Change education; change the world: the whys.

Now’s not a good time to post anything. With the exams looming, and by looming I mean they start in less than 24 hours, I shouldn’t be here blogging.

Scratch that. Now’s the best time for this particular post. I’ve always had some alternative opinions about education and systems of “meritocracy” but recently, after a friend’s recent departure [from the world of men], I’m convinced that I must, I MUST, do something about this if at all humanly possible.
Not that the friend was particularly inspiring; he was certainly happy-go-lucky….point being he passed away and when I think about it, and I know a lot of you would like to disagree, I don’t feel he may have lived his life as he might have REALLY wanted. I’m NOT judging him, I’m not saying he was wasting time when he was around, I’m simply stating that just because everyone does it nowadays, the good ol’ rote information-grinding for the good part of a lifetime in the formerly best part of a lifetime, doesn’t mean we have to accept the bullshit as normal and pretend there is no alternative because there is nothing wrong. There is everything wrong and I’d like for someone to agree with me by the end of this post.

Education is important. Education made us come this far. Education will see us outlive the planet [and hoho regardless of mankind’s fate, at this rate, the planet’s is sealed], and if we’re lucky, eons beyond that. However it will be noticed that Science was always advanced in steep steps, not gradual ramps. It always took a small minority in a localised time period to quickly add and build on to a certain field [or open up a new discipline of study] and then there’s a long lull whereby nothing ever happens but lots of research and confirmation of previously accepted hypotheses. Point being not everyone being educated in Science will end up contributing in a major way [or even in a minor way].
Do I mean, we only teach Science to a lucky few? Hell no! Who are we to decide who’ll change the world and who won’t? I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that most of the achievers [in ANY field, not just Science] are people who are genuinely interested in that and nothing else. This is their hobby, their passion. Again, not ALL people with passion get to succeed in their chosen vocation, but they sure as hell will be more likely to.

Which brings us to problem number one. The main reason people even get a degree these days, let alone apply to or dream of prestigious varsities and courses in really niche disciplines is the hope of finding a good job. Good job equals good money. Yay, comfortable life. And then AFTER all this is settled, dicussions about what exactly contributes to job satisfaction can begin. Of course, by that time it’ll be too late.
Anyway, why good education equals good job in the first place? Oh they call it meritocracy. It is a system of infallible fairness. Because we all know academic exams are the true test of a non-retarded person’s ability to function in society. Right.
Well, to be fair, just because you make it into a accredited degree course, and verily happen to graduate with decent scores, doesn’t mean you’re automatically guaranteed to hit the top. In fact it doesn’t even mean you’ll have the chance to. It’s just a ticket; as per the system now, it’s just a ticket into the skilled workforce [ideally].
And for the people who didn’t make it to the comfortable life in the first place? They’re of course rejected into the subpar self-improvement system…and are promised, if they work hard, they’ll make it to the top of their own league of “rejects”. Of course, again, you may quote outstanding CEOs who don’t even have a college education, and I recognise them all [including my own deity, Steve Jobs] but just as almost everyone with a degree is most probably middle-class, these “rejects”, [cos we all know if they can’t even do some dumb shit exams, they’re probably good-for-nothing right? Wrong!], just barely make ends meet.
And I saw how you treat the “rejects” firsthand in NS. As if passing some national level public exams automatically promotes you to that master-race where other humans’ value is shit or nothing, depending on how useful they are to you. Let’s not point any fingers shall we?

And that’s problem number two, your meritocracy as it stands now automagically excludes the masses and guess what, other than pale substitues and one hit miracles, nothing else seems to be REALLY available for them.

This problem is vastly magnified by the support from capitalism [the economic version of survival of the fittest], encouraging the masses to aim for better jobs, thus forcing the masses to constantly try and one-up each other and at some point in the recent past, one of these distinguishing factors was a university degree, and wow what have we now? Too many people running around with a piece of paper in their hands and you know it’s at the point where even THAT doesn’t mean anything anymore.

Of course I would urge the humble reader to look beyond sheltered shores, and look at countries where having a B.A just barely qualifies you to be a road-sweeper. And if that’s not bad enough, it’s justified in those countries that only the “rejects” from all the other, “more prestigious” [read: money-earning] courses take these looked-down-upon BA courses in the first place. Ok I notice three issues here.

