Reflection on My Schooling

Note: this is a paragraph I just added to my article: the Art of My Life. (https://freestone.wordpress.com/2007/05/08/the-art-of-my-life/). I think it might be good to separate it out as a single article as well.

As I reflect on my schooling experience, I did well at school. Except for some short periods of time, generally I kept to be always No. 1 in school, and did well at almost all subjects. My parents was willing to save on food in order to send us to the best school available. There was no reason I shouldn’t study hard. Although my parents’ personalities are quite different, they are both very honest and hardworking. I guess these are the most important things that we three brothers inherited from our parents. Although we three are very different in personality, we share the same integrity and hardworking with our parents. Also my big brother set up a very good example in school for us. Although very young, I also knew intuitively that I had to do well at school otherwise my whole life would be unimaginable, so there was always that kind of force that could endure the pain and hardworking at school. My parents also knew the importance to make us cultivate good habits. So at the beginning of our schooling, my parents emphasized some scheduling for us and watched closely. After we got on the track, they almost didn’t bother with our school work at all. Since my parents work in a small scientific institution and we went to the school in that institution, we had the fortune to be taught by teachers who were generally competent and caring. (Some teachers, however, really suck. They humiliated students. One teacher almost destroyed my interest completely in an important subject due to his 5 years’ boring teaching of the subject. Some teachers taught very stupid methods. Sorry I have no respect for those kinds of teachers at all no matter what Confucius say about how we should respect teachers. I pay a lot of respect to teachers who had really taught me!) Since everyone knows each other in that institution, the school doesn’t lose the sense of being in a community and serving the community. Growing up in an institution located in a beautiful scenery, with diverse talented people coming from all over the country, we just had the chance to learn a lot outside of school and got exposed to various kinds of things. Not until the middle school, we always had quite a lot of time to play after finishing our coursework. I guess all these just made me fortunate enough to survive schooling. Nevertheless I suffered a lot from schools and those mandatory exams. Although I always did pretty well at exams, those exams still created anxiety in me and to a degree some mental problems because the school was so unreal and especially after middle school, the coursework became a lot more intensive. Even so, I always tried very hard to make sense of all the education in school and tried to really learn something from it. For example, in one summer during my primary school, I went through my biology and geography textbooks already taught and found that I almost forgot everything, and there were so many things that were just fun and I should have remembered. Realizing that, when starting a subject each semester, I asked myself what I wanted to learn in this subject then I only learned to that degree of details. I wasn’t going to memorize things that I was not going to remember anyway. So in the beginning of each semester, I usually go through the whole book to see what the subject is about and what I should learn. I realized that there were a lot of things that I learned in school could not be applied to my real life, especially mathematics. I knew that was not real knowledge and always wanted to have a real chance to really integrate those knowledge little by little into my real life.

But it was not until my college that I really had a chance to devote a large amount of time to just learn what I feel I need to learn at the time and really start my learning. After my college entrance exam, I was determined to strive hard for my whole life. I was also determined that I wanted to learn all the wisdoms collected in the previous human generations. Furthermore I started to have a strong interest in doing business  and participating in China’s Reform and Open era. This gave me a very strong drive to learn about society, which I knew nothing about coming out of high school. It also made me realize the importance of learning liberal arts and other arts. I was crazy in college trying to learn a lot of things every day. I tried a lot of ways, scheduled my life in many different ways. It was a very long process. (For more details of my learning in college, you can read https://freestone.wordpress.com/2007/05/08/the-art-of-my-life/) There were a lot of struggles in that process. A lot of times very confused about many things. A lot of emotions. In Chinese universities, to a large degree you can ignore those exams. Thus I had quite a lot of time to engage in my own learning. It was after all those different kinds of learning I was able to wrap it up and finally felt myself different. As Mr. Gatto said, people have to spend a lot of time engaging in various kinds of activities. By learning many different things, what is developed is a flexible mind that is very skillful in grasping the truth in each moment under various conditions. For a human being living in this world, in each moment, the truth for me is to grow, to play and to create. I enjoyed learning very different things: arts, business and tech, and was able to put them together and interact with the culture and society in a very creative way. The mind was finally flying. It is great fun. After experiencing that kind of fun, I am very willing to work very hard, and in each moment of hardworking there is actually that great fun rising simultaneously.

Many people tend to think that kids have to learn discipline in school and discipline is important for learning. No matter how important discipline might be, my own learning in college proved to me that learning under strong drive of interest is a lot more efficient than mere discipline. Some of my friends had no discipline at all in school. But when they got out of school, went into society and started doing something that they were really interested in, they had all the discipline to persevere. Trying to learn discipline in school is like trying to learn discipline and hardship in military. One of my friend joined the army to learn discipline and hardship, which is a ridiculous idea to me. There is enough hardship in real life. If you aim high and work hard, you will surely encounter a lot of hardship along the way. I don’t want to look for hardship in an artificial environment.

I also had the fortune to be a very bad student for a short period of time. Thus I know how hard it is to be at the bottom of the school system. It is really depressing and can be hopeless. It is inhumane for this school system to dump most kids into that situation for that long period of time in school and most likely for all of their future lives in society after they get out of school.

I guess only a very small percentage of people can be lucky like me to survive schooling. Even I was still confined in some way that had to take a lot of efforts to undo them to return to the original free form of human being. This is the base of mass production, according to the theory of scientific management. The work of unschooling is of course to make self-learning in real life and society much easier and thus a much larger percentage of people are able to make themselves. I strongly believe our current time demands more creative and independent people, that our time has a way to accommodate many free and independent individuals, and that more importantly, living in this more and more interdependent world and more scientifically advanced world, we cannot afford to continue to have a large portion of the population being dumbed down. Our existence on this planet will certainly soon be in immediate danger if we don’t address this in a timely way. The way that the corporations run the states is unsustainable and the planet cannot afford another US to live this way. There has to be a solution. The solution is to finally return the true face of learning to people and empower each individual to pursue the art of his/her life and thus find out what s/he is.

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Filed under Essay, Featured Essays, Learning, unschooling, What is Learning

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