Brunch

The kids aren’t alright

We don’t need no education

We don’t need no thought control

No dark sarcasm in the classroom

Teacher leave them kids alone

Hey! Teacher, leave them kids alone.

– Pink Floyd 

 

Released in 1979, Pink Floyd’s The Wall is a concept masterpiece and the highest selling double album of all time. Roger Waters penned its lyrics biographically about a rockstar named Pink who loses his father and becomes jaded and imposes self-isolation.

Yet, while it is in our intrinsic nature to be social animals, long bouts of solitude can build barriers and construct emotional, psychological, and physical indestructible walls. 

Walls for a creative introverted adult might not completely be a bad thing. 

For finally, what is a prison other than a matter of perception and a state of mind? 

Which is why building walls to protect yourself, to hide away in them, or within which to fortify oneself can have adverse effects, especially if you are a teenager. 

Disappointments and loss are a part and parcel of life. Yet there are things that prepare us to weather life’s storms, fight our battles, and get back on our feet when we are knocked down. Those lessons are not in school books and academic texts. No one but life and experience can teach you these things. 

 

Our own prison 

Hasn’t the coronavirus pandemic and the series of sporadic lockdowns made prisoners out of many of us? Confined and limited to working from home, divided and distanced from our peers, families, and friends? 

Not least of all, students who face unfathomable hardship behind their “walls” that are perhaps not conducive environments for productive learning? 

It’s easy for us all to assume that in a world that relies heavily on the advent of technological disruption that this brave new world of remote learning will sit easy with the new generations hooked on dopamine fixes, glued to computers, and mobile devices. 

What if we are wrong? 

What if this isolated, remote learning thrust upon them overnight might not merit the favour and praise bestowed upon it?

What if it’s doing more harm than good? 

 

School’s out! 

The great pandemic has tipped our planet on its fulcrum towards uncertainty and bedlam; it has affected every nation in incomprehensible ways. 

It is true that some countries are poised for a seemingly slow but steadfast recovery, while others are plunging further into existential turmoil and universal grief. 

The economic and social disruptions and ramifications are enormous. 

The impact of the pandemic crisis and proverbial lockdowns on schools and educational institutions is tremendous. 

Indefinite school closures have brought about significant disruptions to education, giving rise to learning losses and the disparaging negative effects on students as well as teachers. 

Over 95% of the world’s student population were affected without face-to-face teaching, resulting in the largest disruption to education in history. 

At the peak of the pandemic, 45 countries in Asia and Europe closed schools affecting 185 million students!

 

If there’s a new way, I’ll be first in line!  

Emergency remote learning methods were developed overnight to cater to the “status quo” that students must at all costs adhere to the archaic models of educational structure – to exemplify robotic finesse and attain homogeneous perfection by the book; that they need to do homework and sit for exams no matter what – even with the lack of personal interaction, where students would be heavily demoralised being disconnected from peers, friends, and teachers. 

Students are polarised and forced to lose out on a plethora of life skills, values, and experiences for a one-dimensional requirement born out of a disproportionate compulsion to placate parents, school boards, and the state, to endow students with the competencies to byheart, calculate, memorise, and organise methodologies of problem-solving in a process-rewarding environment, rife with outdated frameworks and largely irrelevant systems. 

Yet, to think on one’s feet, to be quick-witted, emboldened to analyse a tough situation by exploring possible pros and cons, results and outcomes, to improvise and engage with others, to hold onto values and virtue when faced with challenges too great a burden to carry and bear, to aspire to form lifelong bonds and kinships, to know loyalty and trust, love and ache, the joy of camaraderie and the pathos of peer pressure, to solve real-life problems and not just construct suitable answers on a page (or should I say screen?). That’s the stuff of legend. Because schools today in a pandemic world are too busy demeaning, dehumanising, and demoralising kids. 

Perhaps the time is long overdue to change the entire symphony by readily changing the tune, by first changing the piper. 

 

Primal Concrete Sledge

A generation groomed to live vicariously are forced to learn life’s greater lessons and experience life behind a computer or mobile screen; encouraged to withdraw inwards; to let their insecurities prey on their resolve. 

