Whenever I start writing an article I usually do a bit of Googling just to see who’s writing what and what other people’s thoughts are around the subject that I am examining. At the back of my mind, as I was about to enter the search words I was thinking about my own experience at school. I woke up every single day rearing to go. I couldn’t wait to get to school to learn. Haha – I wish! My time in school was spent figuring out how to fit in and not stand out – how to belong. It would have been early in Form two that I would discover that becoming the class clown would make you stand out but get you ‘in’ with the popular groups so that’s what I did.
In any event my first search unearthed this heading “Welcome to the School of Wonderful, Wonderful You” by Shannon Cuts about a course run by popular author Byron Katie. Sounds fabulous doesn’t it? This was the takeaway from that post: “When was the last time you appreciated yourself? Can you remember why? What did it feel like – living inside your own skin – and being truly known, appreciated, respected, and loved for who you are? How might your life be different if you lived that way on a daily basis?” I could certainly have benefited from this kind of thinking instead of trying to portray myself as someone I was not just to be liked by other students who weren’t really affected by my shape shifting one way or another.
Then I came across this tongue in cheek piece by Butler Shaffer called ‘The Schools are doing a Wonderful Job’ – “I sometimes grow weary listening to people complaining that the government schools are doing a terrible job. I have many objections to this horrid system, but I must give it credit for accomplishing its actual — but unstated — purpose, namely, to dumb-down the minds of people so as to make them unquestioning and obedient vassals of the established order. There is nothing so disruptive to the status quo as a society of self-directed, independent-minded people both capable of and insistent on informed, analytical thought. It has been the purpose of government schools to assure that such conditions do not arise; to continue to produce a society of capable workers but who, nonetheless, have passive and contented minds.” (He’s talking about government schools in the USA.)
I don’t believe that there are good schools and bad schools. I believe that what makes the difference are the people. There are, like in any other industry, those who are showing up, really wanting to make a difference in the lives of those they lead and there are others who are content following a curriculum minimally to ensure that no one notices enough to make a ruckus and drawing a salary at the end of the month – content with themselves that they didn’t really earn it.
What concerns me is something Mr. Shaffer said about thinking. Many business owners, while happy with their employees’ general performance often fret about their inability to process and THINK things through? Why is that? Once we have practiced a certain kind of behavior it is difficult to unlearn it so perhaps this lack of thinking and processing for ourselves starts way before we get into the work environment. And please don’t think this is a “let’s bash schools” exercise because it is not.
Parents too are responsible for the lack of “thinking” in kids. They do ALL the thinking because Jessie needs to focus on preparation for SEA or the other exam which was G.C.E. O’Levels in my day and I can’t remember right now <smile>. A child presents a question and rather than asking another question to get the child thinking – we provide the answer.
The other thing glaringly missing in the school education system, apparent only because of the results in the workplace of employees continuously asking for salary advances and living in cyclical debt is of course financial literacy. Sharon Lechter says “Why do we need financial education? Simply put, because it is one of the biggest, if not the biggest factor in helping a student be financially independent and successful after graduation. Isn’t that the exact reason we are sending our children to school? I doubt it’s solely for the pure value of knowledge at the expense of massive debt.”
I am willing to do my part in the ‘Thinking’ arena and have in my possession, programs targeting students, complete with workbooks etc. All I need are some willing volunteers as this cannot be a one man show. I have tried and failed to get it into a couple of schools only because we couldn’t seem to get the time right but the principals approached all thought it was a great idea. I cannot help with the financial literacy and education part because I too am in need of that learning however I do know that the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago have a program going into businesses and teaching employees about money and finance. Perhaps someone could consider the schools.
Eventually students are going to make up the workplace. If we continue as we are leaving out these essential “must haves” in school, we will just be introducing problems into our economic system that we simply cannot bear and really do not need!