I’m writing this on my birthday. When I ideally should have written this article at least a week back. And I wish I could say that like most creative people, I put off things till the last minute, but the truth is, I really don’t.
And so here I am, writing about something that I’ve been mortally afraid of, for as long as I can remember – education.
Education has always been an old enemy of mine. Like most kids my age, I hated studying. I had little ambition of being a teacher’s pet or even a school prefect for that matter, so there wasn’t really any incentive in me pouring over boring textbooks that I was told I needed to ‘by heart’ by the time the exams drew near.
The teachers in those days used this phrase a lot. ‘By heart’. It meant that we had to memorise everything, and then on exam day, puke it all over the answer sheets.
Now since my memory is worse than a goldfish’s (although recent research has now shown that goldfish, contrary to popular belief, have a pretty good memory), this whole by-hearting business didn’t really work for me.
By the time I read something the night before, I’d forget it the next day. And as you can imagine, with a memory like that, I barely managed to pass my exams. Which bothered my mom a lot, but not so much my dad, who was more concerned if I had learned to use cutlery, or learned to knot a tie and learned the finer things about ’80s rock music.
And because I was one day, essentially told by my class teacher, that I had to either pass my exams, or I’d be held back, I had to figure out a way to make that happen.
You’d think studying was the way to go. But then you didn’t know me. I was a rascal, and studying was never an option for me. And so, I had to turn creative in my approach.
I started off by observing my teacher grading his papers. I noticed that he’d read the first line, quickly scroll through the rest of the page, read the last line, and then mark the paper. This was probably because there were so many papers to grade, and time was limited.
So, here’s what I did. I wrote the correct first line. And the correct last line that made absolute sense. Then, in between the first and last line, I filled it up with lyrics from various Michael Jackson songs.
Long story short, I passed.
Now I’m not saying that’s the way to go. Not by a long shot. But I am saying that our education system needs an overhaul. And it’s already begun to happen. I have a daughter now, who’s in class 2. And the way she’s learning her subjects is very, very different from the way I learned mine.
She’s encouraged to think for herself, to do her own research and to come up with her own theories. It doesn’t matter if they’re wrong or right – the teachers are there to guide them in the right direction. But education institutes almost everywhere, have begun to understand that nothing good comes from ‘by-hearting’.
Creative kids have mostly been looked at differently. They’re the oddballs, the rebels, the ones who do things differently. But in today’s day and age, teaching a child how to think creatively should be as important, if not more, than teaching him or her the math tables.
What is education, but the constant pursuit of knowledge? And how can that pursuit be alive, if we’re taught not to question, and not to dig and not to find an easier, better way?
Look at Einstein, for example. Sure, he’s hailed as a man who changed the world now. But when he was young, he was no more than a rebel who wasn’t very impressed with the Newtonian laws of physics and wanted to see if there was another way.
Something he did, and which led him onto to discover the theory of relativity. But consider what would have happened if Einstein was told by all his peers, to blindly follow laws and principles everyone else was following. Our world would be very, very different.
Every single person is born with a seed of wild imagination, a flight of fancy. We all makeup fantastic stories as kids, and conjure up images that have never been seen or heard. Over time, that imagination takes a back seat, and logic takes over. As guardians of education and of the future generation, we have two choices that lie in front of us – to either fan this imagination so there are more Einsteins who live among us. Or to create an army of robots who go by command, and can’t think for themselves.
I think the answer’s pretty clear.
And now I’m going to cut my birthday cake.
About the author:
Bodhisatwa Dasgupta is Creative Consultant, Mad About Ed
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