Note: This post contains a story. You can read it at the end.
The article I came across made my day. The author has echoed my thoughts so exactly.
I love learning, but I’ve never excelled in school. That might sound like a contradiction, but it isn’t.
High school isn’t an inspiring place. Not because of the students, but because of the credentialing process. Most schoolwork is for the sake of completion and rote learning.
In English class, our literature tests asked us to state the context and significance of four passages. However, “significance” really just meant “literary device.” In other words, writing in “Plot development” was sufficicent to get full credit. I could have done so much more than that, but I never did.
Why should students do more than asked when their education isn’t their responsibility? Why should they be expected to know what “more” is? Why should students let other people be accountable for their education?
I am very repulsed by the kind of importance that parents and students give to traditional education. This is not to say that traditional education is useless but it does a lot of harm while adding little value to students life. When we give inordinate amount of importance to it, we end up doing more harm to it than benefit.
Looking back at my own education I realize that learning was something I deeply cherished. I tried to learn everything I could learn. As a kid I remember even asking my barber, where he mastered his skills. (He was quite thrilled at my question and told me almost his entire life story.) My parents and well wishers always forced me to spend a lot of time studying the subjects taught in school. I was bright and I could score a lot with very little efforts, but somehow I could never relate to what my parents told me to do. Despite my lackluster academic performance I feel I have a tremendous faith in my knowledge and skills, I am confident that I am capable of taking roles and responsibilities that many of my smarter peers will shy away from taking. What makes me different is not what I learned in school but what I learned outside it on my own.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that one should not give importance to school, we should all study in school but with the following rule. Each student should learn some basic things in school and s/he should be good at it. Once those skills are acquired the student must widen his/er horizons and try to learn beyond that. For slow students achieving that common minimum level itself will take up a lot of time. Say Ram who is an average boy studies2 hours a day and is able to grasp the basic concepts. Sita who is a very smart girl spends 2 hours a week and whatever she listens in class is enough for her to score good marks. Now what Ram and Sita do in rest of the time they get will determine their future and not their grades in school.
Unfortunately now a days students are pressurized to score more. Let us assume that 55% is the average mark. Ram gets 55% after spend 2 hours per day. He is forced to study 6 hours a day and he reaches 70%. Sita gets 55% without any efforts but then she is forced to study for 6 hours a day and she scores 80%. Later she is pressurized even more to score 90% and she ends up spending all her time studying. Thus the time both Ram and Sita doing other stuff is almost zero. Many times we see that the brightest minds end up joining TCS & WIPRO and the average minds end up becoming successful entrepreneurs and so on. My theory is that average students face less pressure and hence they get more free time to engaging into activities that their hearts tell them to.
Mentality of parents has become so sick that even Summer is considered to be an opportunity for Personality Development!
I can not be less thankful to my parents for having a house full of books. My parents encourages almost activity I tried to get into. From cricket to painting. I could break all my toys and then with my father would get busy fixing them. We never called an electrician or plumber to our home all that stuff was done by my father while I closely observed. There was no false sense of discipline in my house and hence I could break almost anything I wanted.
Secondly, the house was full of books. From my mother to grandmother everyone read a lot of books. My love with books started when I started scribbling with pen on all the books. Letters made no sense to me so I just liked to draw shapes on those books. Had my parents punished me because I spoiled the books, I guess I would have built fear of writing but they never said anything instead handed me more colorful pens.
One very important part of my childhood was Chandoba. Though a kids monthly, the language and stories were very sophisticated. We subscribed it for almost a decade. There is one story in that book I still remember.
Gopal was a bright kid. He smartness was judged at very young age. Villagers advised Gopal’s mother that village school was not good enough for him hence he should be taken to the far off Gurukul where a Guruji thought various subjects with mastery. Upon watching the boy and talking to him for some time Guruji realized that the boy was indeed exceptional. He accepted Gopal as his pupil. His mother returned to the village leaving Gopal in the Gurukul.
Some days passed. On normal teaching hours Guru use to ask Gopal to do other work and when other students use to be free, Guruji use to teach Gopal. Other students got upset with this discriminatory treatment. They asked why Gopal was getting this special treatment. Upon hearing this, Guruji said, “Gopal is brighter than all of you. He needs to learn at much faster pace. So I teach him separately. In fact he is the second best student I have taught so far.”
While Gopal was happy to hear Guruji’s opinion about him, he was also upset to know that he was second to someone. He was not really jealous types. But he was curious and finally there was someone who could compete with him. So he asked Guruji more about who was the THE BEST student. Guruji understood Gopal’s feelings and with a smile he said. “Some years back I taught a student as bright as you. His name was Naresh.”. “But Guruji, if he was as bright as me why does he gets to be THE BEST? should we be equals”? Guruji sensed that Gopal was in mood for competing with someone so he told Gopal, “Yes he was just as bright as you but I haven’t observed you enough to rank you better than him. Why dont you ask me the same question when we are done with your education? I am sure I will be able to answer it better than”.
Gopal studied very hard. He left no stone unturned in making his Guruji happy. His grades were the finest. He was truly the master of everything that Guruji taught him. The D day arrived. Gopal was finally done with his education. He was all eager to ask Guruji the question he wanted to settle for last so many years. Guruji too had not forgotten about it. When Gopal repeated his question, Guruji said. “Gopal, you are great but I still believe that Naresh was better student than you.”
Gopal was devastated. He could not believe that someone could be better than the standards he had set. He said, “Guruji, pardon me but I have not failed in anything you have taught me, is there test any task that Naresh could not do? You need to convince me how he is better than me.”
Guruji said, “There is one task that Naresh could not complete, if you shown the smartness to complete it, I will definitely call you a better student”.
Guruji explained the task. In a distant village there lived a washer man, carpenter and a blacksmith. All of them were well known for theirs skills and unique ways of doing their work. They were so good at it, that they had made a fortune out of that work. But there was one darker side to it. All of them were complete illiterates. So, the challenge before Gopal was to educate all these three. Since Naresh had failed in this tak, if he could educate any one of them, he could prove himself better.
But is so happened that all these three gentlemen were very averse to a written word. They treated Gopal with great respect and were willing to listen to his arguments but in return all they use to say was “I have everything I want. I am rich, I derive great pleasure in what I do and I see no need to waste my time on learning alphabets. If I need to learn, I will just hire 10 clerks to do the work for me.”
After spending several days convincing them, Gopal realized that it was impossible as these three people had made up their mind. They were very co-operative on all other aspects except for learning. They were very focused on their work an did only that.
Gopal returned back to Guruji and apologized. But as a final argument he said since Naresh too had failed in this task, he should at least be considered equal to him.
Guruji smiled at Gopal and said “No Gopal, Naresh was indeed better than you by an inch. You will ask me why? It is true that Naresh did not manage to teach those three people, but when he returned he had learned all those three skills from their respective masters. It is that spirit that set him apart from you.”
Having heard that Gopal was fully convinced that Naresh was indeed better. After all he was a wise man too. He left the Ashram in search of a better life with this final lesson.