When I began writing this essay, I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea where it was going, just that it had to do with film. Yet, as I began writing, I realized that it all lead back to SLA. SLA was what allowed me to discover and explore my interest in film, vastly changing my world. Even more, SLA has allowed me so many opportunities that I never would have even tried before now. The reason our school is so special is because it embraces all kinds of literacies and talents. As I registered how special SLA was, it made me disappointed in our other schools. Why couldn't our education system follow this model? My essay is all about the issues with our current education system and how inquiry and curiosity needs to be embraced in order for students to thrive in schools.
INT. NIGHT - FELIX’S HOUSE
His feet pounded down onto the bloodstained floor, his stomps ricocheting around the desolate hallway. All around him lights flared and sirens shrieked endlessly, a visual symphony to accompany his impending doom. Shadows encapsulated every part of the room, yet his eyes still darted around, attempting to find any sign of the incoming danger. He sprinted into the confined box of the elevator, the walls around him hugging him close as if to say he would be safe here. He slammed his hands against the flickering buttons, drops of blood sliding down the metal as he punched it again and again. Seconds passed, each one ticking by ever so slowly, battling his increasingly fast heartbeat. The once welcoming walls began to close in on him, tightening around him and offering no escape. Suddenly, the beast-
Felix paused the show and suddenly make-believe was over. “Do you guys see the coloration? The greens and the yellows perfectly emulate the Upside-Down later.”
"Yeah, and you know the Dungeons and Dragons scene? That’s like perfect foreshadowing for what happens to Will,” I replied. I couldn’t help but grin as we discussed the show. Even the subtle details like coloring and lighting took on a whole new meaning now that I knew what went into making a movie. Even better, for the first time, I felt like I could actually contribute to the conversation, be a valuable addition to our film analysis.
“Let’s keep watching,” said Felix. “I want to keep analyzing it though, pausing whenever we want.” He pressed his finger on the remote and suddenly we were launched back into a land of fantasy, mystery, and the Upside-Down.
Cut to Black.
Watching Stranger Things for the second time in my friend’s basement would seem like a nondescript memory. Yet, to me, it meant everything. As our discussion continued throughout the whole night, I realized how much I relished these discussions. I admired everything the show was doing, but even more so, I wanted to be the one behind the camera. This seemingly bland Friday night made me finally realize my passion for cinema itself and the learning and analysis that went with it. It felt like, after two years of filming and editing, everything clicked into place. This was what I was meant to do.
After that, everything in my life lead back to movies, my love for it only growing as I continued my digital video class. There, at SLA, I felt like I had more than just a school, I had a support group. A collection of people who I knew I could count on to help me succeed and learn. Before I went to SLA, the idea of staying at school any longer than required was something I had never considered. Yet, by the end of my sophomore year, you couldn’t find me anywhere else but the editing room, typing away at a computer until I was kicked out of school. No class had ever made me want to stay at school until the last possible minute. No subject had ever developed a curiosity in me that burned for years. Without SLA’s encouragement of inquiry and exploration, I would have never been where I am today.
So many schools don’t understand students or the importance of a free environment like SLA does. With the style of learning that is widely used today, we force one kind of literacy onto students. We decide for our students what should and should not be valued. We decide that a boy who is literate in music is less important than someone who is literate in math. Our education system attempts to squash literacies that lean against their ideals. Sherman Alexie's’ Superman and Me addresses this very issue in Indian schools: “They struggled with basic reading in school but could remember how to sing a few dozen powwow songs. They were monosyllabic in front of their non-Indian teachers but could tell complicated stories and jokes at the dinner table.” Alexie shows how the Indian children prosper in the environments that support them. Where their family and friends are, they can recite song and story, yet where they’re individual literacies and talents are rejected, they fail. These systemic issues create one set form of literacy and learning, where those who do not succeed are ostracized. Our schools allow tiny inked letters based on tests ignorant of your history to determine your future.
I recognize these issues as both an insider and outsider. As a white student from a good neighborhood, I have never had to go to a school where I was expected to be stupid. As a straight-A student and decent test taker, I have never had to spend hours studying just to end up getting a C. Yet, as a student and a teenager, I have seen mine and others’ education slaughtered by a lack of funds and lack of thought. I have seen my best friend get an F on a test and turn it into a mural on the very same page. I have seen all of these things, but I haven’t seen change. Our learning and our literacy both stem from inquiry and questioning, yet our schools reject it. Learning is driven by the passion and inquisitiveness behind it, where students are persistently and restlessly fighting for answers. It’s only through inquiry and expression in schools, that we find ourselves and our passions and we discover the world.