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    26 Things That Are Normalized In School But Are Actually Severely Toxic

    Stop glorifying perfect attendance!

    While education is very important and truly a wonderful gift, it's no secret that school systems themselves are riddled with flaws.

    empty desks in a classroom

    We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us what they consider to be the most problematic practices that are normalized by schools. These are the eye-opening responses:

    1. "The use of bathroom passes in school is so toxic. The fact that a teacher can deny someone the basic human right of going to the bathroom is appalling to me."


    2. "Presentations were the worst. Being forced to present a project or assignment in class really contributed to my extreme anxiety. There was no compassion, even when I started choking up and crying from nerves while presenting an essay. It’s not worth it."


    3. "Teachers spending their own money to fund their classrooms is not okay!"

    "We’ve all seen the meme of the 'government-funded classroom' versus the 'teacher-funded classroom,' and it’s exactly true. I’m not even a 'classroom teacher.' I’m a para-educator, and the amount of my own supplies I’ve purchased over the past nine years for my reading groups is surprising. Fund education! Please."


    teacher grading papers

    4. "Exams are just awful. They don't even test if the students know the material. They test how much a student can remember, or how well they studied beforehand, which is pointless."


    5. "I can't stand when teachers make students grade each other’s work. I don’t want my classmates knowing my grades. It can be very embarrassing."


    6. "Dress codes are toxic. The implication is that male students cannot control themselves while female students must bear this burden by censoring themselves and feeling shame about their own bodies."

    "Dress codes remove responsibility from male students and unnecessarily and unfairly force all of the responsibility onto female students. Dress codes draw more focus to the bodies of minors and can propagate all kinds of body image issues for young people."


    Man holding a clipboard reading "dress code policy"

    7. "Not allowing students the proper amount of time to eat a meal is so wrong. Our cafeteria was always overcrowded, so I didn’t want to have to wait in line. I’d bring food from home, but since they didn't offer us places to store our lunch, I was limited on what kinds of food I could bring."


    8. "Punishing students who fall asleep in class is a toxic practice. Students today are SO overworked and are constantly faced with stress and the pressure to succeed."

    "Many working-age students have jobs, take on extracurriculars, and stay up late to finish homework. Each class can assign one hour per day of homework in my state. If all high school classes assigned one hour, that’s six to seven hours of homework after an eight-hour school day, not to mention time spent working, and an early wake-up time each day. If a student falls asleep in class, it’s rarely because they’re 'irresponsible.' And, frankly, punishing sleep as 'irresponsible' with a detention or Saturday school sets students up to believe any down time or time spent not producing is punishable and should be feared or scorned, not embraced as a way to recover from long, stressful days."


    9. "I don't know if other schools did this, but my school nurse charged us for pads and tampons."


    pads and tampons

    10. "Letting teachers get away with teaching their own opinions to a class full of students is very wrong."


    11. "It's been almost 20 years since I was in high school, so hopefully this has changed, but what bothered me the most was the blatant marketing of college or the military as the only two viable options for students post-graduation."

    "Many days during lunch, administrators would invite military recruiters to the school. They'd bring boxes of swag and would target the athletic kids, pressuring them into signing up to look cool. A few colleges were invited, but only private, religious schools. Service organizations like Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, WOOF, City Year, etc. were never invited. I didn't even learn that most of those options existed until years later, and it could have saved me a ton of anxiety about how I could make a positive impact and explore the world."


    12. "Charging students for lunch seems wrong to me. Some kids really only have the meals they eat at school."


    student carrying a lunch tray

    13. "Honestly, spirit week can be a problem. Sure, it’s fun to see all the 'silly socks' and '100th day of school' shirts, but not all parents can afford to throw something together last minute. This leaves some kids feeling left out while their parents feel guilty. I’ve stayed up all night crafting wacky hats and such for my kids. It’s stressful and unnecessary."


    14. "I’m not sure this is a thing everywhere, but most of my teachers would call out everyone's grades in front of the class, and it was really embarrassing when people didn’t do well."


    15. "I think the largest problem in education (particularly in higher ed) is that we have started running schools like they’re businesses that need to make a profit."

    "I just started working for a higher education non-profit and it’s striking how difficult the process is for students to transfer from one school to another, especially in the STEM areas. There are few programs in place to help students actually have all courses count toward their degree. More often than not, students have to retake courses even if they were successful in them because of a disconnect in the system (meaning they have to pay for the same course twice). The waste of time and money to repeat courses is really frustrating and results in a lot of students who drop out before they get their degrees. And let’s not even discuss the absolutely ridiculous tuition prices that are essentially holding an entire generation in debt from student loans."


    office of admissions sign

    16. "The way children with disabilities are treated by their peers and by the adults responsible for their well-being in school is often not acceptable."


    17. "The whitewashing in schools is incredibly toxic. They fail to tell students how racist our history is."


    18. "I've never understood punishing kids when they defend themselves against their bullies. I volunteer for a child advocacy program in my local high schools and this is a huge problem."


    kid with their hand out in front of their face

    19. "I hate the student rankings based on GPA. It's so unnecessarily competitive. Maybe it's fun for the top 10 students, but not for everyone else who maybe didn't have access to the same resources."


    20. "Recognition and celebration being focused purely on academic or athletic achievement is not a great practice. Students with talents in the arts or impactful out-of-school activities are rarely recognized and could contribute so much more to the school if they were given that opportunity."


    21. "I can't stand the glorification of perfect attendance. Attendance, of course, should be expected and encouraged, but incentivizing it can lead to sick students infecting others. It can also lead to overworked kids feeling afraid to take a much-needed mental health day."


    woman lying in bed while sick

    22. "I'm so done with linear ways of thinking!"

    "I’ve been a math tutor for about 10 years now. On a few occasions, my students will come up with the correct answer, but will get the question completely wrong for using a little bit of different logic. It’s wrong to teach a single, linear way of problem-solving in a subject as abstract and amazing as math! I have a lot of respect for teachers and always will (I love teaching myself), but it really sucks the confidence out of students and contributes to the negative narrative about math class!"


    23. "Shaming kids for getting bad grades is a terrible practice. When a kid makes a D on an algebra test, most of the time, they simply don't understand how to do the problems. They need help."


    24. "The way teachers get treated can be so toxic. From getting yelled at by overbearing parents, to getting little to no support from higher ups, there's a real problem. Not to mention the pay!"


    stressed teacher sitting at his desk

    25. "Schools should place an equal amount of emphasis on trades or other professions that don’t require higher education."

    "There are so many fulfilling careers that can be achieved in other ways besides attending college. There is a shortage of skilled labor in our county and the pressure that the educational system puts on students to go to college directly contributes to the problem. I know several electricians, plumbers, etc. who are much more professionally successful than many of the people I know who received degrees."


    26. Finally: "The lack of support for kids who are struggling is a serious issue. Maybe things have changed, but in my time, you either caught up by yourself, got put in after-school programs, or had to redo a class or a grade. Very frustrating and embarrassing."


    young girl struggling with her homework

    Are there any other toxic practices in school that you think should be addressed? Tell us in the comments.

    Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.