Monday, January 23, 2006

A rounding education

My little life has been affected – and for some while I thought, tragically so affected – a great deal by the limited literature I have read. Once upon a time when I was a small child, I read this story about a young man who went with a caravan to another town. There he saw other young people getting a variety of education. And he decided to stay and get educated.

I do not remember the beginning nor the end of the story. What did stick around was that each year, the young man took a new lesson. First, it was playing chess. Then it was music. And then… well I forget what then. But this little story determined forever the course of my academic career. One thing this year, another thing another year.

When I grew older, I learnt that the best description of this kind of a scholar was a renaissance woman.

I do not know. I usually do not prefer to tag things.

But tags are satisfactory, because without them, we might find ourselves a little lost, especially when in very unfamiliar territory. For years, I have found myself in an unusual academic pursuit: trying to learn as much about life as I can. I have found regular academic institutes including schools and universities dreadfully boring and constrictive. And while I had no name or description for taste in education, renaissance proved useful.

Now, where does one get such an education? The closest choice has been a liberal arts degree – which has, when we are making education choices as an adolescent, a fabulous notoriety for not leading up to a guaranteed career path. (I know in five years’ time, some might wonder what am I talking about? I was an adolescent before 2000. Then the world changed for sure.)

To be honest, I wanted that coveted liberal arts degree. To be really honest, when choosing a degree, I was temporarily insane to assume it to be a ‘loser degree’ (not that I have ever, ever actively used this silly term ‘loser’). To be stark naked honest, after not pursuing that line of education anyway, I feel hyper-practical enough to assume that a liberal arts degree from a very decent college in Pakistan or abroad – at the end of the day it doesn’t matter where – produces a peculiar combination of a stiff neck holding a very naïve, impractical mind.

In simpler words, the way education is designed in the world today – and I concerned only with today – is inhuman. The passion-education-career chain for a person is composed, usually, of three distinct chains. Whatever that means.

In much fewer words, my view is that at least as adults, we should have the option to educate ourselves the way we want. We should be able to buy our education and choose the length of education that suits our unique needs. If we want to grow up to be farmers, fine! Let our education be lesser than 16 years. Umm, yes, that would push the choice in the zone of childhood or adolescence, but you get the drift. There must be schools that allow us to buy the education we want without the hassle of prerequisites and educational competition.

When I am rid of my flu and in lesser hurry, I will explain this more. To conclude, a person needs many things to round off their education – and there are many things that we can do without. While the latter needs a more sensitive handling with a lot of clarification and ifs and whys and buts and hows, the former is much easier to explain. Get the education you want. Particularly, the rounding off education. Now most regular schools and universities have that nasty little competitive structure where only the kings and queens and “only the best” are ahead in class, in societies and clubs, and in sports.

If I had my way, I would set up an old-fashioned school where a teacher would arbitrarily read up a talib’s personality and match the student with the kind of education that would suit the student. No structure. No competition. No GPA. No crying suicidal idiocy. Just plain completion of being.

Now. I have found one such school. It is like a prayer answered. The reward of years of search! Years of quest for beauty! Years of lust for life! And while I am tempted to reveal all about the school, I think this kind of a destination deserves that each man or woman travel to it themselves.

One day I will make such school myself. It’s a promise!

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