What happens when a disconnected generation loses every semblance of connection to each other, even at the most primal and infinitesimal level? 

Levels of depression and anxiety are soaring to unprecedented heights. The impacts of Covid-19 on the mental health and social lives of children are astronomical. 

Consider the percentages of students who have had delayed graduations. Those who have lost internships and job opportunities. 

Lower income students face inequality and barriers to learning that are immense. 

The economic and health shocks across socio-economic spheres are herculean.

We need to ask a straightforward question here. 

What is education? 

Is it the process by which learning, information, and systematic instruction is imparted? 

Is it the enlightenment and empowerment of self through the experience of academic studies? 

Is it the acquisition of processes, habits, behaviour, codes of conduct, values and morals, and skills? 

Is it the discovery of self while endeavouring to grow accustomed with a realm of subjects and disciplines, principles, and standards that are customarily mandatory and also advanced to inculcate knowledge of the aforesaid? 

 

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.

– Albert Einstein

 

What is the difference between education and learning?  

Education is knowledge gained through teaching, or being taught. 

Learning is knowledge gained through experience. 

A good school will educate. A very good school will encourage students to learn. A great school will bridge the gap between education and learning. 

You see it is in the best interests of societal hierarchies to ensure that appearances are maintained flawlessly with smoke and mirrors and a satirical circus pantomime that humanity masquerades with vile vigour and vicious veracity. 

A grand machine that works cohesively providing every component and constituent within the system and machination, plays its part. Not necessarily to perfection, but at least to perfunctory purpose. 

To espouse outdated methods and expired means for the sake of it is akin to being a drowning jester in quicksand clinging onto a flaming branch.

 

The balance 

 Achieving a school-life balance is integral for teenagers to find identity, meaning, and purpose; for them to realise that experiences hone them and their life’s choices finally define who they are – not their heritage, race, nationality, religious beliefs, inherited or accumulated wealth, and social status. 

That there must be greater emphasis on their wellbeing, and the mental health of students should be brought into the forefront of narratives, into the collective consciousness, with unequivocal consideration contextually made so that kids work towards optimal academic functioning. 

The world is a different place, and its dynamics and facets change constantly and vehemently. For students to survive and thrive, they need to learn to adopt new skills and adapt to frequent changes that will prepare them for a future leaning on cognitive education balanced with instilled inherent values and efficacy in technological proficiency. 

Holistic learning is related finally to a student’s perception, attitude, congruence with different circles and strata, and their mentality and substance as an individual with personality and emotional intelligence. No more will it be solely reliant on ability, capability, acuity, competence, and competitiveness. 

If something isn’t done now to mitigate these challenges, the long-term compounding negative effects, economically and socially, will be cataclysmic. 

We are paving the way for a generation to wallow in anxiety, with misery for company, orchestrating a grim swansong of depression. 

It is vital to ensure students remain connected with consistent personal communication taking place at home as well as during or after online classes with constructive feedback and encouragement. 

Well co-ordinated online group activities, specialised and customised interactive programmes, incentivising workshops, and motivational events will inspire and boost morale and confidence. 

Inspire students with rewards schemes facilitated for hard work and effort and not results. 

Guide students to find links between their dreams and goals in correlation with their talents and values. The future will lean towards artificial intelligence (AI), cryptocurrency, Industry 4.0, machine learning, cloud technologies, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), medical innovations, cybersecurity, social media marketing, virtual and augmented reality etc., and your kid may be a bright spark with a natural proclivity to be a brighter beacon in an industry that will help shape the future. 

Don’t be so hung up on the past, so that you as a teacher, tutor, guardian, or parent are projecting unreasonable requirements and expectations onto kids determining what their progress ought to be. Forgetting that all the knowledge in the whole wide world won’t make a person wise. 

So tell me, do you want your child to be meticulously educated, permanently damaged, and outdated? 

Or do you want your child to learn and be relevant and happy? 

Or are you fine with your kid all along being just another brick in the wall? 

 

Suresh de Silva is the frontman and lyricist of Stigmata, a creative consultant and brand strategist by profession, a self-published author and poet, thespian, animal rescuer, podcaster, and fitness enthusiast.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.