Jesus is supposed to have said that “Man does not live by bread alone”. Whether I eat only bread or other things along with it, though, a lot of the stuff I’m currently learning will be of no help whatsoever in acquiring it. That’s what I feel every time I sit down, or, as the case may be, try to keep my head off the desk, in class.
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My main issue is with the amount we’re expected to write – by hand! I’m not expecting to spend much time writing going forward—after all, this is 2015, not 1215. And anyway, hardly any of the adults I know do much writing (the keyboard, if my memory is right, was invented to minimise writing). Why, therefore, should we poor, beleaguered students be expected to master the cursive and hand-print the print? Why is my paper judged almost as much by quantity of writing as by quality of content? I’m not saying that writing is unimportant or anything. I’m just saying that unless I intend to take up professional calligraphy, I’m not going to be writing a whole lot. I mean, honestly. Even this blog was typed out on a computer keyboard, not laboriously written by hand.
It also bothers me that we’re only studying to do our exams. This isn’t just apparent in the exams themselves, it’s clearly visible in the way we’re taught. For instance, at least once a week, some teacher will mention how we should write something “from the exam point of view”. My question is, what is the need for an “exam point of view”? I’m fine with not needing to know certain things for the exams (reduce our portions, please!). What I care is about the implication that school is about passing exams. If you asked me ten minutes after a physics exam what the definition of force is, I’d probably think about the ten from Navarone. Some of my classmates, no doubt, would be thinking of Salman Khan. One thing is for sure, though, no one’s thinking that F = m * a (you didn’t remember that, did you?).
The other thing is how picky ‘da authorities’ are about what we write. We have to write exactly what they think is important (“they” being a bunch of oldish, scholarly types), and who cares whether or not you’ve actually understood the subject matter? The teachers tell us about the importance of ‘keywords’ in our answers. How does my ability to remember (and write!) a keyword tell you if I’ve understood a subject? Spewing keywords onto paper, IMHO, is more memorisation than understanding.
Another thing that really annoys me is that we’re not expected to think. Ever. At all. The “application questions” in our exam papers basically just discuss the applications discussed in our textbook. Which would be fine if we weren’t outrightly discouraged from thinking. If, for example, I write about the sun being bigger in the evening due to scattering of light instead of about it being orange, I’m marked wrong. Why? Because sun-orange is listed, but sun-bigger is not. We’re not awarded for our original thinking and effort. We are simply told that thinking is wrong. And then you adults go and wonder why kids can’t reason things out for themselves ;).
It was Ranchoddas Chanchad who put it best when he said: “Kyon ki woh college nahin, factory chalaata hai, jahan insaan nahi, gadhe manufacture hote hai!” Just please don’t tell my teachers you read this. I have to study in this school, you know!