive understanding of the basic subjects needed for a successful life. The goal is not to be able to name the element on the periodic table with an atomic mass of 198.9.

Ultimately, the American education system sets its students up for failure by requiring what is nearly impossible of the average human brain. No student can be expected to recall every word said by each one of their teachers over such a span of time, which is why finals should be focused on overall comprehension of the various subjects in a course and how they fit together. By stressing the importance of understanding vs. memorization, we can produce a class of students who possess the ability to rationalize situations that the “real world” will place them in.

How many of you can remember everything you learned in high school? Not many, right? You can recall the basics of what you were taught, but most of the information you use on a daily basis was provided to you in college or apprenticeship, both of which typically promote more comprehension-based learning.

Imagine if you had thoroughly understood and could easily recall all the educational lessons you learned in high school, as well as what you learned in college. You would have a much deeper understanding of how the world works, and quite honestly you’d probably be more efficient in your career because you would be better trained.

Finland’s school system is an excellent example of a successful education system that consistently leads to an increasingly productive society. Lessons taught in Finnish schools supply students with significantly less homework as well as fewer and different tests than almost any other country in the world. The difference rests not so much in the amount of work, but rather the type of work. Most assignments completed by Finnish students focus on improving their understanding of the material and how each lesson is tied to the next. Overall, these students exit high school with a better understanding of the knowledge imparted on them.

This leads me to my final argument concerning the issue of understanding. Contrary to common belief, it doesn’t matter how much knowledge you have if you can’t apply it to life. Even if you’ve memorized every textbook ever handed to you, that knowledge is useless unless you know how to implement it to better the world or to better your life. So now go on and understand the wondrous world in which we live!

Laura Shearer is a senior at Wilsonville High School. She is contributing a regular column to the Spokesman this school year.

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