On Education by Selma Kuqi
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On Education by Selma Kuqi

Leo Buscaglia famously said, “Change is the end result of all true learning.”

Considering this assertion, it should be noted that “to change” doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something wrong with the individual, or that something has to be fixed. As to why you get an education, there are many reasons; but you might agree with this one final thought: “You get an education to make you and life more interesting.” We’d like to hear how your education experience, in all its aspects, has changed you.

 There was a time  when  a child, that’s me, (undoubtedly many others should have been the same), used to have a heaven on earth: that unique little bookshop, at the corner of the street where she lived. There she would sense her heartfelt passion for books and  knowledge and she would indulge herself in it.  Children prefer being lost in their dreams or fairytales, world of books, rhymes, comics and much more as their first stage to getting to know the world that is beyond their physical senses, beyond their touch, smell and immediate sight. Consequently, the most interesting or even thought-provoking questions are posed at this stage: questions with so many “why-s” and “how-s”.  These innocent creatures long to learn something new in order to satisfy their own innate curiosity for comprehending outside world of meanings, words, images, for taking a splash in the ocean of knowledge. And their longing goes far beyond that. They want it “right here, right now”. There is a flame in that curiosity that the winds of being grown up can either blow off, or let it grow into a fire that will fuel life and power the enjoyment of development.

 

I have a vivid memory of the first time I posed an intriguing question when I was in kindergarten. Every time I meet my kindergarten teacher, she reminds me of that question and will always insist that she continues to feel proud when kids ask her such straightforward questions. However she did enjoy being asked questions and taking time to answer the children. It ss not that I remember any of her answers, they probably sleep somewhere in my subconsciousness, but I do remember the enjoyment of asking questions to someone who takes time to answer back, be it with a fable, a story, a laugh or things like that. Since that time, I could not help myself raising questions and setting on my quest for the answers. The very first thing, or rather a person, who would take my questions seriously and allow me time to ponder over them was Andersen, or more precisely his fairytales. By the virtue of the book, they seemed to have the whole time in the world to answer, wait, read again, receive another answer, many more answers of the type of the answers that are full of joy and daydreaming play that leads to smooth understanding.

Without being aware, the little child began the most adventurous journey of life.

 

It is said that people change but personally I am not sure if I should agree on this statement. without defining what “Change” is to each of us. I had never thought before how my life would have been without the continuous presence of elements that provided a stimulus that leads to starting  my journey towards education, which for me is also a spiritual journey. In my essay I would like to refer to the canonical books, that is classics of philosophy, knowledge, science, literature. Those books I read during the time I am the solitary inhabitant of my island and their teachings I dealt with during my journey.

Talking about education is complex as long as it has been a topic of intense debates between philosophers and intellectuals since ancient to modern times. In a world where most of the time is spent in public schools, schooling is difficult and stress-inducing, education should not be confused with it. It is my strong belief that formal schooling has little to do with positive change, whereas Education does have. Education is pure, is admirable. It is for someone who defies the angry threats of the authoritarian headmasters or teachers who are nothing but conformists. Being a conformist does not necessarily mean that you are behaving in a way that is correct or suitable. It might mean that the mainstreaming beliefs or popular understanding or even “common sense” is mistaken, and you do not possess the power to formulate your own opinion with the aim of exposing the truth.

 

Schools and universities are often called the places where education is delivered. Although an individual receives the fundamentals of education in school this is never enough. The flexible structure of education is established in a library, the place for which the child mentioned in the beginning of this essay dreamed about. Education is also received while someone is watching a movie or is talking to elder people or is listening to a farmer.

 

Leo Buscaglia stated wisely that change is the result of all true learning. While being a child I was taught to love school, and this is understandable for every pupil. But throughout my journey I was taught by Oscar Wilde that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. Schooling does change people, they become depersonalized, and depersonalization is one of the signs of burnout. Therefore, yes, I changed my opinion about where proper education can be accessed.

