Tag Archive | grades

Ignorance is not academic

Following last post’s funny comment on qualification and intelligence here’s a story about a gateway!


Attractive concrete block!

I call it gateway but there is no longer a gate – it’s been trashed again. It was completely destroyed. The wooden bars smashed through as if someone had rammed it with a vehicle, the cross pieces jagged and splintered and most of it lying on the floor. It must have taken a lot of effort to do it – it was no thin gate but a sturdy five-bar one, needing posts as thick as railway sleepers to hang it.

There was no reason for this that I could see, other than vandalism. It could hardly be the work of militant ramblers as there’s a completely adequate stile for us to cross so we can continue along the footpath. And it’s not a particularly well used footpath, just one the locals and dog walkers know that runs between the cultivated land and out onto the marshland pasture where the cows graze. Land that is owned by farmers trying to make a living, allowing access to others to enjoy it, yet having to foot the costs of this damage.

They’d put some wire across the opening after the destruction of the gate to keep the cattle in, but that’s been vandalised and cut too, so they’ve put a concrete block there now.

It’s probably vandalised by the same ignorant people who leave their beer bottles, take away packets and shitty bits of tissue after their evening’s activities.

I say ignorant because that’s what it is; it’s ignorance that makes people choose to behave like this. People who don’t have the intelligence to make other choices or see the bigger picture beyond their own selfish pursuits.

Many generally think that intelligence is to do with schooling and how many exam passes and grades and degrees you have. But that is only a small part of intelligence. Academic prowess is not a guarantee of intelligence, although often a sign of it. And ignorance is not measured by a lack of it but by a lack of something else; a lack of connectedness.

It is connectedness, the way you connect with all things other than you and consequently the way you choose to behave, that is a sure sign of intelligence beyond academic qualification.

The person who smashed this gate may have qualifications, forced on them by schooling no doubt. Yet still they act in ignorant ways. For what they don’t have is the intelligence to see the connection between their act and its consequences. They don’t have the intelligence to feel the emotional consequence their actions will be creating in others just because they have no connetedness to those others, only to their own indulgences.

True intelligence is relative surely. Human intelligence anyway, that part of our human brain that enables us to have empathy, acquire understanding, to feel, to think, to choose reactions other than those driven by base instinct. The intelligence to engage with others and see beyond our own egocentric little worlds.

This is the kind of intelligence that needs developing alongside the academic. The kind of intelligence that is being neglected by prescriptive schooling solely focused on grades, and parenting that neglects to give time to making human connections, humane connections.

Which do we value most? We can make choices.

Ignorance is never solely academic. It is about our humane intelligent ability to know and also to use what we know in our relations with others. That is as vital a part of our children’s education as anything academic.

We are not our results

I have a weird take on exams. I’m never satisfied with the results.

I don’t mean what grades we get. I mean what those grades tell me. I’ve never been convinced they tell me anything particular; never believed they necessarily tell me about intelligence.

They tell me that someone has particular skills – skills for passing exams. But I equally applaud the skills of rock climbing, skate boarding or raising kids none of which require grades to do it well. You need far more than grades to convince me of intelligence.

People like to use grades to label themselves as superior. And society likes to compartmentalise those without as inferior. That’s completely warped.

People are not better people for having grades. And that’s what really counts. You can be a good person without grades – grades do not define us.

What defines us is how we think and act. How we care. How we take responsibility. How we engender respect in the activities we do. Respect for each other. Respect for the world that supports us. Respect for purposeful work (paid or unpaid).

Those are the things that define us. But you can’t measure those with grades and society seems obsessed with measuring. With statistics. With box ticking and hoop jumping.

Yet the things that make a person good cannot be fitted into boxes. Did Einstein fit boxes? Did Ghandi? Did Beatrix Potter? Did Jamie Oliver? They all brought different kinds of goodness to this world but they didn’t tick boxes. They brought goodness by consistent ongoing activity, by the things they did, not the grades they were measured by.

In a few years time your grades will mean nothing. I know folks uphold that without them they wouldn’t have got where they are (higher education perhaps, higher salary). But actually, we’ll never know that will we? And people are achieving and becoming successful without them. (Jamie Oliver for one).

Grades mean so little against an interpretation of life through goodness. We shouldn’t let them define us or our future. We all, always, have the opportunity to do something great – however small – for which we will be remembered long after anyone is even bothered about our grades.

Let’s not educate for grades any more. Let’s educate for goodness. We are more to the world as goodness than as results.

Educating the elite and doing sod all for the rest…

I’ve been in contact with a few home educating friends lately who have teens doing such entrepreneurial projects. Projects that give them purpose, that inspire and motivate them, with possibilities they could take forward in the future. Like little business. Writing and networking on the Web. As well as pulling in a few qualifications alongside.

And I can’t help thinking that these kids will make a success of their lives because they have so many diverse ideas and valuable skills gained from being in a home educating environment. Because while you’re at home you’re living life and living life gives you life skills and that’s what they’ll need for their future in today’s economic climate.

Schools aren’t big on ideas and life skills – not if they can’t be tested. Schools have become just too outdated in the way they educate; they’re still educating like they did when schooling began.

When schooling began, and information was scarce and academic skills were confined to an elite few, school was a place where you could transform your life with knowledge and ideas.

Now it seems a place that conforms your life into a no-ideas mediocrity. Except for the privileged few of course.

In this new age of no jobs I’m not sure how this is going to help.

Kids are going to have to rise above mediocrity. They’re going to have to have ideas in order to generate an income. They are going to have to think beyond the standardised boxes schools try to keep them in through grade obsession. Think flexibly and be adaptable, not stay in one tight and narrow framework like schools con them to do.

What we need to do is stop mass producing kids towards one outcome – mostly political i.e. for grades and league tables. And start thinking about how best to educate them to be able to live their lives in thoughtful, purposeful and independent ways, whatever form, that will enable them to support themselves, maybe create businesses, find incomes through a diversity of routes rather than a single track. Because the single track to single job prospect looks a bit bleak.

Politicians don’t seem to get the fact that they are just an elite few with elite lives. Yet they’re still making educational policies which make them even more elite whilst doing sod all for the rest.

The MAJORITY of the population leads lives that are very, very different from elite, which are full of challenges and mountainous obstacles and for some enormous poverty and non-employment.

What’s the good of more grades in that scenario?

Schools need to stop selling grades like they were a magic bullet. And start educating for life skills and ideas.

We once needed grades to prove we had knowledge and get us a job. Now kids need ideas to help them overcome the biggest challenge they’ll ever have to face; possibly no job!

What’s the best way to educate for that?