As a parent, we hope for our children to be a certain something which is an amalgamation of the bits we love about ourselves, the parts we like about others and the ideals of the world around us. As a decent human being, we know we can’t expect that to happen, no matter how much we try to influence the conditions. Thea is still very imaginative and occupies herself for hours ‘doing things with her hands’. She’s still behaving like a kid in Montessori playschool. She would play with dough or plasticine, enjoy mixing colours either paint or pencils and dressing up. She isn’t vocal about her feelings and opinions. She’s not a pushover, just not someone who would really make a stand. But I’m secretly glad we both agree that school sucks.
Of course it’s true that I wasn’t a star student. I was a very clever student – what’s that they always use for children like me……..”Shows great potential”. In other words, it means someone who’s not willing to achieve (standards set by the school). I was a rebel and was made to feel guilty and bad about it. I don’t think rebels are made, they are born. And I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for being born the way I was. If God and the Universe allowed me to Be, then Be I should be.
I could not have been a star student even if I had ‘great potential’ to be one. I could not because I would not. Being one would be ratifying the whole idea of schooling. Being a star-student would be subscribing to all the customs, traditions and definitions schools impose on people. It would mean believing that academic competence (3Rs) is superior to other forms of intelligence, it would mean agreeing that people should be classified according to ‘First Class, Second Class…last class’ and that ranking people by scores is a legitimate way of valuing individuals. It would mean subscribing to the idea that to be ‘useful in society’ is to have a job. A JOB! Why on earth would our ultimate goal in life be to WORK!!! Our ultimate goal should be the emancipation FROM labour so that we could pursue intellectual, spiritual, artistic and other talents to make this world more beautiful and life more purposeful!
Conformity would also mean honoring the status quo : that schools validate or invalidate you as a person. ‘Contributing to society’ does not mean to change what is not right, but to uphold the authority of the given circumstances. There is a feigned attempt at developing criticial thinking and glorifying the masters of history. Reality keeps you in check by thumping its nose on those who want to challenge the status quo or defend one’s own individual opinion. Essays must be kept to a certain length – essays are not exercises to develop ‘critical thinking’, they are a false attempt at thinking, a real exercise of wasting pen and paper and a check to see if your ideas are not too radical. Just so you realize it’s not really an exercise to get you thinking critically, submitting a 350 word essay would do. How much thought development can happen in 350 words defeats me. I usually don’t hand up my essays to teachers who cannot read at least 3,500 words and comment intelligently on it.
School bored me to death. Lessons were so slow they induced ADHD in me. If only I was told that we can’t move at individual pace, I would go to school once a month to catch up and spend the rest of my time reading books outside the scope of school. I define myself as a good student. I asked questions, I challenge my notions of right and wrong, I am a keen observer and I never stole, cheated, lied, cut queues or did anything just to save my skin some trouble. Most importantly, I never lied about who I was.
But I knew that the school was not about me and I am not all only about the school. One day I’m not going to have to belong to the school and I can be me. Eventhough it seemed like it was a really bad thing that I wasn’t a star student, it actually wasn’t. I was a witness to all that is not right with a very significant machinery weaving this society. The schools can blame my character and my upbringing on my lacklustre performance – but they cannot blame themselves for the suicides and depression and general sense of lacking in the lives of the people in their society. The only people left as individual witnesses to this mass illussion of ‘schooling makes purposeful living’ are the ones who never subscribed wholesale to it.
A lot of people who are insulted by my non-acceptance of the schooling institution would brush it off as, ‘Ahh, she was a lousy student! If she were a good student, she’d glorify school instead!’. But you have to analyse the definition of ‘good student’ – it really actually means submissive, pliable, mediocre individual. It does not mean one who can perform excellently academically or otherwise with minimal effort and produce high quantities of novel ideas, thoughts, solutions and beauty or one who has a high level of critical thinking. Those are usually considered an extension of an individual IF after they conform to the school standard of excellence. Those qualities are never taken on their own by schools to value an individual. A survey of 100 teachers would tell you that the top 3 qualities a majority of teachers see as that of a good student translates to “submissive, receptive, hardworking”. Those are very different from “critical-mind, mental dexterity and highly-motivated”. We work hard because we have to, we’re motivated because we believe in. “Hardworking” has never been a highly regarded word in my vocab. There is a difference.
Rome was not built in a day but the Universe made Me and Being Me is legitimate, according to the Universe. Kun faya Kun. And that’s all that really matters. And there are more like Me. Thea seems to be continuing this ‘Fight Away From School’ and I am very glad for that, eventhough I would not be able to hold it against her if she were a happy camper for school.