Mickey Malta

Notes from the zone where 'normal' things don't happen very often

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Parrots on a string

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I'm an expert in Rock Academics 

Who cares about the world outside? I love my comfort zone

One of the many myths that many Rockers seem to be happy to believe is that we have a high standard of education. This is a generic statement that unfortunately tends to be typical of the average Rocker. Many people tend to use absolute terms in their speech like: everyone, all, nothing and others.

Being the pain in the neck that I am, I vehemently reject this myth. I don’t do this in order to be different. I do so because as I said already in earlier posts, I hate generic statements, and I also hate statements that are not based on concrete data. What is there to show that we have a high level of education?

To check the validity of this myth, one has to start by defining ‘education’. What do we mean by a high standard of education? What does a person need to be considered as educated? If one believes that certificates and qualifications determine the level of one’s education, then it is generally correct to claim that there is a high standard of education here. However, if one doesn’t agree that certificates are the only measure, then the myth needs to be validated.

I don’t think that certificates should be the one and only benchmark against which the standard of education is measured. In fact, I am not even going to comment about the fact that we have an alarmingly high rate of illteracy when compared to other EU countries; as this has more to do with the academic system per se rather than what society percieves education to be. Hence, it’s a different subject altogether.

In my opinion, an educated person is a well mannered individual who can hold an interesting conversation about a number of issues and topics, and this is mainly because this person has sound general knowledge. I’ve seen rude professionals (like lawyers and doctors – just take a look at Parliament and you’ll get the drift), and courteous well-manned people who don’t hold any professional status. Manners have practically nothing to do with formal education, but they are completely dependent on one’s upbringing.

I must confess that when I was young, I too used to believe in the afore-mentioned myth, but as I grew up, I realised that this is completely unfounded. The more I interact with people of different nationalities, the more I realise how most parents’ obsession with certificates is actually stifling their children’s education. In reality we, unsurprisingly, have two extremes here: on one hand there are people who are obsessed with certificates, and a whole bunch of unqualified experts on the other. The unqualified experts are those people who think they are experts in a particular topic (although sometimes they’re not even passionate about it, but they’re just interested in the money it can make) and start talking about the subject matter with a certain authority that they actually convince people that they mean business. Yet, they do so despite lack of professional qualifications in the subject matter.

The weight watching business is a case in point. How many of the local weight watching gurus are actually qualified to dispense advice and guide people towards a healthy balance between dieting and damage prevention? One does not become an expert just by reading books and attending brief courses. It takes much more than that, and yet we have a number of people dispensing advice on healthy lifestyles and weight loss in a number of gyms and on most, if not all, of the TV and radio stations.

On the other extreme, there are people who get so immersed in their studies, that they lose focus on life. They seem to forget that there’s a world outside their bubble, and they also tend to fail to understand why other people are not interested in their world.

As always, the ideal world lies somewhere in between these two extremes. I believe that a solid theoretical / academic knowledge is vital for someone who wants to have a good foundation to build knowledge upon. However, one needs to complement knowledge with practical insights and critical thinking. This, unfortunately, is lacking in our culture. Children spend most of the time at school, at home, and in church (including catechism classes). These three institutions, bar some homes, do not encourage or even foster critical thinking. On the contrary they instil respect (the official term) towards authority; which practically, in most cases, translates as fear from authority.

For these last few years, I have been working and interacting with people who weren’t born and raised here, and I realised how different their approach and level of general knowledge is. In most cases, these people could hold a conversation about a huge variety of topics like current affairs; European history; geography; travel; culture and others. Another major difference I noticed is that when I’m having a conversation with a Rocker about a book or a documentary, for example, the conversation usually steers into agreement / disagreement with the message conveyed. Discussing the same issue with people who weren’t born and raised here is usually a completely different experience. They tend to be more analytical about specific points and argue on several points independently rather than treating the whole book or documentary as one single package like the Rockers do.

This kind of broad analytical thinking, in my opinion, shows a high degree of education; the ability to dissect an issue, rip it apart and analyse every single point thoroughly and independently from the others.

While it is true that schooling here is tough, it does not necessarily mean that it’s the best system in the world. My concern is that our current educational system is not fostering a love and passion for knowledge. I attribute part of the reason why less than 60% don’t even read one book in a whole year to our schooling. Books aren’t generally perceived as a source of knowledge and a means of entertainment; but as a source of pure boredom. Same with poetry and literature. These are rammed down our throats at school. Instead of learning how to appreciate literature, our students learn verses by heart, and then they just regurgitate them like parrots when prompted to do so. Doesn’t this remind you of puppets on strings? It’s a tragic standard of education, if you ask me.

I see an educated person as someone who can see beyond the picture s/he is presented with. Someone who is able to draw a message out of a movie, a play, a book, or a poem. Knowing the works by heart without actually understanding what you’re saying doesn’t mean that you’re intelligent. It only makes you a good parrot. This is pure rote learning at its best.

It’s as absurd as having a 5 year old stating that s/he believes in the virgin Mary while citing the kredu with fervour and pride. In actual fact, that child would (and should) not have a clue about the implications of such a statement.

The kredu example in my opinion personifies the whole issue as it represents the lack of analytical approach, citing words without necessarily understanding the meaning of them, while at the same time, one can look at the child and say: “a five year old talking about virginity. How impressive! How intelligent!”

Written by mickeymalta

17/04/2009 at 18:48

Posted in Blog Main Page

Tagged with , ,