 

While you grow up you notice details and therefore severely suffer. For example, you comprehend that the education system is based on conformity. How bizarre would it have been to live in a world where people still believed the Earth was flat? If famous pre- industrial inventors who were part of intellectual elite such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton , Leibniz etc. had followed the scientific norms of their time, they would have never made crucial discoveries that impact our world today. As a person who is passionate about science, I believe that resisting conformity is important within the scientific community.

 

Unconventional beliefs were generally considered heretical. Being hopeless, elite intellectuals left university without a degree and turned their hand to private tutoring. One of them was Galileo Galilei who made this decision after studying hard for four years. During the time that he took private lessons, his short treatise, Cosmography , was written with the aim of teaching his students about the mysterious celestial bodies. It would take Catholic Church over three centuries to admit that Galileo had been right all along.

 

Despite the obstacles faced, there is no doubt that Galileo helped to establish science in the intellectual world. It is a testament to the men’s tenacity, and it continues to be an inspiration to people who admire science and believe in its beauty. The legacy of him and other scientists lives on even in the stars. Thus, the world does not need pseudoscientists who are nothing but human stupidity’s servants. Courageous representatives of human and natural sciences, whose opinion is not influenced, as never before, are vital for our society in order to escape from the growing darkness.

 

If you have the desire to dive into the encyclopedic knowledge then it can be faced everywhere, even while watching a movie. Firstly, I heard about Ibn Sina (Avicenna) while I was having Philosophy classes but believe it or not I learnt more about him when I watched the movie dedicated to him. In the movie, a Christian student of Ibn Sina took the most dangerous but even most unforgettable journey of his life towards the East with the aim of LEARNING. Even though it was not allowed to dissect a dead person, the student crossed the barriers in the name of education with a flying leap. The discoveries were groundbreaking. The student said to his supportive teacher: “Master, nothing is as it is in the books. Nothing.”

 

I have always been interested in issues that are related to education and while reading Noam Chomsky I could not agree more on what he said:  “Most schooling is training for stupidity and conformity, and that is institutional. There are plenty of people who do not want students to think. The high school teacher that tries to get students to think may find oppression, firing and so on.”

It is disgusting to listen to teenagers who give up on their dreams only because the job market is currently based on demand for workers who are employed in technology companies or several industries of the same kind.

In fact, I should highlight not to misunderstand the nature of the problem. There is nothing wrong to be passionate about science and technology, but people should not be forced to choose between being an architect or novelist, for example as a way to conform with what the ruling elite make us believe to be the real thing via their means of long term persuasion, public schooling, media and mass media, social networks, commercials and advertisements

 

Paraphrasing Chomsky again, mass education (or formal schooling as mentioned above) was designed to turn independent farmers into docile, passive tools of production. According to Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, two economists, the educational system is divided into fragments. The part that is directed toward working people and the general population is indeed designed to impose obedience (perhaps education about the kind of citizenship we are taught at schools???). Even the majority of teachers are conformists, understandably following the culture of the organization they com from and they work in). They are afraid to transmit their own knowledge and beliefs to students, the very best of them just drop hints about things that go wrong.

 

It is horrific to think about the data discovered by some psychologists in the United States. Depression has become a young person’s problem nowadays. While fifty years ago, the average age at which the first onset of depression occurred was 29.5, now the average age is between 14 and 15.There is no question that mental health in the school and university aged  population is increasing at an exponential rate. Although the causes of depression and suicide are complex, one of the factors according to experts might be related to the obsession with conformity in education systems.

We are asked to think critically but it is forgotten that there is no creativity in a place of conformity. It is pretended that creativity and critical thinking is valued in our society, yest they have always failed to measure it in the population. They have developed tools to measure illiteracy in information and technology, as surely it helps industries, but they have not been able (or not interested?) to measure the illiteracy in creativity and critical thinking.  The absence, the void of creativity is one of the greatest threats arising from our system of mass education, which is provided by governments in collaboration with commercial companies, which pretend to control the way we think and what we think about. In fact, they provide mass education not because they feel sorry about people who deserve but cannot afford a high-quality education, but because they want these people to be part of their workforce. A lot of examples from what happens in the real-life classrooms provide wholeheartedly support to this belief.

