One thing I know I can never be accused of is lacking passion. Unless we’re talking about like, baseball or something. Then I’m guilty as charged.

One thing people mix up a lot about passion, I’ve noticed, is they instantly associate passion with love and only positive connotations. It’s like when we say we “care about” something. Everyone assumes it’s a good thing. If the Internet is to be believed, passion can be defined as a “strong and barely controllable emotion,” which, for me, is almost every emotion. Just kidding. Mostly.

Passion, caring about something, etc. means you dedicate emotional energy to that thing, it’s not necessarily positive. Hating is a form of caring. Still, I consider having passion for anything better than not caring. Emotion drives us to act. We try to disconnect logic from feeling, but the fact is, we are driven by emotion. Unless you’re Spock, it’s nigh impossible to act without considering emotion.

WRONGPhoto CC-by AJC1, because apparently only teachers have a say in education. Right.

“Passion-Based” Learning

Passion-based learning is a three word phrase for an amalgamation of a ton of different approaches to teaching. Rather than the current (busted) system of info in, info out, test, repeat, Rather than focus on test scores, passion based learning has us focusing on what it is that drives a student to want to learn and want to pursue an education. If you want school funding, cram standardized testing into their brains.

If you want results, ask a kid about something they really love to do.

A big problem with our current education system is that teachers are expected to be robots. They dance like a puppet in front of kids for 8-9 hours, go home, grade that shit, and repeat. Teachers are human beings with passions of their own, and excitement is infectious. I know people who have been inspired to pursue careers because of the passion demonstrated by people in said fields. If teachers were allowed to act a bit more like people: to share their passions with students instead of being Wikipedia on two legs, we’d be off in a right direction. Students have a hard time respecting or listening to a teacher they can’t relate to. I know 7th graders who literally still believe teachers live at the school, apparently in some overnight stasis on a docking station that recharges them. This is why we can’t learn a goddamn thing.

wowReality Check

Passion-based education is a theoretical way to an overhauled, working system that produces learners instead of obedient workers. The problem with the ideal is that it’s that: an ideal. With enormous class sizes, kids continually becoming apathetic toward education (I was one too, once), and an administrative system that chokes any freedom out of teachers, what can be done? We can barely keep our current system running – parents who are offended by sex ed classes speak volumes about this.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll reiterate: the only way we can move forward is through teachers. You are the grunts, the boots-on-the-ground, you are the driving force. It isn’t realistic to ask one person to pay special attention to the passions and the nuances of each and every student that passes through their classroom; it’s impossible. If they did succeed, they would have no time to pursue their own passions or be their own person.

What teachers can do, however, is be passionate. For the love of Christ, do you know how many teachers I saw through my middle and high school careers that were half asleep all day? How many teachers have told me if they had the option to go back, they wouldn’t teach? They were there explicitly for a paycheck. That’s it. If you don’t care about your job, and you don’t care about education, how can you expect kids to? It’s no wonder kids are apathetic, angsty, and don’t care about education. Everyone thinks “kids these days” are snot-nosed assholes. Well gee, I wonder why, look at the adults teaching them!

passionPhoto CC-by Anthony Easton

There is an Answer

When teachers demonstrate an interest in a students’ passion, it doesn’t go unnoticed, no matter how hard-assed and “cool” the student wants to seem. Some students aren’t fortunate enough to have parents who facilitate their passions. Some students are so good at certain things, that if they dare step outside the box and pursue something else, they’re crucified. If you’re teaching, be the exceptions to these rules. Your encouragement, your enthusiasm could be the difference between a kid genuinely pursuing something he loves versus settling for classes that will fast-track him to a high-paying career and an early stress-related death. If the public want to treat you like a babysitter, fuck it, be one. Be the person that cares enough. You aren’t being payed what you’re owed anyway, so you may as well invest in the future. Even if it isn’t your own.


  1. tristyfishy says:

    Definitely agreed, dear sir. A well-written post as always; I see I chose my writing teacher well. It definitely puts my article to shame. I feel you have a point here when you say that it’s the teachers that should be the heart of passion-based learning. They are the source of inspiration or the source of “Oh my fucking god, I don’t wanna go to school today…” It all depends on the teacher and how helpful they are and how much they care about the actual fucking subject.

    • jamcfarland says:

      Teachers have to answer to a lot of bumbling fools in the administrative side of things that make their jobs infinitely more difficult than needbe, then they get the flack for it. For some reason, it seems like higher-ups don’t trust teachers to do their jobs. They’re expected to be glorified babysitters for young adults.

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