1) How can education in any one field be less valuable than education in some other? if that’s is really the case, you’re not teaching/learning it right. What I’m really asking is, how can ANY kind of information be looked upon as non-valuable? When even the lamest of the lame home videos are given the boon of redundancy in the age of YouTube, and we’re that much better off for it, why and how can people still argue that some information is more valuable than other information?
If I may be so bold, I’d even suggest a new hypothesis, since human knowledge is only propelled due to the conviction in some way that the universe is knowable in a reductionist way [every li’l bit helps yo], no information cannot be quantised and be assigned an arbitrary value. To do that would be criminal. [Now all we need is a LOT more bandwidth, and more efficient filesystems :P]

2) Is it true only the “rejects” are in these BA courses? No one else was genuinely interested in these subjects?
If that’s the case, then that means the countries in question are going to have an imbalanced economy. Or indeed, an imbalanced intellectual population. So not only are the masses denied proper education, the ones who do manage to get an education can’t really advance that particular nation on all fronts. That’s exactly what we need; developing nations with too many professionals and not enough theorists. And we’re not even talking brain drain yet.

3) And if the above is true, then is it to be hastily assumed that those who ARE in the “prestigious” courses are there due to interest? Or was it solely because they COULD get in?
Which is even more frightening. Professionals who don’t actually give a shit.

And that brings us to problem number 3. Our current system already has so many gaping problems, and being the merry humanitarian souls that we are, we feel the urgent need to enlighten still unafflicted! Spreading the joy or sharing the sorrow I wonder.

On a related note, problem number 4. It’s not necessary for education to mean globalisation *cough*Westernisation*cough*. I’ve seen this work in Thailand so hats off to them! [It’s not perfect but it’s a good start]

And problem number 5: if ALL that wasn’t bad enough, it sucks that for the most part, teaching is a job in the civil sector. How to tell people don’t take it only for the job security? And how do we know they actually want to teach and make a difference? And screw you [certain teachers I’ve had]! Difficult children are students too [after being on the receiving end of tyranny in the classroom for years] [and no! it wasn’t always my fault!!!] The last thing we need is teachers who judge students [especially at the lower levels] or WORSE: streaming in primary level [local trend]
What’re you thinking???

And when we’ve fixed all that, one more remains. All the above mainly focuses on fixing what’s already in place. That would be practical yes? But we need to have an ideal. Something to head towards. Something to which a compromise can be decided upon. And this is my ideal.
Higher education for the sake of higher education, and NOT anything else. Not money, not jobs, not profit. For skilled labour, go to vocational schools [not unlike local polytechnics; that are also accredited and not looked down upon]. I’m looking at you Switzerland. And by the way, before you start smirking about anything less than university education, ask any graduate with a job and he’ll tell you all he needed for the job, he learned FROM the job [for most jobs]. ‘Nuff said. Remember what I said earlier. A degree nowadays is JUST a bloody ticket.

Ok…That was a long exposition on the problems I see…feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. And pray tell if you have any insights on the matter. I must confess again, that I have an exam tomorrow, so I’ll postpone the next part [my humble proposed solutions]. And this post will be updated most probably, so check again.

“If you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, if you would do as I would, then come, join me!” 🙂

P.S: As I was saying, when I said he may not have lived the life he wanted, I’m really talking about any and all of us. Given free choice AND no penalty, would we ALL force ourself to be in this grindcore school system for 18years [or longer] non-stop? Given a choice, I don’t know if I’d even be in a degree course; just for the sake of of getting a piece of paper. I know definitely that I’d still be interested in science and learning on my own, just not within a regimented system with a material reward. I think learning is its own reward.

P.P.S: In this article I define Science as anything that can be studied in a structured [and NOT necessarily regimented] way. So, even disciplines like economics, psychology, history, music theory fall under my broad definition of science. In general, by science I mean anything that CAN possibly be “studied” with concepts.

As for Art, which I define here as performing art [which may also be sciences, but also require an audience], I think Art [again] should be an interest-based venture. And like Science, I truly believe that people are synergistically a funtion of their genes [among other things] and sure enough just as some are inclined to the sciences, some are naturally in tune with the creative process, and true talent is when you have aptitude in both. I wish…sigh.
However by my very definition of art, regardless of any effort to prevent it, the audience will institute a meritocracy of sorts and this cannot be prevented. I can only hope that the talented and skilled [there’s a difference, mind] are rewarded for their efforts, and the rest aren’t discouraged from trying if this is their interest.

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