I've sat in a particular spot for a very long time.

This little place is not fancy, and it can be uncomfortable, cold and an ambiguous source of boredom, anxiety and interest.

Thinking about the amount of time I've spent sitting at a desk in a classroom, in front of a teacher or textbook can be somewhat astonishing. To be exact, it's a place I've returned to for approximately 2,340 days, over a span of more than 14 years.

Though most college kids lament the time spent in classes, the bulk of our time-intensive education has already passed; most of our developmental years commit an immense amount to time to classrooms.

The purpose for such dedication to education seems somewhat inherent to Western society. Education is continuously lauded as an "open door" and the "key to the future." Cultural wisdom teaches that with hard work comes success; for most, the classroom provides the perfect training ground.

No two schools are exactly alike. In America, inequalities and differences among school systems remain apparent. The most obvious difference falls within the two broad categories of public and private schools.

Public schools follow federal education guidelines and fall across the country and attempt to provide an equal, government-funded education for all young Americans.

Private schools, conversely, allow for greater freedom in specific educational goals.

Within the U.S., these schools usually incorporate a religious component into curriculum and student life.

The enormous impact of school upon individual development can be rather difficult to measure. In a relatively short amount of time, children move from imaginative playground adventures to writing personal statements full of wisdom and insight for college applications.

The time between primarily consists of rapid knowledge acquisition and the acquisition of a sense of self – one's talents, likes, dislikes, dreams and goals.

Children in school additionally assimilate into important social roles; friends and enemies form, relationships begin and end, and loose social patterns begin to fall into place. The intense amount of time a child spends at school, at first glance, seem to contribute deeply to a student's success throughout

Unfortunately, educational opportunities vary based on geographic location and social class.

Solutions to narrow the space between education gaps remain an important issue for emerging America; George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" attempts to redraw educational standards to positively influence American youth.

Perhaps the real difference, however, in one's quality of education lies in something beyond external control. No elite school has the ability to single-handedly create an average student into a budding Einstein; struggling systems don't necessarily diminish brilliant young minds.

Different schools offer various opportunities; responsibility, thereafter, lies on the student to excel in a given environment and pursue knowledge despite circumstances.

Private schools often require platforms to effectively "sell" their educational tools. If some aspect of the school – such as academic elitism, athletic programs, or religious instruction – did not exist, then the public school system would remain unopposed.

Studies on the performance of different schools vary; different sources will reveal subtle differences in the scores of the private versus public debate

Two separate entities will always be inherently different. No two schools can be exactly alike; different aspects of education will be highlighted depending on one's location and chosen academic environment.

However, the educational goals of a student can serve as the ultimate way to define academic success and personal growth.

No school, teacher or curriculum should define one's achievement.

Educational reforms within the state of Tennessee following Bush's legislation have certainly instituted changes and a more federalized system with the intention of equality and greater academic success.

However, if each student does not harness responsibility to seize opportunity and challenge oneself based on personal motivation, then reform and academic training will be futile.

In all the hours we sit, listening to discussions of history or watching algebraic sequencing, each student decided subconsciously to put forth effort and pursue knowledge for various reasons.

Our developmental years in school provide a canvas; we each possess the responsibility to apply the various shades of knowledge and draw the future we envision.

Sarah Hagaman is a sophomore in English. She can be reached at shagama1@utk.edu.