Part of the System

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Students don't want to learn, they want results. I should know, I'm a sophomore at one of the best high schools in the country. Students here average above 1900 on the SAT and go to Ivies and Stanford every year. We work hard. 2:30 AM hard. And in return, we expect rewards, acceptance into the college of our choice, the six-figure salary after that, and the opportunity to change the world. The track to our dream professions like medicine and engineering.

It's what makes all the sleepless nights and stressful tests worth it. Doctors and engineers are valuable. People see their contributions everywhere. Open heart surgery saves a life. Almost everyone has a cell phone that was designed by an engineer.

Compared to these results, pure science seems like an obscure hobby. Almost no one understands string theory. It's possible that one day knowing the difference between string theory and m-theory will be important. But until then, it's just an obscure fact that almost no one will ever care about. Medicine and engineering create materials, items people can simply pick up and use. Pure science creates numbers, statistics people need a PhD to understand.

And that's why no one I know wants to be a scientist. I certainly don't. And it's not because I hate science. I've interviewed scientists, and I now know what motivates them. There's something they want to know, the chance to make a new fact. They're curious about the world around them.

School makes students want results, not facts. That's because results are the only tangible measure of skill. Students don't compare IQ scores. They compare test grades and SAT scores.


If we want to win the future, this mentality has to change. Scientists are vital. People who want knowledge discover the new facts that make revolutionary inventions like cell phones and laser surgery possible.

I have no idea how change will come. Fifteen years in, and I'm already part of the system, conditioned to seek results. But until then, I'll keep working towards that acceptance into the college of my choice.

It's 2:30 AM now.

With a Perspective, I'm Aaron Chum.