By: Afaf Khalil
Knowledge is power” No doubt to that statement. But it isn’t about what we learn as much as it's about how can we deliver it, and put it into action.
It is paradoxical that among the most corrupt people in today's world are the highly educated and intelligent individuals. Among them who created weapons of mass destruction to invade other countries resources for the purpose of power and authority, while others have used educational resources to developed cures for diseases. Make no mistake and blame education, blame greed. Education is powerful, but only if we can direct it to the right way of serving humanity.
My creative mind took me distinct places, no eyes have seen. My practical hands have made it possible for me to express my thoughts and imagination into artworks, poetry, and designs. My deep feelings have transformed my energy into vocal expression. My body has expressed flexibility and freedom of movement.
After few years spent in Egypt during my childhood, I traveled back to America in the late 90’s, I realized how free and resourceful this country is, and how Americans who never traveled overseas don’t even appreciate the abundance of this country. I was amazed by the school system, and the freedom of expression that many here (in the U.S) take for granted. As I split my wings between here and there (USA and Egypt) I can't help but contrasting the differences in the Western and the Eastern world’s concepts including philosophies, people, places and technologies.
Education around the world has helped many to improve, but the school system needs to change. Governments around the world invest massive amount of money on schools, yet that hasn’t brought enough leaders to our societies. Education should focus on bringing more leaders rather than more employees that work for a check. Teachers need to start teaching children leadership skills in their early age, so that when they grow, they could bring out their best to their communities.
Public and private schools are mere catalysts that allows us to have a status in the industrial society. If you really want to be a scholar at any field you are required to have materials (books, online resources, researches, etc.) and mentors who can pass their knowledge to you. No need for to invest tens of thousands of dollars ( in which you probably don't even own) on schooling.
“Standardization” is a perfect expression for all what lies behind the school system in order to prepare children to become a part of the industrial society. Everything is under the clock, including lunch, breakfast, restrooms, classes, recess, art, and all in between. “You are only allowed to do something in a limited time otherwise there will be a punishment” Sit quietly!” “Don’t speak to your classmate” “Listen!” “Follow the rules and you’ll be rewarded, otherwise there will be punishment”, and much more ridiculous phrases that children hear daily from their teacher that eventually limits the freedom of any creative child. Society, parents, teachers, and media insist on blocking children creativity.
Many naive parents even go through the process of spending excessive money for private tutoring and after school programs. That’s when the student says “Enough already! I had it!” You couldn't force anyone to learn, if the brain wants to receive it; it will, if not, then it won’t.
At a period of time in my life, I tutored many international young students who struggled with the English language, so I mentored them until they were able to comprehend what they were taught in school. Thanks to their willpower that initiated them to learn successfully. I only guided them and lead them where they’re heading.
Lead students to learn the basics of life, and let them find their way freely. Let them express their deep talents so they grow up to be good players, artists, musicians, poets, designers etc. Not everyone has to be an office worker, or an engineer! That special group doesn’t require standardized schooling. They need to feel free so that they can express their deep talents. I can talk endlessly about that group, because I relate to it, but unfortunately I fell into the trap to fit into a standardized school just like many others and at the end they fail to do what they’re passionate about. Of course some succeed, but the process of rerouting is tough.
When I started writing this article, I was working in an independent school in Connecticut for the summer program. In that school there is a portion of students in which they call “with special needs”. So, my role is to be assigned to a certain student every day to be their assistant. There are conditions with ADHD and Autism and other mental disorders according to the psychologists. Yet, teachers are trying hard enough to let them fit into the standardized system. They won’t succeed. And the result could be fatal.
They might end up with another disorder called “obey the system syndrome” or “don’t express yourself - disease”. These children they get bored quickly, and they're more productive by moving. Despite that fact, the teachers insist that they "softly" force them to sit down.
These children aren't complaining from a disorder, society in general is. Anyone who is more talented or special is being stigmatized everywhere. This is sad. Society needs to understand that every individual needs to stay different, our differences shapes our beautiful reality, it makes us amazing, and that’s the natural order of human beings (to explore and create new things). The real disorder is to sit or do routine work for long hours and get paid for doing that, and neglecting the qualities of life. It overwhelming to discover that the 20 years of education is basically preparing kids to be crippled in an office job, or work for a paycheck.
Education becomes more powerful when it becomes useful. in other words, if an artist is educated to be more productive in the field that she is passionate about, instead of trying to fit into an office job. Parents should be first educated to not force their child to pursue something other than their core passion. Every child is born with a special talent in them, just let that wind set the sail. The reason why many employees aren't happy with their jobs is that other people's opinions blew their sail completely to the opposite direction of their core destination.
I dream, that one day education serves individuals to find their passion and essence in life, rather than serving major companies to sustain their market.
In all stages of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, we find an outstanding transformation. As it hatches from its egg, its only purpose on this planet is to find food so that it may nourish itself and move onwards to the next level. The creature that once used to crawl on the ground, unappreciated, somehow disgusting and ikky, will eventually transform into a lovable, free flying, beautiful butterfly. Acknowledging that fact makes it easier for any human to understand that almost anything is possible, and attainable. The moment we recognize the power of transformation and evolving, is the moment we open a new vision for ourselves. The journey of a humble caterpillar extending beyond its limits and being a butterfly is a perfect example for us. We all can relate to that story.
When someone tells me that he or she couldn’t change, the first thought that comes into my mind is that this person has absolutely neglected how he/she used to be in cradle one day; helpless, speechless, innocent, and totally ignorant during infancy, yet now they can do unlimited tasks and can speak several languages. They’re unaware that their brain cell can hold as five times as much information as the Encyclopedia Britannica. Only humans have the ability to express themselves through the form of art, and that they have enough potential to do almost anything they please. There are countless number of tasks, emotions, and abilities embedded inside the brain and the rest of the organs that complete the comlex human structure and mind.
While you are reading this, you are also unaware that you’re heart is beating, that you’re inhaling oxygen circulating into your lungs and at the next second you’re exhaling Carbon Dioxide, and that your digestive system is chopping down the food you have recently ate, and not only that, but also breaking it down to minerals, vitamins and other microscopic substances that your body needs to function properly. You and I are totally unaware because we are routinely being distracted by the external world. Even the saliva inside your mouth is no less important of any of what I just mentioned. There are ofcourse much more than that, but even that which we take for granted should always reminds us of how incredible we are.
Whenever you feel down, or have an illusion that you’re unable to change; have another thought.. Listen to your breath, put your beautifully colored soft skinned hand on your chest. There, you’ll feel your heart beating, and telling you “I’m working day and night for your happiness, so please be happy, and thankful that you have me”
Only then, the cocoon inside of you, will hatch into the butterfly of your dreams.