I remember watching both these videos years ago, back when they both went viral. My tenth grade english class had a strong fascination with spoken word poetry. I preferred the works of Sarah Kay. They preferred these two.
The first of these is a video by Boyinaband titled Don’t Stay in School. He spends a majority of his argument stating things he never learned in his classes, contrasting them with the things he did. He inherently assumes that the things he learned in school were less useful than those he didn’t learn. The argument he makes by doing this is that school itself is pointless, ending his video by asking others to join his “movement” by using the hashtag #dontstayinschool.
This entire video to me is not something I really agree with. The argument is presented in a rap/spoken word format, which I would normally be really into. However, even though Boyinaband presents this as an extremely insightful argument, it really isn’t. It has holes and fails to address an opposing side. Many of his examples are the same arguments I hear from children in school or on viral memes on Twitter.
Now, I can see why it’s appealing. Among those of the middle-high school age especially, anything seeming to prove that school has no point is inherently popular. Some of his points do make sense. Yes, learning how to pay taxes should probably be something one learns in public education. I would love to see issues such as mental health and domestic abuse get more attention. However, in my public high school lots of his ideas were covered. We learned basic first aid in my freshman phys ed class. Explanations of policies and political systems, stocks, and budgeting were all covered in my civics and economics class. Not only were these topics covered, these were mandatory classes all of us needed to graduate. When it got down to elective classes, those who may have wanted to learn the parenting skills he talks about could have taken a child care class. We had medical classes for those who wanted to be nurses. Wood shop and electrical trades classes for those interested in those areas.
Maybe I got lucky. I know other schools don’t have all of these opportunities. But by generalizing schools everywhere and seeming to come to the conclusion that all schooling is pointless, Boyinaband does a massive disservice to the education system. Learning history, something he repeatedly dismisses, is actually extremely vital to understanding how our political system works. The first two chapters in my political science book are essentially the history lesson behind the Constitution. He also opens by rendering dissecting a frog useless, but then immediately contradicts himself by asking why he never learned about basic diseases and cures. To learn those, you need to know how the body functions. That is why you dissected the damn frog.
The second video is titled, “Why I Hate School but Love Education” and it uses a similar format to discuss a closely related topic. It is also a spoken word poem, with music playing in the background. Suri uses several examples of people who, by all assessments we use today, would be called successful despite not receiving a college education. He argues passionately about how he believes universities teach others simply to memorize facts for a test. He ends by stating that he believes people can still be educated despite not attending college. This last point of his is his redeeming argument to me, it’s the part of the video I do truly agree with.
Ultimately, the way he achieves this point has flaws. He, like Boyinaband, presents this as an extremely original argument. It is not. Again, I have heard this exact argument multiple times from high school students and detractors of upper education. Some of Suri’s examples of people who did not get an education, actually did. Jesus studied scripture in the temple. Also, many of his examples lived in a very different time and age where expectations of education were very different. Even my parent’s generation didn’t have to go to college just to earn an entry level job. Nowadays, a college diploma is NEEDED in many many fields. Not everyone is Mark Zuckerberg. These people are outliers, a list of twenty in a world of billions.
Still, I do ultimately believe that the point Suri is trying to make is that you can be educated and successful without attending college. This I agree with. My mom and step dad both did not attend college. They both have good and secure jobs, five children whom they love, and are extremely happy and in love. Being happy? That is success to me. They are both what I would consider educated people. They have learned lots of knowledge of life, just by living it.
While these videos are definitely related, one clearly rubs me the wrong way more than the other. I’ve always strongly valued education. To dismiss it away without evidence or a strong argument bugs me a lot. Suri Speaks does a much better job and has a much less problematic stance. Boyinaband seems almost to be doing it for publicity, asking others to spread his video with a hashtag. Somehow, this discredits him even more in my opinion.