Life’s not for real anyway

More empty classroom stuff, UMBC“Read through this paper and answer the questions at the bottom”, the teacher said while handing out copies to the 11-yearolds in the classroom.

“After you have answered the questions, you gather in your normal groups and discuss the answers with your friends. And if you would like to change your answer, do so, but don’t erase the old one”, she continued. “Finally, we will collect the papers and correct them later”.

“Please note that the answers are not necessarily written in the text. You’ll have to figure that out for yourselves.”

I quickly read through the paper my daughter had received and saw that it was a story of a family driving through the night stopping at a camping site and setting up a tent in the end. The facts were left out from the text, though; it didn’t say really that it was a camping site or that it was a tent.

I raised my hand and asked the teacher: “This is a story, right? And there are really no wrong or right answers here?”

“That’s true”,she said somewhat hesitantly and turned to the class: “You will have to find your own answers”.

10 minutes later I sat with the group my daughter was part of. It seemed like all the kids in the group hade more or less the same answers; Yes, the boy thought it was nice that his sister was asleep because she was a drag, they came to a camping site, they were setting up a tent to sleep in. Short logical answers, and not much to discuss really.

Then I said to the group: “But wait a minute, what if it’s not really a tent. What if it’s a portable black hole, and it’s really not a camping site, it’s a gathering of aliens reuniting to find their way back home to their planet!”

The idea didn’t catch on. They looked at me smilingly, while my daughter laughingly explained to the others that her dad was a little crazy. Enough said, and the lesson was over.

This was the first class yesterday, as I spent a day with my daughter at her school. It was quite fun, and a great dad-daughter moment. The day passed through with maths, some history, spelling tests and other subjects, and I realized that not much have happened in school since I went to school myself.

The same subjects, the same type of exercises, tests, answering questions, checking and rechecking. The teachers were dedicated and very nice people and I’m sure that my daughter will learn a lot with them.

Still, something started nagging me in the back of my head. I noted that the most common question during the day from the kids was “What am I supposed to do now?”. And a lot of time was spent waiting for the answer from the teacher, who most of the times had an answer to this. When she hadn’t was when the kid had finished what was supposed to be done that day, and she said that he/she could take out their reading book and read for a few minutes.

Fabrica de azucarThink about this for a moment. For twelve years (in Sweden most people go to school for twelve years), we are told exactly what to do next, we are all the time handed tasks and answering questions with one, solid true answer. Almost everything we do is measured, graded and checked upon and we follow the grand plan of us becoming educated citizens. Twelve years!

I think we all have a basic idea that school is supposed to prepare us for the grown-up life and be able to make a living for ourselves. But is that how life looks like today? Someone to tell us what to do, a plan to follow and career steps to reach? Well, for many who still work in the factory or those that follow “risk free” career plans, it’s still true, but for the rest of us? Is there any wonder that youngsters stand there confused after school, desperately looking to get into the “market”, or that people panic and get depressed after the old factory’s been closed down?

How many years does it take to unlearn a rigid plan-like behaviour? Well, I’m pretty sceptical about the entire idea behind today’s school system. I think that every time we do something new and creative and find our own route in life, it’s not because of school, it’s in spite of school.
An ironic quote i like comes to mind:

“Life’s not for real, anyway. If it was, we would have been handed a manual.”


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Comments (2)

AurgrunnSeptember 21st, 2011 at 18:35

“Det brukar ju också sägas att vi är hela när vi föds, och att det är livet och erfarenheterna som klyver och splittrar och skiktar oss, som lägger ut dimridåerna och krokbenen, men jag tror inte på det heller – tror vi var alldeles fantastiskt mångdimensionerade redan från början och den ljuva brist på identitetsförvirring vi tycker oss minnas från våra tidiga barndomar handlar förmodligen bara om att vi ännu inte hade insett vilken massa av världar, vilka mutituder av möjligheter vi rymde.
Och så gott som all den uppfostran och all den undervisning vi därpå utsattes för sydtade bara till att skjuta på den insikten så långt möjligt, och helst undvika den helt och hållet.”
(Aurgrunn: Mörkret i utkanten av stan)

PärSeptember 21st, 2011 at 19:16

Briljant! Vilket påminner mig om att jag måste ge mig på den boken. Tack!

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