The School Has Always Been The Real World

Most young people have heard the phrase “high school and college are not the real world” often in their lives, most likely due to assumptions that high school and college environments are not true representation of the types of interactions, responsibilities and opportunities that they will engage in once they reach an adult age. While such a thought has merit to it, it is also ironic; students in high school and college are subjected to the same bigotry, prejudice and marginalization that they are likely to face in the “real world.”

Young adults today in the United States, through personal experience and/or the lens of their computers and smart phones, observe and experience their country and world in constant turmoil. They are becoming more and more socially aware and politically engaged. High school and college students, after all, are returning to the classrooms after a tumultuous summer involving the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Europe and the increased incidents of islamophobia that have arisen as well as the Orlando nightclub shootings which raised issues of gun control, homophobia and terrorism in various circles.

Young adults if they are coming from minority communities, are returning to classrooms in which they may feel improperly represented--if at all represented--in their textbooks. They are being bullied for their race, ethnicity, nationality and many other identities that they hold. They don’t see this as simply limited to outside of school, but as a sign that perhaps the country that they live in is not as equal or accepting as it often claims to be.

They are also becoming frustrated with the lack of action on incidents of intolerance and hatred by their own institutions and rather superficial responses when there is action. They are also frustrated with terms like “political correctness” being used as a way to silence discussions and movements to challenge oppression and marginalization in their society. For them, high school and college are not separate and independent from the real world, but simply another place in which that binary is a bit too fuzzy.

If we want the notion that high school and college are not the “real world”, we must be either willing to work within our communities to change the world that we live in or we must be willing to make sure that the school environments are places to learn and grow and not feel inundated with the struggles of the outside world. In order for students to succeed in schools and in life, then they must live in communities that support their learning and their growth. This means that education should become more intercultural and international, and that students should be challenged to think about the world that they live in and find solutions to the problems they continue to face and see happening with no de-escalation.

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