Monday, 24 June 2013

Society, you're a crazy breed

Friends and I have started to work on a project. We are not entirely sure what it is or what each of us wants from it, but at the centre is this idea: "play your part". Being in academia is a lonely place where one trades in egos and needs to constantly side-step conversations because no one ever says honestly what they think. It is also an elitist space with people often presenting papers and speaking in such a way that the average Joe is clueless as to what they are actually saying. Maybe it's only me who does not understand.

It bothers me that being 'learned' is restricted to those that can afford learning. It is not like that everywhere in the world, but here (and I am assuming in many third world countries, which South Africa is not and still is, somehow) getting a good education often seems out of reach. I am not sure if the reason people don't demand a better education is because they are uneducated ; if the government preaches better education but does nothing to improve the system in order to keep the majority of the voters dumb and clinging to the ANC's 'liberator' persona; if many are simply not interested in learning, or if the concept of education in itself is wrong.

In the gym the other day I overheard two middle-class white ladies saying that the schools had failed their children because the kids were told that they were bad at a particular subject when in effect it was just the teacher's style of transmitting the information that was wrong. I don't know. I never liked our math teacher and thus also did badly in mathematics, irrespective of going to additional classes and trying to study. I still think that trigonometry and algebra were torture. But young people should also learn that life is not handed to you on a silver platter and that the average person is not great at everything. Finding one thing you are good at is already an achievement. I mean, I know I can bake decent cakes, but beyond that who knows what my strengths are.

Anyway. Back to project no-name. It really doesn't have a name. But the idea is to change the way academia works and to make learning more horizontal instead of hierarchical. Learning doesn't stop when you finish school/university/etc. Learning never stops. And I think that is what is fundamentally wrong with the education system here: it preaches that when you complete your matric or your degree or your diploma, you will get work with that and then you have stopped learning. But in the 21st century it is no longer plausible to believe you will be employed by the same company for your entire life, or that you will find a job doing exactly what you studied. Let's see if our project can succeed in helping to change the way society thinks of education and thus play our part.

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