It appears this post has nothing to do with Mexico… but it will by the time I finish the next post, whenever that’ll be. In order to rant about Guadalajara’s current public education fiasco underway, it seems to me necessary to be clear that I have a genuine point of view concerning the matter, and hopefully avoid appearing to be merely sucking up to one political party or another…
Unique are those who, at one point or another in their lives, know exactly what it is they want to accomplish, and are endowed with both the talent to make it happen and the intellect to maintain why they must. Even among them, not all possess the passion for it necessary to combat the fear of the painful obstacles that inevitably will crush a good number of them, sometimes permanently… obstacles, often hidden away in the fog, which clearly intimidate the rest of us from even daring to try any wild dream on for size.
We often allude to these individuals, or their examples, when we talk about the importance of education. But it should be pointed out, at least for the sake of argument, that education is not what produces these individuals.. much less is it any education ‘system’. Now in saying this, there is no such implication that they lack education. Indeed, most of them exude it in some form. But ask any of them how they learned what they know, and you’ll wait only in vain for a response that mentions studying hard each semester, getting As on every exam, and graduating at the top of the class.. true as it may be for perhaps a handful of them.
They’re proactive learners, meaning they learn via their own will. They don’t study for the purpose of making good grades. They might not be in school at all. They’re certainly not concerned about who’s a genius or who’s lucky and who isn’t. What occupies them and drives them is a clear personal vision they’ve set out to realize. They learn up and down, front to back precisely what they deem necessary to complete the task. If the wisdom of an expert in any field is needed, they’ll find one. If a university degree materializes in the process, whatever. If it doesn’t, whatever. They have no more time in a day than the rest of us, yet they tend to make more progress in one day than the rest of us do in a week or a month. But there’s nothing phenomenal about this in itself. On the contrary, it’s quite natural for anyone who knows where they’re coming from and precisely where they’re going.
For those of us who don’t, which is most of us, there’s an education system, promising a bright future for anyone that decides to throw down a small fortune with high hopes for what’s behind door one, two, or three… and perhaps some other doors too, maybe with.. numbers, on them also.. I don’t know.
It’s rather curious that we continue to live during a time in which entire societies continue to accept the legitimacy and authority of the university degree virtually without question. We ‘know’, for instance, that people with degrees have brighter futures than those that don’t. We ‘know’ that it’s responsible as young parents to start saving from the time of our children’s infancy for their higher education some years down the road. Company execs ‘know’ that a university degree is the mark of higher qualification. Relatively young scholars ‘know’ that an important milestone has been reached whenever all the tasseled square hats go flying…
For the grand majority of us who do not know what we want to accomplish in life, graduation is something to be most proud of. It signifies that we at least committed ourselves to.. something.. and saw it through. We’ve successfully made the gallant leap over that dismal pit of lower humanity, already overfilled with society’s less fortunate, arduously toiling their lives away in ugly surroundings just to make ends meet.. unqualified, evidently, for any greater role. But not us. We’ve been awarded the golden ticket, redeemable for that one thing that we’ve aspired to for the last brain mashing however many years: a job.
Bueno.. a comfy, well paying, non-sweating my ass off and getting filthy for peanuts and for some chew-spittin supervisor kind of job.
Some might stop me dead in my tracks here and demand that I retract the word “job” for the more favorable “career”, noting the opportunities for advancement within their workplace that simply don’t exist for the cleaning people, maintenance, factory or cafeteria workers. Some may point out, and rightly so, that if I want to be an architect, I must go to school and learn at least the dynamics of a house of cards.. that if I want to be a doctor, there’s no chance without medical school.. A would-be lawyer will not be any such prestigious fellow without passing the Bar. Most agreed.
But there are people who want to be lawyers, doctors, and architects… and then there are others who want specifically to accomplish things which require them to be lawyers, doctors and architects in order to do so. There’s a significant difference between the two. The former see the educative process as the principal means to an end of achieving the title. The latter, focused on how the material of the educative process conforms to their vision far beyond it, merely pick up a title along the way. The former aspire to secure a well paying job. The latter are the ones who will likely create jobs, if they’re successful. And so is the case with many other fields of study. In fact, the degrees offered through many of these other fields of study are not even necessary, if even useful for the latter. For the former, yes.
This is the rather foul paradox of the education system. The proactive learners, most of whom are such because, again, they know exactly what they’re looking to accomplish, are the ones least in need of the ultimate prize any bureaucratic educative system can offer: the degree – that golden ticket. The rest of us, however, would not even bother with higher education were it not for the degree. And how much do we really learn in the process that will ever be useful to us much less retainable in the future when we don’t know what we truly want to do with our lives… other than get ‘a job’.. or for you picky ones, ‘the best possible boost to whatever successful career door number three presents to us’.
Now the point here is not to diminish the importance of jobs, and certainly not the importance of having them. I, for one, am sure as hell glad to have one. Some would argue that landing a good position, even a good starting position, in any market is certainly an ‘accomplishment’ to shoot for. And for those of us who lack the vision to use our personal talents to forge our own paths, I can agree that the term ‘accomplishment’ could be reduced in its meaning to fit into such a context… as long as the arguer agrees that these good starting positions would not even exist were it not for a few unique individuals who apply a completely different meaning to the term.
It’s not that the education system lies and misleads systematically in the interest of raking in boatloads of cash.. though it is true that demand is demand and business is business. The problem is the unquestioning attitude that we all seem to have toward the education system. It allows us too easily to believe that it will take our hand and guide us through the fog to the promised land of financially happy and medically and dentally secure futures.
By the time we’ve gone through the whole rigmarole of the university.. being ‘educated’ on its terms, studying what it tells us we must study, making the grade when it tells us we’ve made it, and far too often accepting or not accepting what it tells us we should accept or not accept (in case you ever wondered what really makes the degree so attractive to employers)… we become so accustomed to the fog and the cautionary measures necessary to maneuver in it, that we either forget or overlook the fact that we haven’t been led out of it in any way. Or at least in the euphoria of clinching that diploma, it certainly doesn’t seem as thick as it once did. But it is. Education, in the end, does not deliver us from the fog, because the fog does not represent a lack of education. It represents far more precisely a lack of vision. And the university offers no degree in personal vision.
But it’s not by any means a complete waste, either. After all, most of us will get that dignified job.. somewhere, and we’ll earn enough money with it to buy dignified clothing and other nice things.. not to mention pay back an ever more inflated price for that golden ticket that got us there. Sadly, for far too many, by the time the bloody thing ever gets paid for, a quick scan over everything learned up to that point in life shows at best only scant traces of whatever was picked up in the university.
But there’s also the satisfaction of having escaped the abyss of everlasting factory work, yes indeed… only to discover that Monday looks no better from the higher ground. The daily grind is still the daily grind. We smoke the same cigarrettes, drink the same beer, and watch the same ridiculous tv shows as the supposedly less qualified. Sure, the physical stress of warehouse work has been evaded. Hooray. Now we can bask in the glory of emotional stress of the office, accompanied by an obsession with our waist lines, flabby arms and flat asses because, alas.. we lack the necessary daily physical stimulus to maintain them… unless we waste another sliver of life away with regular visits to the gym…
Eventually, perhaps while perusing the “self help and personal enrichment” section of our local bookstore, we must ask ourselves – “Have I ever really known what I wanted to do with my life in the first place?” An extreme few ever possess the good fortune of an honest answer of “yes”. For the rest of us, should we believe that one day we might discover what we were truly born for, the greatest fortune we can hope for is that we at least enjoy what we do in the meantime.
What? … you think I’m being cynical for cynicism’s sake?