 

Creativity is not difficult to foster in learners, but the cost is a loss of conformity. Individuals who have a sense of empowerment in their own learning process enjoy a preference for challenging tasks, a higher sense of self-esteem, powerful and effective imagination, increased motivation toward school attendance, and higher grades. Almost exactly the opposite characteristics were listed by clinical psychologists when considering the problems associated with long-term conformity.

In order to overcome the obstacles that are being faced in the education system, which was supposed to change individuals’ mindsets, conformity needs to be recognized as a problem and to suggest solutions or other approaches to education that exist, but implementation of which is postponed or silently refused

 

In the liberal arts programs in particular, activism and ambition might conflict so that students must choose between writing what they think and getting the grades they want in the end. The question for many students has become not “What do I think?” but “What do they want me to write?” The intense competition for admission means that every grade and percentage point matters. As a result, students are implicitly encouraged to sacrifice their opinion for the results.

But the phenomenon is present even in scientific networks within education institutions. Students who affectionately study science should not be conformists as long as the answer is not the point but understanding what the problem actually is. In science, different theories can be presented but it is students’ responsibility to think critically and to demonstrate their own system of beliefs. I often ask myself why in our biology books no information is included about vivisection or general ethical concerns. In my opinion, we face problems of understanding and comprehending during difficult situations- and the recent pandemics and several controversial public issues are among the numerous examples- because of being scientifically illiterate, because our education system claims to promote science whereas in fact it is preparing the prospective conformist employees of industry of the ruling elite

 

The primary aim of studying science should not be to fuel up the economy. School science ought to be seen as a keyway of constructing citizens. Not everyone will be a scientist, but critical thinking skills can be at least offered in science lessons, which offer a lot of joy too. But this is not happening. In fact, our education system defines subjects related to science as the most difficult ones. What to expect from students? We still live in an era, in which instead of enjoying the education process, students have to withstand the pressure that is applied by educational institutions.

 

Students change and this is normal. Curriculums have to change too, and innovative approaches should be adopted. A curriculum designed to help ‘citizen science’ will require more than just teaching science. I should stress that an issues-led science curriculum on, for example, climate change, would still include the study of physics, and math’s, and medicine and literature and history and politics and much more. This approach is not about replacing science with sociology or philosophy, but rather mixing topics together for a full understanding. To some perspectives, this is more “scientific”.

All that is mentioned above has been learned through my real-life experience. I still continue my journey without even wanting to know where the final destination will be. I do believe that education (not formal schooling) is a journey in which the destination matters the least. Children radiate so much positivity and optimism, but it starts to fade when they grow up. It took me a while to realize that if a teacher had not taken me aside and said: “Come on, sit down, let’s talk. What do you think about this?”, I probably would not love formal schooling anymore.

 

All things considered, education is turned against itself, because of modern philosophy or because of the absence of moral philosophy. Paradoxically, originality is promoted in schools and also there the old, familiar thing that is overlooked   is not allowed to be seen as something new. We are not allowed to enjoy the wonders of books or even to ponder the extreme mystery of birds in the sky. (I wonder if the teachers have read anything about Abraham Lincoln and his famous letter about his son, be it scientifically true or a legend).  We are not allowed to stand publicly for our own ideas. We should follow the crowd because everyone else is doing. They are preparing the conformists not citizens, and when conformity interferes in education then the reality becomes brutal. Our generation speaks with one voice. Our lively individualities are being instantaneously killed.

 

However, it is for certain that if a student really desires it, they are able to endure punishments for the sake of learning. He /She will seek every advantage in keeping up with other clerks in excelling them. These students’ study with the fervor of the blessed or the cursed.

That was my story of ideas. To come back to where I started, the child who had a dream will always crave to learn something new. Maybe one day you will find her in a library. Her love for education will never change. When she will be asked: “After all this time?”, with her eyes full of tears she will proudly answer: “Always!”

Author: Selma Kuqi

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