A few of the kids I grew up with loved going to school, but most of us agreed with the sentiment expressed in that cartoon. For many years I saw going to class and learning enough to get decent grades as something I had to do so that I wouldn’t disappoint my parents and would be allowed to play sports after school. So I did it, even though I suspected a lot of what I was being taught was either a load of crap or wouldn’t be of much use to me later on.
Where is all this going? Well, Botswana’s government employed teachers and school administrators didn’t turn in very inspiring performances last term – what with the strike and all that talk about money – so I imagine a few of our leaders of the future are feeling a bit sceptical at the start of this term; so I’m going to preach a bit about the benefits of education.
As it turned out, my suspicions were correct; a lot of what I was taught was crap and I haven’t used a great deal of it directly to make a living… but that doesn’t mean any of it was a waste of time. You see, when you go to school there is always something important to learn. It might be the subject matter; but it could also be how to differentiate between facts and opinions, how to identify rubbish, or how to learn something important even if your teacher isn’t very good at his or her job. Everything can be a lesson and looking at school this way makes it much easier to carry on learning after one has finished formal education.
I think the most important thing about going to school is simply learning how to learn and one of the most amazing things I’ve discovered is that the more I learn, the more I realise how little I actually know… and I think that realisation could help all of us to be more tolerant of different people, cultures and ideas. How’s that for preaching?
Now let’s go back to those kids I grew up with for a moment: most of them believe the United States is the best country in the whole wide world, because that is what they have been told and because they have never left the States on holiday let alone to live in another country to check it out. There are many Batswana who feel the same way about Botswana for the same reasons.
Of course my former classmates may be right, or my Batswana friends may be right. I don’t know, but neither do they.
Anyway, I guess what I’m driving at here is that there is always more to learn, which means we should always take expert advice, and the advice of teachers, political leaders, or columnists for that matter, with a grain of salt and be willing to take responsibility for our own lives and our own decisions.
Of course if we all did that, it might be tricky to find people, like the soldier in that cartoon, who believe fighting for their government is the same thing as defending their country.