THE SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM
A school is an indoctrination centre where their child has been sent to be stripped of his individuality and turned into a soul-dead conformist member of the American consumer culture – George Carlin
I hope that perhaps unlike the donkeys and horses in Animal Farm, we have not yet forgotten what our ideals for education were meant to be – that we have not let the pigs blunt our incisive knife of reason. I say this, because it is difficult to understate the importance of education.
“Education is our passport for the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X
That is the vision we had for education – these are slogans that we shouted, the flags we waved, and the placards we thrusted, when we started out on our glorious march to progress. But somewhere along the path, we let the wanton wind lead our fast-moving stream of reason to wander too far away from it’s destination.
ROTE MEMORIZATION AND EXAMINATION
Rote memorization for exams fails to achieve anything worthwhile.
Albert Einstein also once said, that “education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learnt in school”, or in other words, how much of the information we are able to process and understand, and utilise for the remainder of our lives. What school textbooks provide is information, and what school exams provide is a mean to test the short-term retention of that information. THAT IS THAT.
And it is our other-worldly obsession with marks that breeds this behaviour. We train students to study only for exams, and in that process, they learn only what is in the text-book. And by doing that, you will kill curiosity, the thrill of discovery, and the joy of exploration. What Albert Einstein said is absolutely true: “it is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education at all”.
The theory of rote memorisation is an artefact of the bygone past when information was scarce. The globalised world increasingly requires a different set of skills than the ones that our schools teach. To survive in the 21st century in the face of rapid change faster than humanity has ever witnessed, facing possibly some of the biggest challenges that we have ever faced, children will need to be dynamic problem-solving leaders who can ideate, create and innovate – remembering information simply will not cut it anymore.
NO REAL EDUCATION
“I wasn’t taught how to get a job
But I can remember dissecting a frog
I wasn’t taught how to pay tax
But I know loads about Shakespeare’s classics”
-Dave Brown, “Don’t Stay in School”
School fails to adapt itself to the needs of every child. Education is an extremely personal journey. School presumes that if you teach every kid the same subject for the same time in the same way in the same place with the same amount of attention, that everyone will somehow improve. That sounds to me, entirely presumptuous. People are different and every child has different needs.
I believe that we need to break free from this rigid curriculum. Just to be clear, I am not saying, that some subjects are pointless. I am not saying we must not expose the children to essential subjects. I am not saying that a basic understanding of most topics is crucial. I am merely saying that, way too much is mandatory in schools, and that needs to change.
I think children should be allowed to spend more time studying the subjects that they know they love, and not be restricted to the few subjects that the school offers, for the little time that the school teaches them. Everyone has their own unique talents, and school must offer a way to develop them. However, as it is, the current system works to actively crush our individual talents.
But forget all of those wishy-washy utopian ideals. It would seem obvious, that at the very least, school would teach children about the formalities of living in a society, which everyone must follow. But here again, school fails to achieve its task. School does not teach us how to apply for a college, vote for a politician, be successful at a job, raise kids, and save money for old-age. These are some basic things most kids will need at some point or the other, and yet school does not teach them.
So, that’s mostly it. School, for the most part fails to teach things that children love, and does not even teach things which are important to their lives. What it teaches is the ability to retain facts, and vomit information, and it attempts to reinforce this information with an inefficient and outdated medium known as exams. Therefore, for little to no contribution to one’s life, it rakes in millions of dollars, and steals the formative years of every kid’s life from them.
Sounds like a scam to you?
How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those who are more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable. But again, truth be told…if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.
(The featured image is the album cover of Drones, an album by Muse, one of my favorite bands)