This came up in my Google+ feed late last night – That feed moves so fast I can’t flipping find the name of the original poster 🙁 sorry! But, nevertheless, i’m really glad I took the time to hit play.
The video reminds me, a lot, of the Open Letter to Educators I first saw in July when George came to town. However, this guy isn’t talking about just university. He’s addressing our whole educational ethos. How we see it in society. What we believe ‘education’ will do for us. How we define ‘education’ in society. He seems to be telling us that we’ve got it wrong. That educated people are not people who have certificates and can show they are able to tick boxes to pass exams “and forget it the next semester”. Educated people learn everywhere. Of course they do 🙂
“So you want to get a degree… why?”
At this point, i guess, i have to admit that I have had this conversation with many, many, many of my high school students. Particularly the ones in top sets who’s only ambition in life seems to be to get the right grade to get into the ‘right’ uni, to do the ‘right’ course. The young man in the video is right when he gives his reasons for doing it. For many students, it’s because..
“It increases your chances of getting a job, increases your chance of being successful, you life will be less stressful.”
That really is what I hear a lot. What happened to…
“I love English, I want to know more so I’m going to do a degree. I’m hoping to get into Birmingham Uni because I am fascinated by Shakespeare and I would love the opportunity to take the course they offer at the Shakespeare institute in Stratford-upon- Avon. I just want to get close to those first folios?”
I never did get into Birmingham Uni – I did see a folio once whilst I stood in the newly reconstructed Globe theatre, London. But, my reason for studying English wasn’t because of the reasons he gives. Maybe I was naive ? When I was 18 I was going to study English, teach for a year or so and then work in the education department of the RSC…. That didn’t happen… but that’s ok. I grew in another way and I have NO regrets whatsoever 🙂
Of all of my closest school friends I think I can count two of us who actually do something related to the degree we studied. Myself, i ended up with a BA QTS (qualified teacher status) in English and became an English teacher and John, who arrived at uni and has subsequently never left! He’s now Dr John Clay, Medieval specialist man with books and titles and fabulous things 🙂 (and he still owes me a viking by the way…) Then there’s Ant, who DID get into Birmingham Uni to study English and then became a computer programmer. Something that we all knew would happen. He’d been developing software since we were at school and he had (until only a couple of years ago) NO formal qualification in that area – what so ever.
Then, there’s my husband, who has a degree in Bio Chemistry and ended up working in IT in a law firm before we moved here and he started his own business. He hasn’t walked into a lab since he qualified. I even had to work hard to get him to collect his degree certificate from his mum’s house so we could bring it to Australia. He didn’t really care about it… He, like Suli Breaks, spent “countless nights in the library with a can of red bull keeping [him] awake… memorising equations, facts and dates right down to the letter. Half of which [he] would never remember and half of which [he’d] forget straight after the exam or before the next semester” He hated it. I remember! He felt very strongly that he just HAD to get this information to stay in his head. He wasn’t impassioned by it. His lecturers didn’t inspire him or even make him understand WHY he needed to remember. No wonder his brain lost the information so quickly. It had no idea why it needed to keep it. He, like so many others, was ‘playing a game’ – trying to get a good grade in something so that he could enter the graduate recruitment programs for some big shot company – straight off the bat.
“Because as long as you follow the rules and pass the exams you’re cool”
Maybe I should ask these guys their reason for studying what they did. I’m sure John would tell me about his passion for history (… and that lost quest to find me a viking) but I am not sure what Ant or my other half would say. Probably the same thing I wrote in the quotation above. Or, perhaps worse, something about parents and their expectations?
The other phrase that i banded around a lot in that video is “Education is the key”. Another thing we’ve grown up hearing! What’s interesting for me is the way that the young man in the video seems to be trying to get to grips with what education is, what it means. He mentions at one point that if
“education is the key, then schools are the lock”
I think, in the way he means it, he is suggesting that schools stop education. They restrict it, they reduce it to a box ticking exercise. He talks about how he suffered “3 years of mental suppression and frustration” to impress a mother who didn’t turn up to his graduation. How awful!
Why did he feel that way about his degree? What was the reason he studied? What did he study? What was this dream he ironically worked upon whilst asleep in lectures ( a result of too many late nights studying powered by red bull?). Was university the right place for him to start with? Did he go there because he was passionate and then had his passion killed or, is this video in which he asks us to
“understand your motives and reassess your aims”?
a warning to those considering higher education to reflect upon their choices so that they don’t end up where he was.
He is totally right when he tells us that “education is not just about regurgitation a book or someone else’s opinion to pass an exam“. As an educator, it has never been my aim to appear to be the fountain of ALL knowledge. To tell people what to think, to box their thoughts into clear RIGHT and WRONG columns. Once, I had a student tell me that they were under the impression that when studying at uni you should forget everything you know. Accept that you know nothing and take only the opinions of others into account. WHAT RUBBISH! Apart from the blatant disregard for prior knowledge, learning to build upon… How does that helps us to build on our collective knowledge to develop and move forward? Learning is NEVER a one way street! I long to hear the perspectives of my students, I LOVE debating with them and having an intellectual conversation in which we challenge each others’ thinking. That’s how I learn – through my passion for what I do. NOT through my subservience to the opinion of others.
I would hate to learn in a place or manner in which my mind was rarely ever developed “to the point where you can perceive red as green and continue to GO when someone else says STOP” I would never have achieved half of what I have done if I worked and learnt in a world like that.
I wonder whether the educators who worked with Suli were diminishers or multipliers His reflections and words speak volumes in that regard.
Another, important thought which popped into my head, was how clear, well spoken, confident and well-educated this young man seems to be. Perhaps, in some way, his frustrations have taught him something about life. Something incredibly valuable that he can now use to drive his own future as he “builds his own dream”. Perhaps, the education wasn’t in the books he studied so hard, or the lectures he slept through? Perhaps it was somewhere else. In relationships? In conversation? In the development of emotional intelligence whilst fighting for to achieve? Something clearly went right for him whilst he was at school. It certainly did for all those people I know who have never done anything with the content knowledge they acquired during their time at uni but have achieved a whole lot with the skills they developed.
If you were asked to define education. What would it look like for you? Is it the same as Learning? Success? Do they go hand in hand? Do you think schools STOP success? What key phrases or messages from his video stick with you? Have you considered why?
So many questions! So many thoughts! I LOVE videos like these! Thanks Suli! 🙂