by Ashleigh Wilson

At the back of the classroom sits a boy. When the teacher calls on him he struggles for words. The teacher informs the boy’s parents that he has no prospects – how could he when he can’t even form a sentence? A few years later, the boy will be expelled for being rebellious and a bad influence on his peers. A ‘no hoper’ in society.

Although this story is generations old, it is not unfamiliar to many in today’s schooling system. In the western world, we are taught that we need to fit into boxes – to learn only what we need to to ace the exams, to get into the best university, and then get a standard office job, following other people’s directions.

If we fall outside this box; if we develop late, learn a different way, or want to pursue our own direction, we are automatically considered a failure.

The boy mentioned above was Albert Einstein, who after being expelled, went on to win the Nobel Prize and become one of the world’s most famous scientists. He even has a presence on Social Media today. But how many other potential geniuses are being left behind by the school system? Could the scientist who cures cancer be the girl floundering in a traditional classroom?

‘Failures’ Who Were Really ‘Greats’

Here are just a few examples of those who were placed into the ‘failure’ box, yet went on to achieve great things.

Steven Spielberg

Due to poor grades in high school, Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California three times. Luckily for the fans of his many hit films, this didn’t keep him down.

Thomas Edison

The inventor of the light bulb was told by teachers that he was “too stupid to learn anything.”

J.K. Rowling

As a young, single mother on welfare, the author of Harry Potter was rejected many times, before becoming one of the most loved authors.

Bill Gates

He was a University dropout, yet at 31 Bill Gates became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

Steve Jobs

The creator of Apple also dropped out of University and ended up creating some of the most popular products used today.

Are We Letting Young Geniuses Down?

While being a misfit can be a sign of greatness, many kids are not being given the opportunity to reach their full potential within the school system. Being thrown aside by the education system, they fall into the epidemic of depression, loneliness, and suicide that is gripping the younger generation.

Depression is now the most common mental health disorder in the United States among teens and adults, and suicide is now second leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24.

Perhaps the anguish of being put into a box felt by so many students, is in fact, at least partly what is fuelling the school shooting epidemic.

Scarlett Lewis, who lost her young son in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting believes schools need to start teaching Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). This program aims to “provide children with the knowledge, attitude and skills they need to choose love in any situation.” Surely this is just as important, if not more, than knowing long division? According to the Choose Love Foundation, SEL has incredible benefits for students and society.

More than 30 years of scientific research proves that children who had access to SEL curriculums grow into more successful and healthy adults. Overall they have a deeper sense of self, commitment to community, and learned compassion for others. This results in lower violent crime and incarceration rates, alcohol and drug abuse, and instances of mental illness.

This is backed up by Harvard studies which show that self-control and emotional health as the biggest predictors of success.

Another ‘alternative’ form of education is the Steiner Schools, which value individuality more than the traditional school system.

The priority of the Steiner ethos is to provide an unhurried and creative learning environment, where children can find the joy in learning and experience the richness of childhood, rather than early specialisation or academic hot-housing.
Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship

Similarly, in Norway, children can attend a ‘barnehage’ kindergarten which translates to ‘child garden’. Instead of learning inside, in this system of education, kids spend all day outside playing and exploring. This type of play has been found to be extremely important for children to develop socially, solve problems, develop creativity and learn to work with others.

As poet and social media star, Prince Ea says, the most commonly asked question in traditional schools is “Is this going to be on the test?” If schools put actual learning in front of memorising the answers, F would stand for ‘find another answer’ instead of ‘failure’. Imagine how many doors this would open!

The Takeaway

Being a misfit can be a great thing, but how much more could these kids achieve if they weren’t placed into boxes at school? How much more could we all achieve if society stopped placing us in boxes?