Friday, May 15, 2020

Modern Education ⚡

Knowing everything but understanding nothing.
This week I was frustrated, but beyond being frustrated with myself for the grade I had gotten in a particular exam — which was actually relatively good — I was frustrated with how my learning was being measured and the educational focus of most of my courses. In short, learning is measured on how many errors teachers can pull out of us, through cheap tricks and subjective answer choices, as well as how closely you answer the essay question to what the teacher wants to read.
Instead of spending our time through dialogues that would deepen our comprehension of the topics/themes explored in a book, we spend hours writing summaries of each chapter, the biography of the author, vocabulary words etc. useless things in my opinion, that to make matters worse, are going to be graded based on the beauty of our handwriting rather than the content of our ideas. But Spanish is not the only course that suffers this syndrome, actually most do. For example, on essays for my philosophy course — in which I have vastly improved — it seems that it is more about how many terms you can jam in paragraph rather than the development of an idea and no matter how great your analysis is you’re not quite at a 7 level if you missed a small, even irrelevant detail. Even in math class — where I have a 7 — I notice that it’s senseless how one's level of comprehension can't be considered absolute (excellent) if you make a tiny mistake in the process of answering a question you actually understand.
It's senseless that learning is measured in the quantity of human errors you may end up having during an exam rather than ones ability to apply knowledge in distinct, real-life circumstances. However, beyond making me reflect upon the prominent futile aspects of our educational system I started to reflect about the kind of people and culture that it cultivates.
It didn’t take me much time to realize that modern education produces individuals with no sense of identity and introspection, whose sense of value comes from the grades earned and the college accepted into, rather than the profoundness of one's preoccupations, moral character and individual purpose. Don’t get me wrong, pushing one's limit, excelling academically and being a dedicated learner are all brilliant things that everyone should aim for, however it is the reason or the “why” we do them for, that education has lead us all to get wrong.
At this point you might be thinking: “what the hell is this guy talking about?”, or “where does all this come from?” and before I continue I just want to put it out there that exceptions always exist… though few.
Now let me put it to you this way: What is the purpose of education? To learn. So if learning is the purpose of education, it must mean that millions of students around the world “bust their ass” in school because they have genuine desire to maximise their learning. However, both you and I know it’s not true. So what then is the purpose or goal of education? Isn’t achieving academic excellence the reason why students exploit themselves? If so, it would be safe to say that the true purpose of modern education is to achieve that so desired — highly praised level of academic perfection. This, however raises a new question: Why do students exploit themselves to achieve such high standards? It might well be because of their genuine interest in learning or their personal satisfaction in excelling, however, the most common reason is to be accepted into a prestigious university. But then again: why is there such an immense desire to attend the most prestigious university, why do students sacrifice so much to do so? One might answer, because my parents force me to, the other because a good university will lead me to a good job and another — which will most probably be said by no one — because my sense of value derives from attending a prestigious university and receiving both academic praise and the tacit admiration from those around me.
We must understand that if one’s sole purpose is to satisfy parental expectations then one’s self-esteem and sense of identity can be easily sabotaged by forces beyond one’s control. Also, we must understand that becoming a billionaire and exploiting all the lavish pleasures that money can buy is still half of the picture, as momentary happiness won’t give you the level of fullness that conscious beings yearn for. Finally, academic praise is just a momentary illusion of worthiness if and when lacking a sense of greater purpose and identity.
It is rare though, to find someone with a unique pick, or a well thought out reason for choosing a specific career path and college or someone who really has a sense of purpose in their lives (beyond personal satisfaction and pleasure exploitation) or even someone who truly wants to leave their footprint in this world and has a genuine care for it. I literally once met a girl who told me that she wanted to study economy because she was “good at math and sh@*.”
The picture might start forming by now; education has filled our minds with courses useless to our lives, it has slowly engraved in our subconscious that ones worth derives from achieving academic excellence and it has made us believe that the sole reason we must excel is to get into the best universities in the world. But it has never asked us how fulfilled we are going to be with our lives once we have reached our deathbed.
So yes, I congratulate you education for creating the blueprint of the ideal student: a young over-achiever with volatile self-esteem and absent moral character who truly knows nothing about himself nor what in the world they want to do with his life.
I could ramble on with analogies and allegories to support my arguments and to further understand where I am coming from, but that will just bore you to death so let me answer the one question left: so what?
Now this one's big and it could take me thousands of words and paragraphs to grasp it entirely, to explore its whole depth and dwell in all its possible angles. But for simplicities sake let me give it to you straightfoward— and forgive me for my ignorance for I could be entirely wrong — : education today focuses on knowledge and skill, developing them to a point which is beyond what is necessary to thrive, however, it seems to have forgotten what we’re striving for and as we reach our 50's, feeling empty inside, we blindly try to cease our hunger with any damn thing we find around. Now this may be a long-shot, but I bet if education focused more on developing the individual's character we might as well finally free ourselves from this endless cycle of spiritual poverty.
Ps. And no, I am not your typical resentful under-achiever hating on the system, it’s quite the opposite as I have found myself victim of such symptoms I now so despise.


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