The roots of education are bitter, but the fruits are sweet.
Actually, I do not know if Aristotle really gave this quote, but it seems appropriate to me. Unfortunately, what I witness today is that we all want an easy road to accomplishments. We want the sweet fruits, but do not want to work hard to earn them. We take a lot of things for granted, and one of them is Education. Poor thing has to tolerate so many abuses by the grumpy kids like me every day. Had someone subjected so many harsh words to a living person, he would have already killed himself.
This is not a sudden realization, but an observation of my last three years of graduation. Day in and day out I’ve seen people complaining about attending college. Almost every day I have seen students trying to distract the professors from doing their jobs. Simply because studies do not interest them. I have seen poor professors literally pull their hair trying to make 20-year-old so-called adults—who have voting power and are entitled to drive and drink and even get married—quiet in the class so that they could teach. The students who say that they should be given a right to do what they want, are the very same who do not possess the manners of how to behave in a class. Or how to talk to a person senior to them, be it a senior student or a faculty.
Our problem Number 1: We see a classroom as four walls within which we spend 8 hours a day for almost 20 years and not gain anything.
Reality: A classroom is a place where you get to meet and interact with people from different backgrounds, different cultures, and different places. It is an environment, a controlled environment one can say. Where we learn not just from the professor who is delivering the lecture, but also from the girl/boy sitting next to us. We get to hear their stories, learn from their experiences, teach them a thing or two ourselves. And get to know about different perspectives and ideologies that help us in broadening our own horizons.
We start seeing things from multiple frames of references, and the lines between right and wrong are sometimes intensified and sometimes blurred. Sometimes intensified, because we can clearly see what is right and what is wrong. Sometimes blurred, because ethics are really subjective. We get to realize that what we consider wrong might be right for someone else. And that it all depends on the situation.
Our problem number 2: We think that the subjects being taught to us are absolutely useless and we don’t need to study them.
Reality: Well, the reality goes to the conversations with my father. Once we were going to a dam near Hyderabad. On the way there, my father said I know exactly what is going on each one of your minds. My mother challenged him to tell what was going on in her mind at that time. Now, my father is no psychologist. He is an engineer who has never even studied psychology, but he could tell what was going on in my mother’s mind. When I asked him how he could do that, he narrated to me a story of Akbar and Birbal. I would not bother you with the story.
But the conclusion he gave was that in your life, whatever you read or study, will help you at some point or the other. Today you might not realize its value. You may not even see its use in the near future, but it would be useful somewhere, sometime. What good could the stories of Akbar and Birbal do to anyone? But they have been helping my dad in understanding the behavior and actions of people. From the stories of Munshi Premchand to Ruskin Bond, from why do we see a rainbow to why the sky is blue, from why the diamond is hard to break to why we can see light but not sound, from taxation to Indian Contract Act, from Maslow’s hierarchy to mergers and acquisitions, everything that is taught to us is of some help or the other. Nothing is a waste and nothing is useless.
Our Problem Number 3: If whatever is being taught in schools and colleges is easily available on the internet, then why do we need to go to college?
Reality: Sure internet has all the data in the world at your disposal. But do we really know what to read when? Would we even read every day, forget about learning new things? Would we channelize the hours of the day into productive tasks? Are we sure we would not be lazing around? I’m sure we would be lazing around. I’m sure we wouldn’t even know where to begin from.
Secondly, we cannot write an essay without learning the alphabets, without joining those alphabets to form words, without joining the words with the help of conjunctions and verbs and adjectives and punctuation marks to form sentences and finally bringing them all together to write that essay or that overwhelming story. We cannot calculate the interest we’ll be earning on our investments. Not without knowing the numbers, the operations and the formulas that people use to calculate things. Schools and colleges can only give us the foundation. They can only give us the raw materials with which we can create our masterpiece. What we make out of the resources given depends on us. Our professors cannot spoon feed us everything. They can give us directions, they can help us learn a handful of new things.
Our Problem Number 4: We see assignments and projects as additional burdens designed by the professors to torture poor little kids.
Reality: We crave to get real and practical learning. However, when the college gives us assignments and projects to learn something new that is out of the course or that would help us in applying the concepts studied in class in practical things, we don’t want to do them. If only we could see them as ways in which we get to learn additional things, completing them would not be a problem. And no one tells us to complete an assignment in a day. If we cannot sort out our priorities and distinguish between urgent and important tasks. We have no right to blame our professors for the workload. They work harder than us, teaching more than one batch, studying multiple things themselves before taking the class. And we crib about an assignment for which we get weeks to work on.
Our Problem Number 5: We feel that we do not have the freedom or the time to do what we want.
Reality: Well, with great freedom comes great responsibility. And seeing our behaviour in a class. It seems unlikely that it would be safe to allow us to do whatever we want. If people who are about to be graduates need someone on their heads constantly to monitor them, we don’t have the right to be on our own. We have all the time to do what we want to. If only we pay attention in the classes and stop procrastinating.
Because we do not pay attention to what we are learning, we fret before a test or an examination, pile up work, only to go on a bunking spree to complete all the tasks, or study or work upon one subject while the other is moving forward. We complain about pressure. Do we fail to realize that if we cannot sustain ourselves in a class of 60, then how can we hope to remain competitive in the world outside our comfort zones?
I do not say that there the education system is perfectly flawless. Of course, we need some changes. Before we debate about the changes required in education or criticize our teachers for their methods of teaching. Try to learn some manners, of how to behave and talk to people. Let us bring a change in our attitudes. Let us stop crying on small things and focus on the intention behind why something is happening. And let us behave in a responsible and mature manner. Maybe then education would not be as horrifying as it seems to us right now.
The Ugly Wall of Reality Between Education and Our Problems With It has been edited by Nidhi Shah