The word ‘education’ rings different bells for different age groups of people. And if one cares to ask those who are getting educated , one thing that would be clear is – it’s definitely not an enjoyable process. Maybe that’s one of the factors that have contributed to a generation of frustration and compulsiveness, feeding on mass produced opinions and judgement, losing everything that is human. What was to be an exploration leading to evolution, growth and mindful symbiosis has merely become a painful training process to yield lifeless consumers who can be put under formulae, assessed and controlled, thus becoming forever dependent on an external entity.
So as an organisation working towards building conscious spaces for self sustainable community learning, where learning is fun and empathy is more than a moral science topic, we consider it an immediate responsibility to uncover the face of existing education system and call out the sins it has committed on the human essence, one by one.
Sin 1 – Death of Curiosity
‘Don’t ask too many questions’ is the most common response faced by a curious mind in a classroom today, because apparently ‘time is limited’ and that mind must learn (memorise) ten different topics from ten different subjects in a day.
The biggest sin today’s education or ‘schooling system’ has committed is mass killing curiosity! Tunneling a child’s mind from the very beginning and training that mind to not question existing norms or not getting ‘diverted’ from the set course so that there’s least effort in answering is the foremost steps education takes into ‘shaping’ these minds. To ‘learn’ is apparently to memorise, thus making learning an obligatory activity in one’s life to be able to become a screw in a system in some mindless competitive world, whereas learning should have been the very medium of addressing one’s curiosity. By taking the playfulness out of learning, educating has been another process to slowly brush aside curiosity as you grow, and quietly agree among the set of worldviews you’re presented with, so that the mind can be an easily controlled medium, like a dispensable screw in a rusted machine.
Sin 2 – Death of Expression & Passion
True expression never comes out from the urge of coming first (or leaving others behind), it comes out from an overflowing heart. Whatever the medium be, an absorbent mind will express in the best possible way when it is given space to both absorb and express. Both of which processes are stopped in their essence in the early years of a growing mind and shoved off mechanically with the dangling prize of coming first or bringing an ‘A’. By the time the mind could be mature enough to hold that medium of expressing on its own path to liberation, it’s already addicted to the shiny dangling grade ‘A’ and thus, the only ways it could have found bliss or realised itself in an open space is blocked, because everyone must perform, and perform better in an ever-observing world.
Present day educating has done wonders in also isolating each of these expressions and presenting each subject at its isolation (death) so that Maths isn’t about symmetry in existence and breath but a boring subject with digits and symbols, history isn’t about observing the space through time and finding expression in it but another boring subject about mugging dates and places.
Presenting each medium / language in its isolation to others and never completely, is the very sin on the human heart this educational system commits, the one-off killing expression/passion and all its fluidity; so that the only urge left to express would be to impress and get an A+.
Sin 3 -Death of Innovation
A set of colours and a blank page without prompts/restraints can often be the worst nightmare for an adult and the best possibility for a toddler. Not because the toddler doesn’t know how to draw lines and the adult does, but because the toddler ‘adults up’ on making restrictions their habits.
When habits equal excellence, and repetition equals understanding, innovation dies an early death. One which is experienced the most by the yet so infant minds of this generation. Fed information and opinions from the very beginning, it loses its ability to dream, beyond the presented possibilities, because well, it is ‘Impractical’ to imagine trees with feet and dreams with wings, because hey, competition for practicality! Setting bars for every year of life the child is born, all the child ever looks to is the ‘next exam’ and never into his own heart where the space for exploration is slowly closed with stupid colourless ideas of adulting and planning for the next stages.
So the mind slowly learns how to pass time and not live it, how to draw boundaries and never to erase them, how to attain practicality and stop dreaming. How to stop looking for possibilities and copy paste your answers, because apparently, there’s only one correct answer to one question!
And thus the most silent sin is committed on the very nature of life, to innovate and grow…
Sin 4 – Death of Choice
Take any dystopian movie and you would find a common motif which makes it so dystopian- death of choice. Its infuriating and frightening to even image of a world where the freedom to choose with autonomy is taken away from you, and yet we have normalised it in our education system.
Education system has been designed to bring uniformity in how we think and behave. Ofcourse diversity in thoughts and choices are repressed when everyone is made to sit inside a room with thirty to forty others of the same age, wearing the same colours, reading and listening to observations made by dead people about things that have always existed outside. If the education system emphasized on one’s capacity to make choices based on their context, we would not have everyone running to do an engineering and medicine degree.
“What do you want to do?” is an invalid question when the choices one has explored have been just slight modifications of a single option. And then you are told to gauge “your success” based on these checkpoints created by others, again being something external rather than your own validation. The education system punishes you if you astray from these fixed paths of “success” predefined for you, perpetuating fear of failing or doing anything new, upon generation after generation. This fear is not only the death of freedom to choose but also the death of one’s individuality.
Sin 5 -Death of Organic Thoughts
Almost all advances of human race have been by some person observing something around them and thinking beyond the current scenarios. We had people using their minds to solve problems around them. Then came the modern education system. We got a set of guidelines, some pre-set subjects, syllabus and content that we mug up and put down on a piece of paper and our education is complete.
We don’t learn the art of thinking scientifically and organically. While society keeps telling us to think outside the box, to think of something original but never tells us how to do that or even worse if somebody does it by themselves, they are discouraged.
This is a serious challenge posed by the current education system where we are not allowed and guided to use our minds naturally. We need to let thoughts flow freely. We need to stop putting people in boxes.
Sin 6- Standardization of Minds
At School, I loved reading Pablo Neruda’s Keeping Quiet. While we were in class with our teacher explaining to us the meaning of a particular stanza, I was not convinced with the interpretation that she endorsed. I looked around quizzically but to my surprise none of my classmates had any disagreement or the courage to ask “Is this the only way one can interpret the words of the poet?” I did stand up only to be admonished to blindly believe what my competent teacher was sharing. That day I believe my teacher too lost an opportunity to view and interpret a poem in a new light, one that can be different but still make sense. I wish our teachers and our education system were not hell bent on making us think in the exact same way, churning out the exact same result, output and disappointment.
Standardization is a good virtue, perhaps only for the dead, not for young minds who can open a sea of possibilities. The modern education system as we know it has done very little to nurture and encourage creative individuality of students. Rather, the curriculum, teaching methods and more importantly the perceived goals of modern education has created a crop of standardized minds where breakthrough thought or even an out of the box idea seems to be an aberration and not the norm.
Sin 7- Blind Obedience to Authority
‘Such a good obedient child’! This is one of the most used phrases to express appreciation for a child (and subtly encouraging subjugation for authority). This emphasises the fact that one of the foremost qualities of being good for any human would be, obedience.
Obedience has always been one of the most focused attributes in the school life. To be a well graded student (validating the ego of the teacher), one set as an example. Accepting and nodding on to declarations about life by teachers and textbooks and then mugging them up without having the bare minimum realisation is apparently how you find the most knowledgeable one; which raises one tiny question – are we headed for a collective of well-functioning humans by the end of this educating phase, or a herd of sheep who can’t take a step ahead without an external set of instructions about their own well-being?
As it turns out, a wise mind basing its knowledge on experiences and realisations would probably be too dangerous for the trends and traditions of existing societies, and their biases. It might fire up possibilities and questions destabilizing hollow hierarchies…
So it’s always better to ‘Be a Good and OBEDIENT Student/Citizen and Do as You’re Told’ and you might just be set as another ideal or example of depth and knowledge (to strengthen existing hierarchies). Death to true experience or realisation.