Okay. We started an alternative to school that is NOT a school. A learning center that is not a tuition center. A free learning entity that is NOT for profit. It’s sort of a free “school” that is really FREE! It’s a perfect solution to the many issues of schooling, which, amongst other things, is not changing fast enough to cater to 21st century learning – learning that needs to be personalized as opposed to standardized, passion-driven as opposed to results-driven and collaborative as opposed to competitive.
We all know the problems that school-going kids face everyday – peer pressure, sheer boredom, in-the-box learning, bullying, the lack of morals and morale, just to name a few. We also know that to change the schooling system and its embedded cultures, we’ve got to change the entire mindset about learning – from the ministry of education down to the school administrators and to the parents and students. And that would take much too long. Our children cannot wait for the tiger to change its stripes. We have got to make the change ourselves because that is the only chance our children have to make education work for them to maximize their fullest potentials. Schooling is about catering to the top 10%. Education is about making learning an integral part of living for everyone, irrespective of race, gender and income. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily what we are getting due to the social and political history of the country.
And so, we continue to remain seated in the big white ship knowing very well that it is leaking in many places and that it is slowly but surely sinking, and it is taking everyone down with it. To deal with the sinking feeling, some resort to denial by pretending that all is well and good. Others are pulled away by the many distractions provided, like food and games and other carrot-led activities. But there will be a few who can see what is really going on, and are visualizing and planning their escape from the sinking ship. They try to sound the alarm to the rest of the passengers, but no one is really listening. So they have got to save themselves by getting out before it is too late!
To get out of the system that is rooted in industrial productions, we have got to get out of the industrial-mode thinking – standardization, production and competition, and get into the creative-mode thinking – divergence, personalization, collaboration.
The schooling system teaches us to be passive learners – we sit down quietly to listen to the teacher (the person endowed with knowledge) telling us what to learn and what to believe. Rules are made to put every student in his/her place. Those who conform are rewarded. Those who oppose will be severely dealt with. The element of fear and punishment is utilized by the authorities to maintain the status quo. Divergents are frowned upon, and in some cases, even expelled.
But in our present climate-change that is extreme in nature, we need to be a little more “extreme” in our approach and attempt in charting new directions in our flight paths so as to avoid head-on collisions with extreme weather conditions. To do this, our navigational tools need to be up-to-date and state-of-the-art technology. And our navigational skills need to be constantly upgraded to cope with new challenges that present themselves to us in this volatile and difficult-to-predict environment.
To address new problems and issues, we need to have new ideas and approaches. Divergent thinkers have the edge in thinking up divergent solutions to current problems. The question we should ask is: Do you want to be normal like everyone else? If the answer is yes, then by all means, go through the entire education chain. But if, however, your child wants to be different, to do something else other than the prescribed formula, then he or she is a divergent. And you will have to think like a divergent parent to help your child get to a place that few have had the courage to try!