The Report Card: Education

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Originally published in The Other Press. Mar. 11, 2014

Education is akin to medicine, nutrition, and fitness; it’s a vital part of being a person. But knowledge is not about being smarter than the person beside us, it’s about mutual support. In post-secondary, we are forced to think and learn with a competitive mindset—we’re all battling for the best life possible, after all. But for other students, it’s more than simply getting good grades, graduating with honours, and applying for work: it’s about surviving and creating normality. Blessed or cursed, the willingness to learn is what defines us in the end.

Pass: Supporting inmates

We all make mistakes—some more haunting than others—but we must be afforded the opportunity to redeem ourselves since capital punishment is not an option. If you think it’s hard to bounce back after your GPA drops, try bouncing back after receiving a criminal record. Certain doors are closed after that, so it’s even more important to support our inmates as they attempt to make the transition from criminal to lawful civilian.

The current correctional and educational services offered by the Canadian government are available in institutions of all levels (minimum to maximum security). Everything from teaching basic grade school-level knowledge that helps inmates deal with daily problems to vocational education that teaches them certain trade skills.

These initiatives help inmates put their best foot forward the day they leave their correctional facility.

We, as poor college students, may often feel the injustice of having to take student loans and work extra shifts to pay for our own education—leaving us exhausted and in debt; we also begrudge the fact that our tax dollars are paying for the education of criminals. That is a disgusting thought to many people. But that notion in itself is disgusting. Poverty and crime go hand in hand, and the solution for both is education. The same way we offer shelter and food for the poor, we must also offer education and support for the troubled.

Fail: Pressuring prodigies

Our strengths give us pride. Those are the attributes we showcase to employers, friends, and especially our parents. But focussing only on our strengths at a young age, in the way prodigies are often treated, causes the loss of a lot of substances and the sensation of growing up in a modern world.

Today, it’s less about what you know and more about who you know. I believe the prodigy model is fading. Young geniuses are often introverted and reserved, and have shown signs of autism and other social deficiencies in addition to their brilliance. Organizations today are built not with a nucleus, an overruling boss who makes all the decisions, but rather a functioning support staff that contributes to finding solution for every problem that arises. Prodigies not only need to understand complex mathematical concepts or the majesty of music, they must also learn how to interact with others. Therefore, we should avoid pressuring prodigies.

We must nurture talent, but talent does not have to be a single-lane career path. A talent can also be a hobby or an enjoyable pastime. We often preach, “Do what you are good at,” but I believe we should do more than we are good at, we must attempt what we are shitty at as well. We must teach modesty, keep prodigies grounded, and avoid positioning them on a pedestal. Teaching talented individuals to overcome adversity in the form of challenges is support in a different way, and is equally valid.

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