"To know that you do not know is the best." – Lao Tsu
Education as it stands today is seen as the practice of teaching and/or receiving and giving instruction. Instructions, whether given or received is not what I would classify as a sound method of enlightenment, but rather a classic “I know best so listen up” approach. This to me is where the greatest failure of ‘education’ occurs, the thought that relaying knowledge to a younger generation can be passed down, to be remembered and then repeated once it is their turn to teach – a failure, as it is not knowledge that is being passed on, but simply information. Of all the great minds through our history, this process leads to their ideas and beliefs being corrupted by educators to curtail their own imaginings, giving children a degraded interpretation from a lesser mind.
The information ‘taught’ is an amalgamation of what is deemed important by a body of people who themselves assume it to be that way. In other words, children are being moulded to fit into the constricted and absolute needs of what society requires. I don’t want to mould anyone into what I think is right or wrong, for that is only my interpretation and opinions – I want to show them how to come about their own understanding and views surrounding that particular issue. The only fundamental answer I have found so far is based on my own meandering experiences: question absolutely everything. By questioning something, it not only makes an imprint on ones character but it resonates, it investigates, it is mulled upon and it becomes a reasoned process of thought.
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” – Bertrand Russell
Every ‘teacher’ I have ever had has told the class, “There is no such thing as a stupid question, please ask away.” Odd though, how hardly anyone ever did ask questions. The reason? Why question something that is distinctly written down in a book, which I am to accept at face value – as not doing so is detrimental to my own ‘education’ and evidently leads to low grades. I didn’t ask questions because I didn’t see the reason to. You see it is the illusion of truth of the transcendence of information from older to younger which quells the need to question. The education system itself is designed in such a way that those that do ask questions are seen as the outliers, people beyond the scope of what is taught and as such either ignored or subdued as to why their question is irrelevant. Given this does not happen across the board and there are teachers who practice what they preach – but in majority, and through my combined 16 years of ‘schooling’ and ‘tertiary education’ I had surmised that my questions are better kept to myself.
It is with this that I came to the realisation of the worth of questioning. From a young age I remember trying to formulate the answers as to why, what or how that particular idea is what it is, does what it does and means what it means. This unlocked an amazing amount of potential within myself. I was able to enthusiastically formulate my own answers, further compounded when my answers were shared by others – who evidently came up to their conclusions in the same manner I did – through independent thought. Most of what I hold dear today was not taught to me, but self imposed. Why is this? Why do I formulate my own ideas instead of adopt what is asked of me? I was encouraged to do so, not by my teachers or my family, not by friends or colleagues, not by some deity or some book. No, I was encouraged to do so by the idea of truth for oneself and shown the value of it by my parents through actively learning that truth stems from reality.
“There is nothing more necessary than truth, and in comparison with it everything else has only secondary value. This absolute will to truth: what is it? Is it the will to not allow ourselves to be deceived? Is it the will not to deceive? One does not want to be deceived, under the supposition that it is injurious, dangerous, or fatal to be deceived.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
School was boring and university all but fond memories all not related to study material. Where is the fun in all of that? What is the point even? The idea that there is truth to my questions somewhere out there is a thought so exciting and liberating that I cannot but help imagine ways to find it. Life becomes a quest, one filled with adventure, trial and tribulations, outrage, defining and redefining moments, lies, experience and ultimately love of truth. It is this that I would have wanted teachers to instil within me; it is the complete serenity of hope for better or worse, it is the idea that I have within myself the ability to make my own decisions – irrespective of its label of good or bad. Don’t tell me everything that is already ‘known’; ask me why I think it should be like that or even better yet show me something without prior knowledge and let me formulate my own method of doing, or reason for not. We had seven or eight years of true learning and then we get shipped out to this monotonous place where we are indoctrinated into someone else’s ideologies. I don’t blame those who do bad at school, or choose to drop out – I think with hindsight I might have wanted to do the same, for I understand that schooling is not where one learns, it is where one listens and/or reads and attempts to remember.
“It’s easier to fool people, than convince them that they have been fooled.” – Mark Twain
If I had to advise on a solution to our current education systems it would be the following: stop teaching. Stop blabbering on and on about things I will never remember. Stop telling me what it is I will need to know. Stop telling me that I’m closing doors by not participating. Stop thinking you know better. Stop showing me, stop talking to me, stop it all – and start listening. Ask me my opinion, give me yours and allow me to hear everyone else’s. What better way to learn than from the opinions of others, leaving one able to decide on your own accord as to what it is you feel is of importance? Want me to learn multiplication? Fine, but don’t make me write it down a million times, make me ask the relevancy of it, make me question its usefulness, make me tell you why it works. Education is not being told what to learn, it is the flowering of what you wish the outcome to be. Don’t tell me I need to learn this and that, tell me your desired endgame and let me help formulate the way to get there. It’s one thing hearing about experience and a whole other story partaking in it.
Let the children I one day father continue their trial and error learning curb, don’t tell them what the curb will look like or should look like. Let them experience rather than hear of or read about. Let the children become free of the need to compete on grades, fight on who’s the smartest or feel left out because they differ. Each child has his or her own ability, don’t drown it out in the bright light of others thoughts or achievements, celebrate it by explaining it. Encourage them to think for themselves, or at the very least to question everything. There is truth out there, we just have to let them find it – don’t try to provide it, let it bloom into its own majestic existence. I’d much rather them fail at school, than at life.
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