- History. My ancestors were barbarians. From immemorial times, they have killed, plundered, coveted, destroyed and trashed. They have waged wars, endlessly, showing that greed and cruelty are two of mankind’s main assets. So to make sure all this History is retained and passed on, our education system rolls its students in it thoroughly, day after day, year after year, insuring they are properly branded and labeling them psychologically as the descendants of the beasts. We are told to be proud of the blood that stains our path. Never once is a moral judgment made on past actions. It’s all studied in the name of science, as a curiosity, as an ongoing experiment and a collection of dates and heroes – because no matter what they did to mankind, they are all famous. Napoleon, Hitler, Alexander the Great, Columbus, Socrates, Da Vinci, Attila, Custer, what’s the difference? Good, bad, they’re all historical figures, they make a speaker’s eye shine. Not once did a history teacher take a minute to pause the lesson and show us history repeating itself in the form of a present war, some unnecessary greedy killing for oil or money or diamonds, live, somewhere on the planet. Not once were we told that the butchers we are should become farmers. It’s not part of a history class. With only peaceful dates to remember, history teachers would be like a crowd without any sensationalistic newspapers to read. Bored.
- Conformism. My first point leads to the second. History was taught, like every other topic, in carefully arranged classrooms, row after row of perfectly aligned tables and chairs. Every student had the same desk, the same books, in some cases the same uniform, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives the formal education.” Albert Einsteinand uniform behaviour was expected. At the beginning of the year, the entire class would be sent out to buy the same exact supplies, no deviation allowed – type of pencils, color of binders, ruler size, everything was orchestrated to the smallest details, in the name of conformity. Then throughout the year, great efforts were made by the teachers to keep that conformity up. Vincent, can’t you do this like everybody else? Shame! As students we were being slowly trained to become perfect sheep, socially functioning mindless zombies with no desire for individuality, seeking only to belong and melt into the mass, finding approval and recognition from their peers by looking alike. Our society functions on mass control. Everything depends on how easy a population is to manipulate; politics, advertising, entertainment, fashion, retail, pharmacology, they all thrive on their ability to influence an audience via the media, convincing minds and hearts that they must do like everybody else in order to be happy and fulfilled; and all that started on my first day in school.
- “Can do better”. One of the most common comment that appeared on the monthly student report sent to my parents was “Vincent is lazy. He has potential but could do better.” Given that I was usually in the top quarter of the class, I got used to it. It wasn’t bad. I was good, and probably could have been better. But my parents were satisfied with it because they focused on the word “potential” rather than “lazy”. God bless them. The school, however, never once bothered to teach me how to actually become better, how to use that potential. It never pushed me to go the extra mile, to leave the pack behind and do something greater, on my own. It had to stick with point 2. The teacher’s role was very simple: rate the students’ performance, write it down on a report and pass it on to the parents. Hands wiped, job over. The parents would mysteriously make it happen, they would use their parenthood to metamorphose this potential into a reality. But most parents see their kids less often than the school does, and they don’t have the opportunity to seriously educate their children socially – their education is family-oriented, and so it should be. It’s then left mostly to the schools to fit children into society. A society only progresses because of the remarkable efforts of very few. The majority of people are acting like a dead weight on evolution. It’s the few who pull us forward. Yet people in school never bothered to show me motivating examples of that leading pack of a few, to tell me I could make it there and be an architect of my own times. They merely said I could do better.
- Play the flute. I wanted to play the bloody saxophone. What else can I say?
- “School sucks”. We spend 10 to 20 years of our lives in some kind of school. It plays a major role into who we become as adults, and ultimately as shapers of our world. Yet there is overwhelming social acceptance that school years are among the worse we have or will go through. It is in school that we are taught the hard way to accept our faith silently and lower our heads, and do “it” because “it” has to be done. We then go into life and settle for more of the same; we accept less than perfect family situations, take a job we don’t like and go through our existence thinking there must be something better, without ever really seeking it. It doesn’t have to be that way. School must evolve into the best time of our life. It must become a real cradle, a place where creativity is unleashed and potential nurtured and exploited, a time during which kids have fun discovering who they are and what they will accomplish. Finding out about their differences and how those will serve the greater good by bringing in diversity. Learning about past mistakes and being shown how to correct them. Not allowed to settle for less than the best. School must change if we are to.
Coming next: “5 things I wish school would have taught me instead“.