There have been a lot of humorous jibes at the general ineffective nature of the education system. One that comes to memory is a tee shirt that said, “I was born intelligent. Education ruined me.” I think it was meant as a joke, but I’m sure Pink Floyd weren’t joking when they said:
“We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! teachers! leave the kids alone!
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.”
I have an immense amount of respect for the wisdom of Pink Floyd as a band, and I think they recognised quite early on that the education system was aimed at stifling creativity and the sense of individualism; it was meant to create uniform individuals as they saw fit— what they thought would best fit the society. I think Floyd told us way back that teachers should back off from the kids and let them grow as they wanted to— beautiful unique individuals. Teaching and education only had to be about recognising one’s talents and then polishing them. I don’t know where we went wrong when we suddenly began telling our kids what their talents should be. We started trying to create a set of talents in them, probably subverting an existing group of talents in the process because we didn’t deem those necessary enough to fit into our picture of the perfect individual. I think we forgot that every individual is an individual for their imperfections. Oh wait! I do know where we went wrong. We went wrong when education became a business. We went wrong when education, as Mr Ken Robinson says, began to serve industrialisation. In fact today most of the research in universities is funded by big corporations. I wonder where educational integrity goes when one is asked to find alternative fuel sources as part of a research funded by an oil company. But that is a debate for another day.
Right now, let us just stick to the very basic strata of education instead of focusing on the political intricacies involved in this business. As Ken Robinson puts it, “there truly does exist a hierarchy of subjects no matter where you go”. In fact it is perhaps even more evident in countries where liberal arts degrees and institutions aren’t as popular. A hierarchy in the subjects at schools transitions into the hierarchy in the streams one opts for. The best students go into science, the second strata into commerce and the last into arts. This in fact is topped off with a widespread gender discrimination associated with education in countries like India, where arts is still considered to be primarily a woman’s stream— men become less manly if they take up such streams. Similarly, science is apparently a male dominated field. Such discriminations never cease to appal and astound me!
Schools teach prescribed texts only about what they want us to know, coloured versions of history are not really taught. It makes you wonder why schools don’t appreciate questioning students any more. Conformity is taught at a very early age. There is an old proverb that says till the lion starts writing, all stories will glorify the hunter. Our history books glorify Columbus and the early settlers; there is no perspective of the natives provided in our books. This is just one subject. The bottom line is conformity. They need conformists. The rebellious attitudes of the educated are the base of all problems of industrial giants and capitalist propagandas. They don’t need that nonsense from education, especially since they control the business. So it’s best to get to the kids early on. Stop them from thinking. Thinking is bad. Get them hooked on TV shows, teach them consumerism, get them on the straight and narrow, and keep them there. Uniqueness and individuality will lead them to think they can rise above the rest, that cannot happen. Keep them pressed. I’m sure no one on Olympus took kindly to visitors either. And schools are successful managing the production. I’ve seen a brilliant chess player reduced to studying hotel management, a gifted artist studying commerce and business management, and an extremely talented soccer player spending his days restlessly interning at a delivery service agency. All dreams quashed. Life welcomed their talents, their parents did all they could to nurture it, but unfortunately, the system doesn’t like this shit. They must be put on the normal course, and made to study, study, study, to finally leave with degrees with their names— just like ants carrying food for the winter. GPAs must be perfect. Now even that is not enough. The irony is that the best colleges will take you in if you have a perfect GPA, and also have some other exceptional talent. You have got to have 9.5+ and be a good cellist or a good dancer. Ironically these are the same talents that are discouraged in school. I read recently that colleges earlier required you to be smart to accept your applications; now nothing less than Superman would do.
The education system is truly doing more harm than good, and it is time we try and change it to focus more on individual talents rather than mass produced qualities. Creativity not allowed to flourish dies, but not before it drives the person mad. Mad at being unable to express himself. Let us not become that generation. Let us not have to repeat the words of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg when he said “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness...” .
Photography By: Yash Mistry