This may or may not get posted but I’m losing sleep over it so I just want to get my thoughts out in text before my brain explodes. Recently, I had a conversation regarding whether or not presentations are a good thing in school curricula. It made me upset because obviously they aren’t, presentations are globally hated and stressful but worst of all they’re unnatural. The primary argument for why they’re good is this idea that they teach communication skills but they just don’t. You don’t just teach someone communication skills by putting them in the spotlight in front of a bunch of people maybe once or twice in a year. That’s just not how it works.
I want to dissect this a bit because how schools teach as a whole really adds to this issue. A majority of the time, communication (or more specifically asking for help) is the wrong thing to do in class environments. Teachers will constantly ask their students to work in silence and you can straight up fail in a test scenario for speaking. They try and backpedal by being like “you can ask for help if you need it” but why would a student ever do that? If they can’t ask for help during a test then why would they ever ask for help at all? They’ve already been conveyed the message that, when it comes down to it, they have only themselves to rely on. That, in the most stressful of scenarios, communication is wrong.
Maybe a student does ask for help every once in a while and get the help they need with a problem. It should be a common thing but students are so disinclined to do it that most will just try to struggle through on their own. It’s just so counterproductive and unrealistic to enforce these silent study/test scenarios when so many problems could be solved with just a bit of communication. When those students leave school, there’s no workplace that’s going to push them to work in isolation or disallow asking their workmates for help. Test bubbles only exist in schools and they do nothing but harm student mentality. Learning kids should be allowed to communicate during classes and communicate during tests. It teaches communication and it’s natural.
Students aren’t expected to globally succeed. They just aren’t, no one is expecting an entire class of students to get As on all of their tests and that’s idiotic. This is the case because it takes an exceptional student to take in the raw amount of information that schools teach. Learning enough about every subject to gets As in all of them is impossibly hard, especially given how stressful tests are and how varied they can be in difficulty. Silent tests just filter down the number of students that are allowed to succeed. If students were allowed to communicate during tests like they would be able to in any real world environment then their grades would increase they would have more opportunities for jobs and college/university placements. A bad thing, apparently.
Just as an aside here, I want to talk a bit about how actually worthless most non-basic education is. Past your most simple alphabet and numbers stuff, students are forced to learn so much pointless information on their quest to probably not succeed in every subject. Hundreds of terms and equations they’ll most likely just forget to the benefit of nothing. Teachers will claim that it’s not about what you learn but about learning to learn. If you hear this, slap them, because that’s not how it works. You know how to learn, your brain’s been doing that since you were born. All the incessant repetition of nonsense information is doing to you is burning you out and killing any passions for the subjects that you might have. Being weighed down by all that jargon just makes you dumber.
Getting back on track, communication. So, we’ve determined that communication is a passively devalued skill in learning environments. Apparently, though, that’s OK because we have some handy-dandy presentations to teach it to us! Remember all that silence you’ve been forced to sit through? Well, instead of any natural progression, here’s a scenario where everyone is staring you down and you have to speak some hopefully correct information at them! Where’s the actual communication, you ask? There is none! It’s just an anxiety-inducing public speaking scenario that you’re forced to participate in! Will you receive feedback for how you actually presented yourself? How about you take a goddamn guess.
No, your teacher isn’t going to pull you aside and teach you to stand up proper and enunciate yourself once the presentation is done. This isn’t theater class, what mattered was the content of your presentation. The fact that you used any sort of vocal communication was pointless and you aren’t going to learn anything from it. You aren’t going to learn because presentations are only ever done in test scenarios. There’s no point in learning once the test is complete. Wanna know why this is the case? Because the teachers expect you to already have communication skills. Y’know, from interacting with other human beings! Y’know, like the exact thing they don’t want you doing in their classes a majority of the time!
You would need a class dedicated to solely presentations to properly teach the types of skills that they could improve. Skills like how to shoot a pitch or how to match vocals with body language, that type of thing. It would take an entire module of a college course to actually learn something from it. In schools, you don’t learn anything from presentations. The idea that being forced into them at all improves your communication skills is moronic. Of course, this is only taking into account solo presentations. There is another type of presentation that opens an entirely different bag of worms. Group presentations.
Theoretically, these are the types of situations that schools should be using to help students learn workplace skills. Not presentations specifically but group projects are a great way for students to figure out a pseudo-real life scenario for themselves. They have to allocate work, choose roles and, here’s the key word, communicate. Everyone has horror stories about group projects but in an ideal scenario there is a lot to be gained from them. Until you realize that, most of the time, it really doesn’t get more complex than four people concurrently working on the exact same thing.
If you break down the average school group project, let’s say the group has four members, you’ll find that there isn’t really much role allocation at all. You just have four people working on different sections of the same thing and maybe one of them is the organized one who chases up the other three to finish their parts. Let’s make this a group presentation scenario, it’s not like you’re gonna have, say, a first draft content writer, an editor, a slideshow creator and a speaker. This would be a great way to handle a group project, assuming all four members do their part but it’s not what your teacher will want you to do. They want a slideshow that everyone helped to write and they want everyone to speak at the end.
Once again, the skills that you would be using in any realistic scenario are being discouraged. You can’t pick the best person at study for the first draft, the person with the best eye for detail/best writer for editor, the person with the best computer skills to make the slideshow and the best speaker to actually present. You can’t play to the strengths of your group because everyone has to do the same thing. It’s just another scenario where everyone is forced into an uncomfortable presentation scenario except there are four people standing at the same time. That’s the only difference. In the worst of cases, one or two of the group members didn’t pull their weight and just made things even more stressful for the rest.
Presentations are little more than a hateful call-out to the introverts of the class. If said presentations go towards their grade, it’s another method of filtering down who gets to succeed in the end. It’s an awful technique employed by an awful system of education that plagues our society. Communication is taught by letting young people use their voices, not by telling them to sit down and shut up until this one specific scenario. Presentations are just one example of why schools are a mess and why something needs to change if we’re actually working towards the best version of human society.
Thanks for reading. Hope to see you rise from the ashes when this culture burns down.