This is something I wrote for an essay competition, which quite obviously I lost. So, here it is…
Don’t you think we are like brooks, some of us become rivers and some of us dry and die to a trickle? If knowledge and experience is a source of water, education digs up the brook and either lets it burgeon into a river or die to a trickle.
A few years ago, when I was younger, naïve, idealistic and more inane in general, I thought education is the cure-all for every malady of the society and the world. I still believe so, but the facets of that belief have changed, radically. Let it flow poetically:
O nature of the human brain,
Contrive a paradox,
That builds paranoia of the building kind
And makes men confident to remove paranoia of nature
That is what it precisely is. My idea of education is paradoxical. To me education should cultivate a constructive paranoia. I would define it simply – ‘take everything with a grain of salt’. Paranoia is a tool, an innate instinct that along with curiosity has led us to this place, this higher, hallowed ground. Einstein came up with exquisitely brilliant theory of relativity using the conduit of suspicion of Newton’s motion theories. So, paranoia, when combined with curiosity works wonders in education, especially in science education. Sure, belief is an important facet of nature and Einstein and other luminaries had it au natural. But a good education needs to instill a rationale that treats everything with a healthy amount of suspicion but can promptly reach correct conclusions. How do we do that?
I would say a healthy concoction of a liberal arts education and specified knowledge would do the job. But we are treading a dangerous line here; tipping into anyone territory would mean an overdose in philosophical meanderings and overtly technical jargon. When I say liberal arts, I mean an instruction that acquaints a student with the tenets of learning and the liberty of an education. A primer of such sort is prevalent in institutions like Amherst and Reed College. It would suffice as a tool that teaches students ‘how to learn’. Learning to analyze, observe and infer should be given precedence over spoon-feeding technicalities to the audience. This technique is universal in the sense that it is applicable to all tenets of the student hierarchy.
It is easy to kill a brook. Just try to straighten its meanders and it will painfully dry up. Education shouldn’t be akin to fascism; rather it should be jovial and interesting. Let me illustrate this. Mathematics is ostensibly the most dreaded subject. Why is it associated with grades and canes when it is the most enlightening subject of all? The students are force-fed information and practice means pain. How about first learning to analyze and understand how to solve problems and later on shift the focus to scores? I consider scores to be a travesty of education. The focus on 2-3 hour exams can easily be shifted to assessments based on classroom performance, discussion fervor and even impromptu conference style questions. This will hugely allay the stress on exams and make education an enjoyable experience.
As new ideas are officiated every year, we are at the brink of a data explosion, so proper handling and inference of this data is extremely important in education. Einstein had to study less ‘ready-made’ physics than we have to do, Newton, decidedly less. No doubt they went on to be creators. So, it is time for the inception of more efficient tools of education. I can think of no better platform than an online one. Organizations like Khan Academy, EdX, Coursera and MIT OCW have been integral in dispensing high quality education to suitors. The best part about them however is that they encourage cohorts of enthusiasts to come together and foster teamwork and it needs to start at a grassroots level. In a luminous future, I can see the shift from, scores to a hands-on experience in education. The focus should shift to enhancing the quality of education rather than haphazardly increasing the literacy rate, the latter will follow.
Let us turn into brooks
And flow across the azure sand
O mighty shovel turn us
Into the mighty river over the horizon