Formal Education & I

Education and schooling in their formal sense have always held a special place in my life, both positive & negative. 

It probably helps to draw a bit of a background about me to fully understand why education intrigues me. I never went to school as a child and this was a deliberate decision partially advanced by my ill-health, however I vehemently opposed going back to school even the years I was fairly healthy. As a result, I did not attend any form of school right from kindergarten, my first complete encounter with education was entering college as an 18yr old. 

Even as a five year old child, I felt absolutely certain that I did not want to be in school, the handful of days that I did attend  kindergarten it felt completely alien to me to sit in a room for 6 hours everyday following a schedule. How do they know when I am most productive and creative? How can they help me learn when I am not inherently motivated at this exact moment? There were so many questions that baffle me even to this day. Although quitting school probably made me the naughtiest child in the neighbourhood, it also allowed me to expand my knowledge & skills in ways that formal education could have never been able to nourish. 

My learning was ad hoc at best, much of my ability to piece together seemingly irrelevant patterns into sensible structures comes from 18 years of doing so out of necessity. Looking back, I see that I sourced information not just from books, but from the Internet as it slowly emerged which is nothing compared to the amount of information we have today, and also from engaging in critical discussions with those already deeply immersed in their respective fields. I remember having arguments with scientists and professors within the hard sciences as to how the parameters for life in space had to succumb to our understandings of life on earth, why couldn't there be life that didn't speak or have bodily features as we do? Of course, every child wants to talk about aliens and monsters all day. I was humoured and probably even entertained some brilliant minds, but was never taken seriously. 

I realised probably after a decade or so that to be taken seriously, I'd need to go through the formal channels to legitimise my arguments. And I did, my first steps into education which has now lead me to complete my Masters in Cultural Studies. Surprisingly, I did incredibly well in higher education. To me, that's probably because I was allowed to explore my curiosities and encouraged to be as outrageous as possible, as long as I could substantiate my position when challenged. It was only recently that I realised my most treasured times were in my undergraduate programme and that it took a very specific kind of intellectual discourse to drive my mind forwards. Not to say my overpriced MA in the UK was terrible, but the institutional structures were simply not conducive to create that kind of specialised environment necessary to motivate my unhindered desire to learn.

This brings me back to why I'm writing this blog, I'm probably more conscious than ever when it comes to teaching or even guiding people in certain directions, mostly because I genuinely believe we make the greatest discoveries when not shadowed by someone else's motivations. Having said that, from my undergrad, I've also seen how teaching/mentoring when catered to the individual's skills can allow one to go ahead and create amazing things.

You'll find some thoughts and reflections on education, then/now, MOOCs and the distinction between teaching and learning.