The deterioration of education and intellectual aptitude in America has been deplored by many nationalistic educators, educators who seek to patch a crumbling tower with white glue. To explain this trend, one must start neither from the curriculum nor the content but from the structure in which the education of today is grounded in. Though the origins of the system and the practices it follows may be debatable, an essential fact cannot be overlooked; the system today is not fundamentally different from the system of yesterday, despite technological advances and economic growth that have occurred between then and now. The mainstay of schools of all types has been the class and the test, the teacher and the student - a loose dynamic that has been confined through standardized curriculum and mandated examination. What should be a fulfillment of dreams has now become a jail of dreads - kids who were once eager learners are now hopeless wanderers, a sign that there must be a fundamental undermining of the passionate spirit that has escaped students; what was once motivation - curiosity - has now been put out - an engine dead and a soul with no direction.

Now the system is a self-preserving, self-sufficient, self-serving system that works not for the student but for the production of masses of society-obeying, law-abiding, good-intentioned graduates. Yet somehow, to void individuality and to further destroy abnormal ideas, a student is put through the same barrage of tests and menial measures of intelligence as other students. It is rammed into heads that normally insignificant letters and numbers would have some sort of ethereal ability to judge one beyond how they were created - eventually leading to a reduction of a whole person into essentially, a single number.

Even teachers understand the futility of their work they say that no grade or marking has any real value beyond being a grade or a marking. It becomes an obsession to the easily obsessed, a pursuance not of learning or knowledge but a race for what are essentially bigger numbers. It is falsified early on into a competition, a competition based on some arbitrary and grossly inaccurate measurement of intelligence, deluding even the most intelligent into the same systematic measure of knowledge. Those who do not succeed in competition fall off, confiding to themselves that they themselves are not as great and thus should make the best of their lowly position - rebelling against the society that has rejected them.

Where have all those innocent desires to become great people - doctors and firefighters - gone? Where has the love to have fun with construction toys and building blocks and Barbie dolls gone? How can one put out the flame of love so thoroughly? It is the work of what is essentially systematic torture through compulsory education - an insistence that the only way to where you want to be is to get through a wall at least 12 years long, where you must do as they please until they are satisfied of your ability to conform to their standards. To say that process is anything less than brutal for even the brightest kids, who pursue the highest standards, is disregard the brevity of the conditioning - how those who emerge with outstanding achievement are not humans but machines who have changed themselves to meet the requirements at the expense of their own humanity, their own desires. The brutality is what drives many to experiment with their own lives not only to release themselves from pressure but to find a purpose they had lost.

Even the most brilliant can be burned out by the rigidity of the system, a system not built for ingenuity and creativity but to compare non-standard people to an artificial standard. To be burned out is to be overworked and overextended and overused - to have your love strained out and drained out of you. It is the fire burning itself out - easier to restart, but needing time away, time to relax and explore while there is time to do so, because a mind ceaselessly working is never off. Yet though they may have reached unreached depths and succeeded in accomplishing their own goals, if they are tired by what they have done then they may never return to what had been theirs because it is not the goal that provides the pleasure it is the process. Other kinds of brilliance just do not fit in well, and though they may be hardworking and successful in what they do, they are simply not recognized and simply do not satisfy the rigid rules for success that define classes and schools.

No one can blame the students for their failures to meet expectations that they did not set, no one can blame them for a frustration with a system that is geared towards grades more than encouraging learning, no one can blame them for trying to satisfy - in themselves - what has been lost, and especially no one can blame them for wandering around lost yet learning about what they had not known. The lack of motivation to do not even what is assigned because what is assigned is only what it truly is - what is assigned. With no drive to keep moving on, boredom and laziness are likely, but what fills the void are not desires of the heart but wandering thoughts of the brain. Thus the role of superficiality, of shallowness, is a last hold on what’s left of what they held so dearly - friends and friendships. A lonely lack of motivation presents itself as a precursor to depression - no reason to live and nothing to live for - it is to truly turn into a machine, a gear of society that is so desperately unneeded because humans are best at being humans and machines are best at being machines.

Curiosity and creativity - an interest in absorbing and an interest in releasing - bring processes and people together. It is the act of doing that is fun - learning, building, creating, or even destroying. The whole task may be dreadful and stressful, but the fun little accomplishments - finding and fixing a little screw, drawing a beautiful eye, writing an amazing sentence - they are all little enlightenments that add up to create a whole car or a piece of art or a long novel. As for curiosity - it is an interest, a little spark that incites a riot or starts a car - an inspiration for thoughts. No book, no photo, no place is off limits, because to know more - despite being less blissful - is the start of understanding. To say that to know less is to enjoy more is to lose the context around happiness that gives it its meaning. The happiest moments are after the saddest depths, but to rise from a fall one must not concentrate on the end but on the task at hand that started it all. Love is all it takes.