TalkSeries V4: Schools & the impact on the psychology of our nation

Art by: Benon Lutaaya

Art by: Benon Lutaaya

Before I go on about this month’s topic for talk series, I just want to reflect on the strength of the community which has emerged as a result of having this vulnerable space. A space where people can come as they are and share & engage with others. I’m more than grateful to have a group of people who I consider the #talkseries family to learn from. If you have ever attended a #talkseries session in the past 4 months, we sincerely thank you. If you have no clue who we are, find out more about us here.

Schooling and the impact on the psychology of a nation. 

Most of us attend school for a greater part of our youth. We take it for granted what schools are and the impact they have on our lives, collectively. We often preach education as the panacea to all our problems of poverty, inequality and all sorts of social ills without really questioning what schooling and education are. 

In our 4th volume discussion, we decided to tackle this question through these focus areas: 

  1. Identity: how does schooling shape our identity? (our “real” recognised identity as well as that perceived based on societal views).
  2. Access: what world views do different schools instill? Are these sufficiently inclusive and holistic? 
  3. Quality: does the content learners are taught in schools prepare them for adult life in a complex and ever changing world? 
  4. Intersectionality: do schools take into account “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group?”
  5. Evolution: can schooling prepare us for the future when most of the content and techniques used have not evolved?

One thing that was clear from the discussion is that despite many of us believing that the schooling experience should be a time of forming a self and understanding that self, schools leave a lot of us feeling confused and alienated. Othering through “in grouping and out grouping” as well as the threat of being labelled a failure throughout your life, work against the spirit of solidarity and empathy and leaves us competitive and insatiable. 

Depending on which school you went to you either experience intense feelings of superiority, elitism and classism or the other side of the coin being inferiority and shame. 

We spent some time discussing our understanding of what schooling should be. The idea of schooling as a holistic experience where learners not only learn maths and science but they engage in culture, which is the very moral fibre of society. All this is beautiful……..the problem is when we live in a monocultural world where the dominant culture (i.e. western/ european) is the epitome of what is virtuous and “the only indisputable way” to exist. This monoculture ridicules alternative ways of existence and labels them quaint and colourful but virtually barbaric and useless. 

When kids are taught that they can celebrate their culture one day in a year. When they get to dress up in traditional clothes and write poems about things they know nothing about. 

Once you understand that the historic and current premise of school is to churn out dependent products to be pushed into the system to serve the master, you’re left with all sorts of difficult questions:

One of the most important questions that came out of the discussion is "why"? Why do learn? Why do we go to school? What is the outcome? 

The outcome of primary school seems to be to prepare you for high school. The outcome of which seems to be to get you to university, the outcome of which is to secure a well paying job, to afford to buy stuff and consume. What we term; “upward mobility”, “progress” and “making it”. But is this really the intention behind all this learning? What about learning for the joy of seeking knowledge? What about learning for the sake of solving problems.  Are “upward mobility” and “making it” really the way we will measure our lives? 

These are very difficult questions for a world that is grappling with the psychology of history. Where we are all just trying to figure out how best to handle the now, referencing to history.

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