Thursday, August 01, 2013

Give a man a fish and he'll expect you to catch more for him tomorrow

I very much doubt that such a dramatic conspiracy theory actually does exist. The quote, "people here are taught what to think" is to some extent true, but it does not occur as a result of any Head Office directive. In fact, Head Office is constantly encouraging us to take courses in which we learn about fostering in our classrooms creative engagement, critical thinking, and collaborative and self-directed learning while navigating through the wild and woolly Internet zone.

Head Office recognizes that our economy is unable to survive on mass production any longer and our task as educators is to take apart the apparatus that once churned out factory drone workers (I'm a product of that system... and no, I'm not proud of it) and rebuild a more modern structure in which to develop a new generation of imaginative, creative, analytical, design-driven problem-solvers, ready to take on the challenges of an uncertain future.

In the meantime, instead of the government asserting its authority, there has been a great loosening up of citizens' freedoms. The media are age-restricted rather than blanket-censored; Internet access and the discourse that transpires therein is largely free-and-easy; the police are hardly anywhere to be seen (sometimes we even wonder if there are enough police around to maintain law and order if things went bad); and people are becoming increasingly bold and more vociferous, taking issue with the apparently incompetent and self-serving policies of the big, bad government.

20 years ago, when the Man had it all locked down, the government was inviolable. Today there exists a relationship between the government and the people we can only describe as "no up, no down". Today, we think nothing of hurling rotten tomatoes at our MPs and Ministers whenever they say something stupid or make some gross miscalculation in their decision-making. The roles of master and servant have almost reversed places in this new flattened hierarchy.

The guy being interviewed in the Al-Jazeera clip above thinks we are sheep, but clearly, we aren't. We may be the product of an education system that tried to make us meek assembly-line operators. We are the generation that was taught what to think, but even so, we aren't thinking along party lines. Instead, we are thinking we want more opposition voices in Parliament, more representation for our own needs and aspirations which are far from fulfilled, less BS from the incumbents and more engagement in talking about the things that we want rather than having what we need forced down our throats.

If today's generation is being taught to learn by rote, it's because that's how we learned when we were that age. Pupils, parents, pedants and Principals swear by that method, so no matter what Head Office tells us, at implementation level we do our own filtration and fall back on what has always worked best: standard answers which we all agree on, making them easy for the kids to memorize and for us to grade. This is the legacy effect of an education system that surpassed all prior expectations and is now struggling to cope with a new reality. Few want to let go of a system that worked such wonders before and venture into untested waters to explore beyond the familiar. Fortunately for us, I do see the few out there, flailing about, doing their best to trailblaze a four-lane highway for the rest of us to follow. But until that happens, the old methods will still be with us for a while yet. Hence, the inertia.

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