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Authenticity in Education

There is too much artificiality going on in the educational system.

We spend too much time on contrived problems. We feed kids mountains of information and force them to memorize these even if they could easily be accessed with a few taps or keystrokes. We induce very real stress by giving false importance to quizzes, exams and grades -- and yes, it is false because you don’t get grades in real life. It creates a very wrong picture of the world, that people are either “passers” or “failures” when in reality we experience cycles of both.

Education fails spectacularly because it refuses to look at itself in the mirror and admit that it has been a failure.

It has created an artificial world where kids enter almost automatically when they are around 4 or 5, and they don’t get to leave until they are in their twenties. This world tells them that their choices don’t matter; that they have to follow the schedule; they have to wear their uniforms and follow the prescribed haircuts; that what they want isn’t important -- at least not as important as the different subjects they are forced to study and pass, on the threat of being expelled or repeating a grade level. It ignores individual learning styles and rhythm, forcing everyone to learn everything in the same way at the same time.

Many maverick teachers who go in hoping to change or improve the system end up being sucked in and just going along with the flow. Or they may fight and flail for a while but they soon realize they are like a tadpole going against a tidal wave, and while they may make a small difference here and there, the huge machinery and inertia of the system steamrolls on unabated.

Even parents get trapped in this malevolent system, becoming its strict enforcers at home, forcing their children to do homework or take extra tutorial classes (as if the torture of school were not enough). Of course, this is all in the name of “doing it for their own good” or “for a brighter future” which is mostly a farce since technology is moving ahead so fast we hardly know what the world will look like a mere 10 years from now, much less prepare anyone for it.

Education does not give any real answers to the basic question that is in every student’s mind -- and I’ll bet it was even in your mind when you were in school. That question being, “Why do I have to learn this?”

It gives all sorts of rationalizations and justifications, and even if the student is unconvinced of its significance or importance in their life, would still force them to learn it, take an exam and pass it.

If there was even a sliver of authenticity in education, it would leave the students alone to discover what was really significant to them and to their lives, to equip and support them as they embark on that path of their own choosing.

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