Imagine entering a vast green expanse dotted with tiny little tents. As you make your way through it you stumble across all sorts of knick-knacks, bats and balls, racquets, musical instruments-strewn on the ground. The tents house an assortment of colourful books on various subjects. Imagine if someone told you that this is a school, this is where your parents drop you every morning and this is where you are going to spend your childhood! You are free to occupy yourself as you like. You can read books, play and even snooze if you wish to. There are no teachers around. There are only some adult supervisors to prevent things from getting out of hand.
This might seem idiotic. But so is the current system of imparting education. The more I look back and examine my years in school, the more I feel that it was an elaborate charade where we were busy doing stupid things. It had a stifling atmosphere where we were told to be serious and work hard. In other words, kids are told to resemble grim-faced adults already. Most teachers sit like monarchs and unleash their fury on any offenders. They are busy doling out rewards and punishments and making much ado about nothing. Is it any wonder then that much of the joy of learning is lost in such an environment? It kills curiosity.
But our greatest breakthroughs in history have had their provenance in the feelings of wonder and awe. Fascination with the unknown inspired the enchanting myths of the past, animated the pens of our very first historians , lured the pioneers setting out to explore the world. It is this sense of thrill and adventure that is missing from our concept of education. Instead, it is a duty, a drill that we must go through. I feel it is like teaching at gunpoint.
I think even Frankenstein’s monster had it better than us. Propelled by the burning desire to discover his origin, he devours all books that come to hand. Most of us don’t remember having ever felt that way, because we were already told everything.
If only we are not bent on teaching children everything, they will want to learn. Curiosity is the trait that sets humanity apart. We must await its spontaneous manifestation. Instead of giving away everything why not maintain a conspiratorial hush? Children are bound to come up with the question: what are all the stupid adults up to? Take, for example, the discipline of history. It is impossible for any human being to not be fascinated with this subject. But it is forced down our throats like a bitter pill. As a result, most people find learning about the past to be boring. Answers are thrust on us before we ask questions. It is like choking someone with food before they are even hungry. Therefore we seldom have the feeling that Keats describes in “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”-
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific-and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise-
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.