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26 August, 2010


Well it's back to school for a lot of folks and it's got me thinking about the whole education thing. As I went through school I typically achieved average to above average grades. I was often interested in the subjects, did my homework, studied for tests etc... but I was never really that motivated. I was much more interested in discussing and analyzing topics than I was in simply remembering all the important facts and regurgitating them on exam day. In fact, I think people like me are at a distinct disadvantage in the current education system because a) we sucked at most sports and b) exams simply tested our ability to store and retrieve information.

I really think it's a major flaw in the system that is reliant on achieving test scores so that funding can be allocated. Why couldn't we be tested by, say, hosting a debate on a chosen topic, leading the class in a lecture, explaining your use of art techniques and inspirations...etc.. For those of us that second guess ourselves in exams and can't remember the exact date of every battle in the reign of Henry VIII this would be much more appropriate and fitting.

One has to look at the actual end result: What skills do you want these children to have when they finish education? Sure, they are now great at remembering the shopping list they left at home but can they put forward a reasonable, informed argument about why they believe in freedom of religion, or gay marriage, or why the sky is blue? Are our children leaving the school system curious about the world and open to critical thinking about their lives, or did athleticism or brain power allow them to achieve the highest accolades in school but leave them closed minded and inwardly-focused?

In some fields simply remembering the facts is actual very important. Such as the laws of physics and math. Engineering pretty much relies on absolute truths. However, I completed a degree in the human science field which pretty much leads to working with people yet I found myself sitting with at least 4 or 5 people in every class who lacked even basic people skills. These same people usually aced every exam though. They had neat folders with coloured tabs marking each different topic, they brought Dictaphones to every lecture, they asked endless, pedantic, questions when it came to test time or writing a paper. "How long should it be?" "How short can it be?" "Can I use a pencil?" - demanding guidelines and rules in a field where the papers are as long as it takes you to explain the topic adequately.

Unfortunately, I see these people out in the field now. Working with people yet seemingly mystified by them. Some even seem to be angered by others, and without that ability to look inwards or ask "why?" they have walked into the cage of their profession without thinking to check the combination lock on the door.

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