If you’ve been following my writing at all you would know that I have a vested interest in learning and attaining knowledge. I love to read and nothing energizes me more than accumulating new pieces of information. Growing up, however, I was not very interested in school. I’ve always been told that I am a bright and intelligent person by my parents, and my teachers. To them, my education was something that I should cherish. To them, education was the key to everything that I should want in life. Why then, did I have little to no interest in my education? Was I lazy and disinterested, or was there more to it?
I am no longer in school and consequentially my interest in learning returned to me upon completion of traditional schooling. Is there a difference between receiving an education and learning? I think there is. I think there is a definite disconnect between what’s going on in classrooms today and what constitutes actual learning.
In my opinion, the idea that is most insidious in our culture is that we have to be taught. Our education system treats our students like they’re not intelligent. Instead of letting children explore ideas and explore themselves, they’re force fed information and placed under a strict set of guidelines as to how they are supposed to learn.
Albert Einstein has a quote that illustrates how education and learning should actually work – “I never teach my pupils, I only provide conditions in which they can learn.”
This is not how institutionalized education works at all. Our current model is predicated on conformity, standardization, and subordination. The purpose of the educational process used today is to eradicate the genius of our children, quash their curiosity, and train them to become good soldiers for the corporations they will eventually work for.
Throughout my “education” (I put it in quotes because I’m not sure if they really taught me anything) I received average grades. I hated doing my homework; I found it tedious and boring. However, I loved participating in class and would answer as many questions as I could. I could explain all of the concepts that were taught, but apparently, since I didn’t do my homework, which involved regurgitating facts from a textbook, I wasn’t doing well. This was a recurring pattern that I saw throughout my education. It seemed to me that actual learning was never the ultimate goal. The goal was to adhere to a strict set of rules and guidelines. The grading system is structured to reward those who followed the proper rules; grades were never an indicator of who understood the concepts most and were able to apply them to real life scenarios. Grades also teach children early on to measure their self worth in relation to the achievements of their peers, and this way of thinking is carried on to adulthood. This quote illustrates the insidious nature of how our children are evaluated:
“The anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don’t know.” – John Holt
Imagination and curiosity are key ingredients in the recipe for innovation, creation, and invention, all of which are necessary to move mankind forward. It also seems like imagination and curiosity are discouraged by our education system. We are told early on that we have to do things a certain way in order to be successful. We have to learn a certain way, we have to think a certain way, and we have to behave a certain way. Any way of thinking or doing things that deviates from the norm is treated with punishment, ridicule, and scorn.
We are told that we have to go to school, get good grades, go to college, find a safe and secure job, get married, have children, tell them to go to school, get good grades, go to college, and find a safe and secure job. We aren’t given a choice as to how we are supposed to live. We are indoctrinated into this way of thinking when we are most impressionable.
We think what we’re doing to our children is okay and its not. It’s simply not fair.
How many artists, musicians, actors, inventors, creators, influencers, and leaders, never came to fruition because their parents and teachers instructed them to “go to school and find a safe and secure job”? The teaching of the arts is diminishing more and more each year, with a focus on subjects that are deemed important by the higher authorities. We are taking a pool of talented and unique individuals and coercing them into conforming to being like everyone else. The repetitive nature of these dogmatic statements as to how we are supposed to live operates as a form of mental conditioning. We are bamboozled and manipulated so early that many of us don’t even notice that it’s happening. We may even truly believe that it’s what we want for ourselves and for our lives.
How many of us went off to University for no other reason than the idea that it’s just what you’re supposed to do after high school? How many of us chose a career path rather arbitrarily and based it off of the salary we would receive and the complementary benefits. The education process should be a method for figuring out a path for one’s life that is aligned with their talents, strengths, values, passions, and dreams, but it’s not. Instead, it’s a method of conforming our youth so that they grow up to not only be like everyone else, but actually aspire to be that way.
The saddest part about it is that much of the harm is being done to children by the people who are closest to them; their parents. I understand that parents love their children and want the best for them, but it’s simply not fair to tell your child how to live. Its their life, not yours, and you have to let them live it the way that they choose to.
To be frank I believe that adults need to admit the damage that they’re doing to our children. This conformist way of thinking is actually detrimental. It’s producing a society where many people are unhappy with their lives and at the same time have no idea what to do about it. It needs to stop. It’s hard to undo the damage once we reach adulthood, so the process of wrongdoing has to be identified early on and corrected. These kids are a million times more intelligent than you give them credit for. Give them an environment that is conducive to learning, love them, and let them flourish. If we promoted freethinking, true learning, and true education, it would do more for our society than any political policy.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
We live in a society where people are being judged on the wrong abilities. I truly believe we all carry genius with us in one-way or another. Lets create an environment collectively that allows people to contribute in their own unique way. This is the only way to repair the damage we’ve done.