Why is it that whenever you become conscious of something, suddenly you can see it, smell it, taste it and feel it everywhere? A beautiful quote in my local dialect in Ghana, implies that if one thinks of a person and they don’t manifest in some form, they may have kicked the bucket.
I recently wrote an article that touched some already sensitive, teetering on raw, nerves. In the article, -‘Why education teaches us to fail’, I flirted with, – what the point of education is, or rather, should be-
I am kind of feeling like I should go ahead, and have some kind of an affair with the subject.
Well, it seems like the gods themselves are hungry for an affair. I turn on my TV tonight and Sanjay Gupta of ‘Vital Signs’ is on CNN and is talking about Education, intelligence, creativity, how the brain works, and etcetera. On the program a young boy of five (5), in Singapore, has an IQ of over 145. Sanjay proceeds to explore different educational systems that fray from the norm and enables such a gifted boy to thrive. Singapore is an especially interesting case, because as we know, they really have no other resource, but education!
Many of these Educational systems that are progressive, attempt to, one, incorporate an individual’s learning trajectory with their core capacity to process information, and two, to marry soft education with hard education. One may describe soft education as all the elements necessary to your emotional and psychological growth, outside of your textbook subjects. Some of these new models of education go so far, as to do away with age-based learning. Replacing it with the individual’s capacity and readiness to learn. These structures consider individual needs and try to adapt the learning pace to the tempo of the student. An important element of many of these very successful attempts have included teaching some form of creativity, independent thought, the ability to take risk and very important, how to be resilient. As Sanjay puts it, ‘ creativity is intelligence having fun’.
In all of this, three words stand out for me. Number one is creativity; second, risk and the third, resilience.
When a professor was asked, ‘how do you teach creativity?’ his answer was exact, ‘ to teach creativity, is to ask questions that have varied outcomes’. This answer is a nemesis to the structure I was educated in.
When Britain colonized the world, and in fact, when any country was colonized, slaves or workers was for the taking. Key to remaining a master is to ‘teach’ your workers, not to ask questions, and where questions come up, the answer is very simple and doesn’t usually leave room for further questions. Outcomes are not varied for the slave. Action, reaction, consequence are very clear. You are a slave-you give birth to a slave. You run- you are killed, you steal- likely whipped or hanged. One did not have to use the imagination. That would have been too much work for the slave mind. Creativity was the domain of the masters.
Going to school, I had no right to question what I was taught. In fact, the system is designed for me to take it in, find a way to vomit it almost exactly as it went in, god forbid the stomach processes it! And then like the men in Black, I proceeded to forget.
Thus, we don’t question our parents or teachers much. Educators who themselves, are rusty from lack of updating their skills, shiver at the thought of looking foolish, when asked a question they don’t have a ready answer to, or a question that might have varied outcomes. When instead, they should be taking the opportunity to learn, open their minds and that of their students. Our teachers are also victims of the same system; a system that can count on my generation as well to propagate it.
When you are hungry and you have huge responsibilities, risks, and innovation and grand thoughts of entrepreneurship does not come readily to you. One cannot risk questioning the systems. One cannot risk questioning leadership or authority figures. The result is that we have very little inventions or patents. The sciences are not explored; entrepreneurship is mostly entered into on a need-to basis. Those brave enough to do it, face an uphill battle within a structure that is designed to frustrate the independent mind.
We come out of school with outdated skills sets that the work community finds useless. Our attitude to work is apathetic and we look to our masters to tell and give us the solutions like manner from heaven.
At a Ted Conference, the respected educator, ‘Ted Robinson’ said ‘creativity is as important as literacy’
The question of resilience is an interesting one. In my many travels, I have struggled to try and appreciate the pain of a well fed, educated and entitled individual, as opposed to the hungry, instinct and survival driven pain of those of the other side. I remember sitting in class one day and listening to someone cry about their ‘pain’ and thinking to myself ‘oh, you have no idea!’. But here is the thing, I have come to realize, that resilience is as much about ‘ the not giving up. ‘ as it is about ‘giving up!’ and its got nothing to do with the level of suffering, as it has to do with the ratio of learning. If you are confused at this point, I am even more so! Simply put, your badge of suffering is not proportional to your ability to be resilient. In fact, it can have the exact opposite effect.
You are broken down, you quit easily, your slave and poverty mentality becomes imbedded, and thus, you are grateful for the crumbs that get thrown at you. When you get the opportunity, you will steal to survive, and steal, just for the sake of it. You will grab, you will cheat when given authority. You will play dirty and then go to church to seek for forgiveness… you will pray to the god that looked at your suffering and fed on it… and you will continue to beg for more. Because that is the only thing you know how to do… the battle, is the battle of the mind, and make no mistake, for in our case, it is a losing battle!