Oliver Atkinson

Schools' Failure

“Every school has failed me”

That seems a bit extreme, let me explain. To do so, let’s go on a trip.

We’re standing on a gravel street in Montana, at the house where I grew up. Now this is actually the location of the only school that didn’t fail me. This is where I grew up, and where I has home-schooled until middle school. By the time middle school rolled around I had moved to South Dakota (SD), still doing school at home as my primary form of education but also taking band class through the local public school.

This is the beginning of the first failure.

I was in 5th grade at the time, and wanted to be in band. Due to how the rules are set in SD I was able to take some classes at the public school while still being home-schooled on all the core subjects.

So, as a 5th grader I auditioned with the band director she inserted me into the 8th grade band class. I stayed there for 5th & 6th grade but when 7th grade rolled around I was quite ready to move up. So naturally I would just go up to the 9th grade band. The freshmen band. But the same school district that OK-ed a 5th grader to be in the 8th grade band (normally you start band in 6th grade) now decided that and 7th grader being in the 9th grade band was just too much. How dare we think of putting a middle schooler in the high-school program. Never mind that it was the same building, classroom, and teacher. So my parents and I fought the school to let me be in the freshmen band. So after several months of this and a few interviews later, they let me in. A couple months later we moved.

We moved back to Montana. The specific district we moved to had no rules associated with home-schoolers taking public school classes like SD did. So they just defaulted to not allowing it. Not wanting to fight a school again I just decided to join public school. I was relatively advanced in several subjects, primarily math, so instead of going into 7th grade I went straight into 8th grade.

8th & 9th grade passed with out much fanfare. Sophomore year was almost passed but then COVID happened in the last months of the school year. This threw a wrench in everything. Now all the public schoolers were sent home to do school there. Everyone faked school through the end of the year.

With my Junior approaching end of that summer I decided: “Hey, since last year we were all sent to be (a worse version of) home schoolers, why don’t I just do this a better way?” So we began petitioning the school to let me do my core subject at home with my own curriculum then take band and science at public school.

The school eventually allowed it on the terms that I would take 4 out of 7 classes at the school. See how that is over 50% of the school day? That means that they still getting their money for me being a student. Schools say that they care about you as a person and want to help you. This is false. If the school doesn’t get reimbursed for having to deal they couldn’t care less about you. So with this new schedule crafted up I did my junior year. It got boring fast.

You see, I like learning, not busy work. I had learned all I could at the high school. This doesn’t mean that I took the “hardest” classes, many of the higher level classes had an insane amount of busy work. Sure, the content also got more difficult but the ratio of [learning potential]:[work put in] became extremely low. So, a quarter way though my senior year I decided that public school was wasting my time, thus, at the semester I left saying “I’m going to college.”

Now I’m enrolled as a “connection student” at the Montana State University Billings. This just means that I’m a dual enrolled student. While I did give the middle finger to public high-school I am still taking homeschool high-school. This allows for the classes to be cheaper. But mainly I am doing college work. Now at the end of the year there is this trip to New Orleans that the band is going on. I decided that that might be a fun thing to do so I signed up. I figured everything was OK until I got an email from the chair of the music department informing me that I would have to pay my own way if I wanted to go on the trip unlike all the “real” students who’s plane fare would be covered by the college. This was because I was punching above my age range and doing college early. For “insurance reasons” the college couldn’t pay for a dual enrolled student’s plane ticket.

I have fought every school I’ve attended up till this point and now I am tired of it. I’m not going on what could be an amazing trip because I am done fighting schools. Schools are suppose to be for education. I guess that got lost some time ago.

For example: here this week before finals I found out that I was suppose to be performing a solo for a panel who would judge my performance and determine my grade for the “applied drumming” class I am taking. This class was literally just private lessons though the college with an adjunct professor. Why does this need to be graded? What happened to learning for the sake of gaining knowledge? Why must we slap a letter of the alphabet and a number on every thing we try to learn. Schools aren’t for learning. They are for getting some sort of alphanumeric rating so they can hand you a piece of paper saying “look at all this extra time and money you spent getting this fancy meaningless number."


See, I want to learn just for the sake of gaining knowledge. I could care less about what letter you give me. Now don’t go off thinking I’m a slacker. In high-school I was a straight A-s 4.0 student. So by your weird standards I’m perfect. But I would much rather cut the boring classes short and extend the interesting ones so that I can maximize learning. Oh wait. That’s just homeschool.