Into the meat grinder: What does ‘education’ actually mean?
Okay, I’m stumped. Having sat down to define that phrase, I’ve achieved nothing but writers’ block, despite, at aged 17, being in the middle of my school career. Is education the obvious, sickening haven in which ‘friendships are made’, where we all learn to ‘overcome challenges’ and ‘set goals’- which, quite frankly, makes me want to gag; or is it the more realistic, yet dull, means to create a ‘better society’?
Surely there should be an obvious answer with almost 4 million students across England in secondary school? Yet, upon the simple question: ‘What is the purpose of education?’ dozens seem to collapse with incompetence, shuddering in confusion, or gawp with idiocy, realizing the answer ‘to educate’ seems absurd. Particularly as the current system does the exact opposite, but we’ll get on to that tomorrow.
Ever read Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? The metaphor of ‘The Combine’ seems to apply here- an evil, mechanical entity, consisting of every element of society and wheel of industry, from schools to hospitals, whose sole aim is to conform and standardise all. I find education standardizes and conforms us all through exams and that ‘equal’ school environment, to give that ‘equal’ chance. On that note, education supplies that initial chance in life by, well, educating us for the future, so that then, if/when you fail, the government can hold up their hands and say ‘We tried, not our fault’- the generic phrase towards most issues apparently.
These ‘skills’ combine to form the next generation, enforcing the forward thrust in economy, science and culture as we are ‘enlightened’ by knowledge to create that questionable ‘better society’ by replacing the retiring with the next load of fresh meat for the grinder- or some other nonsensical faeces we’re frequently fed.
Along with being armed with an array of skills- few of which will get you a job or teach you how to use the dish-washer (my mortal arch-nemesis) the fundamentals of law and society are established in most schools in a patronising, squeezed version. Yeah, like a miniature version of the likely abysmal society we’re to live in. Which is probably why we hate it so much.
Once you’ve been trained, judged through exams and stamped with a letter-based grade that tells one how good your regurgitation abilities are, the glorious education system then abandons you to the free world with a qualification for future jobs (whilst you are still ignorant of dish-washers).
If you embrace the opportunities, I must admit school can be enjoyable. It seems paradoxical, I know, but I guess it does provide insight into finding your talents, (whether it’s something useless like Classics, Maths, Science, Modern Languages, or PE, or incredible and essential like English Literature) and supplies direction for uni, and then, well, life.
And finally- I say this with a bemused grimace across my face- of course, there is The Monster. A twisted, nauseating infusion of Barney the Dinosaur, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder and various other creations, that make up the majority of primary school teachers’ syllabuses and sayings, spewing yet more crap. The words ‘goals’ and ‘friendships’, in combination with phrases like ‘the Golden Rule’ and ‘Sharing and Caring’ haunt my childhood, in an attempt to euphemistically teach us the law.
Without it? Anarchy. As obviously Little George would punch Timid Fred (the Harry Potter reference was inadvertent) in a dispute over whose pencil is whose, and later become a raging, sadistic murderer without the discipline and enforcement. Education- saving lives, and stuff like that. We’re working from the ground up, people.
So that’s it, basically: a qualification-giving, skill-sucking, standardising void that spews nonsensical, cringeworthy crap. With an ounce of rage released, I may also admit it’s the foundation to society, and may instil some useful abilities, such as the ability to take in knowledge and learn.
Also, I suppose it does also give the essential basis to an opportunity for qualifications- something which although I despise, is indeed necessary- and amplify interests and enjoyments- English for me (the only way forward).
Still, I can’t use a dishwasher so I don’t really see the point.
Picture credit: Rex Features
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