Friday, November 25, 2016

Should You Do Well In School?

I've always had a great deal of resentment for school. Now I say this fully aware that everyone (or almost) does not like school. So when I say I've had a great deal of resentment, I'm mean I really did, even comparatively.

My resentment was never with waking up early or doing homework. Sure, I don't like them and they probably added to my resentment. My resentment was however with the pressures and moralization of doing well. I looked (and still look) at everyone around me working so hard towards getting good grades and all I saw (and see even more so now) is an abundance of neurosis. It didn't help that everyone looked at me not as this boy who has his own opinion on life but instead as a lazy immature child. Put it simply, I saw others as neurotic while they saw me as lazy. The difference is I never imposed my will on others but the world was very enthusiastic about imposing theirs on me. Of course now I recognize all of the good intentions but as a child who was greatly misunderstood to be lazy while actually thinking everyone else is doing something very wrong, I couldn't help but feel an intense frustration with the entire system.

PSLE grades were recently released and I'm in the midst of (enjoying) my finals, making these observations ever so glaring. Seeing how this society is founded on academics, more specifically grades, I can't help but feel something is very wrong. Perhaps my greatest frustration is not over the importance grades have in society but instead society's moralizing and imposing of its importance.

By imposing the need for good grades and moralizing hard work, we have taught children to work hard not because they are going after something they want but because it is the "right" thing to do and bad things will happen if they don't. We have taught kids how to ignore their own human nature emotions and desires, and instead do things they would rather not. We have taught kids to move from a place of fear and not a place of strength. We have taught kids how to be neurotic. We have taught kids how to be unhappy.

Have you ever thought about it? We all know we get unhappier as we get older and we always accept it as a fact of growing up and "maturing". Yet if we were born as happy beings and it is clearly our natural state as illustrated by children, something must have caused this change, isn't it? We don't just become unhappy because we have existed longer on this Earth. Things happen to us. Things like the moralizing and imposing of hard work and good grades. The continuous teachings and pedestalizing of success and hard work. We have taught the next generation how to join us in chronic unhappiness.

Perhaps the learning should be inverted. We ought to learn from children. They know the secrets to being happy without the need for stimulus from the environment.

Today I look around and getting a B grade have most students of all levels feeling a lack of success, a level of unhappiness and sometimes even a failure. I see these students and I ask myself "Why are they so unhappy? They just scored a B!(which equates to 60-70% in most cases) they are 70% well versed in the subject, isn't that beautiful?!" Now certainly there are bell curves in certain cases so a B could mean anything but it usually indicates a decent level of proficiency in the subject. Why aren't students happy about it? Worse still, why are they unhappy about it? The answer is society. Society has taught us that this is a competition and you better not lose. Society has taught us to compare and base our worth on those around us. Certainly it is a competition, if you decide to compete. It's never about how you do but how the rest of society is doing that will eventually determine your future isn't it? This mentality is self-fulfilling. It is because you think this way that it becomes true. Sure, if you don't do well now, you may never get into the next level of education. But why did you want to get there in the first place? To do the same thing so you can again move to the next until eventually get a well paying job. Oh you think it ends there? No, you will apply the same mentality to climb the ranks. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because it is true you cut off your options but you only feel you needed it in the first place because of this mentality. And in this regard, it is a competition, because you got your goals all wrong. Your goals are all wrong because of the moralizing and imposing of hard work and good grades.

So should you do well in school? Should children do well in school? The answer is simple: whatever makes them happy. Perhaps the only education they need is awareness, not moralizing. That is to be aware of the benefits working hard can bring, presented in an unbiased manner and at the same time, the negative impacts hard work can bring, again in an unbiased manner. Instead of the moralizing our society takes part in - pressuring students who are fairing not as well to study harder, referring to them as weaker students, criticizing "lazy" students, punishing those who do not do their assignments and of course just straight out preaching. These are all examples of the moralizing society and the educational system has done.

At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves what do we really want? Why do we do what we do and why do we want what we want? It is there that you proceed from.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Are we running towards something or away from something?

I believe human nature, no matter how neurotic one becomes, remains unchanged. Everything comes down to basic math. Whatever it is we do now, we believe that the opposite is worse. That is to say, we will only put ourselves through something if we believe we will be worse off if we do not do so.

If we put ourselves through happy, joyful and blissful activities that make us happy, it is because we believe that if we didn't do it, we won't be as happy - very logical. So too is the same when we choose to put ourselves through discomfort. We believe that if we did not suffer this discomfort, we will have to suffer an even greater discomfort.

This is where the concept of delayed gratification becomes exploited in everyone's life. Masked as something good instead of bad, it is rationalized as suffering today for a better tomorrow - the social mark for a mature individual. Yet what it really is, is the running away from a perceived worse-off tomorrow instead of a perceived better tomorrow.

I use the word perceive because we act based off what we think and not what is. Sometimes, these two are in line but sometimes, they're not. Because they are not in this case, people become neurotic. They are running, some even sprinting, away from something they perceive to be but does not exist. It's like trying to run away from ghosts. It doesn't exist but you constantly think its only an inch behind you so not only will you have to keep running, you better accelerate. Yet in reality, there is nothing behind you. (I'm working with the assumption ghost don't exist....)

This fear of a worse-off tomorrow if we don't work hard today, it is of no basis. Its legitimacy lies in a few key areas: everyone is doing it, you learnt it from young, you learnt it from people you trust or respect(parents, teachers, etc) but they are also neurotic, it is reinforced by authoritative/powerful figures (governments, capitalist, etc) because it serves their purpose. (ok really been learning too much sociology)

Yet, it is of no basis. Really. Now all the arguments otherwise can be convincing. In fact, this race that everyone is running have led to so many individuals accumulating a wealth of knowledge in language, debating and what not that many could easily whoop my ass in a debate.

So instead of debating with me, try this: today, you act as if this fear did not exist. So you will continue to behave in way that you believe if you did not do so, you will be worse off. Except now that might mean doing things you like or just doing nothing. I guarantee you enjoyed today better than your last few days. The only possible reason you did not is the neurotic mind of yours is eating up at you with anxiety, thinking you will be worse-off for not suffering now so you cannot actually enjoy you day. But lets pretend that's not a problem. Now you do this everyday and you stop only when you realize that your fear-of-no-basis comes true. That is to say you finally are really worse-off right now than if you were neurotically sprinting away from ghosts everyday. If you think about it, that day never really comes.

Now don't get me twisted. I am not a radical. I am simply seeing things for what they are. I'm not anti hard work or anti work. I'm not saying your life will be so amazing just by doing this. This is just simple logic. And if we follow the logic, all I am saying is much of our fear is imaginary - it has no basis. Now, certainly some fears are legitimate. The fear that if you don't do anything you will die, yes that's true. You need to eat and drink water and to do that a certain level of work is required. Then again, why fear death? But let's not go too far shall we.

Perhaps all I am suggesting is before we blindly run, we be conscious of why is it we are running. That maybe it'll serve us better if we walked and enjoy the view, take a nap if we're tired. Running from ghosts can be quite exhausting.