Rethinking Education

As a university student, I’ve been conditioned to view education as the consumption of knowledge. Academic success is achieved through the accumulation and retention of formulae, principles, and theories. It’s akin to a banking system: my professors lend me their knowledge; I invest my time through studying, and then make repayments through assignments and tests.

Yet as I exit the site of a final exam, the concepts I’ve learned over a semester begin to fade, and they recede to become a handful of ideas which amount to little more than trivia.

The opportunity cost of something is what you give up to get it. (Economics 201)

Thomas King’s short story “Totem” is a veiled commentary on Canada’s failure to include Aboriginals in the country’s multicultural identity. (English 231)

“Train track.” Flickr, 9 Feb. 2014. Graphic. 13 Mar. 2014.

Retention of something depends on its application. Language, or any other skill, follows this rule. Admittedly, I’ve no recollection of communication theories or the way Euler paths and circuits operate. I certainly got the grades I wanted when I was tested on these topics, but what actual value was derived if I can’t recall the knowledge that once occupied my trains of thought? Why do I remember the small details and not the big concepts? When I ask myself these questions, I get cynical.

Fortunately, I’m participating in ucalgarycares as a member of the Indigenous Leadership and Engagement team: I’ve been involved with a series of workshops which focus on Aboriginal ways of knowing. I discovered last week that education, from an Aboriginal perspective, is the renewal of what one already knows. Education either confirms or adjusts what already exists. In this light, I realize that it’s OK to not recall academic concepts.

Ask me about principles of business, and I’ll just talk about how people respond to incentives.

Ask me about communication theories, and I’ll just talk about how humans are social beings.

Ask me about English literature, and I’ll just talk about the power of words and how language is divine.

As trains of thought pass through during my stay in university, not all of them are destined for a return trip. But each one does have an impact on my perspective either through affirmation or alteration. What remains is what resonates; what resonates is what remains.

Signing off,

This entry was posted in Indigenous Leadership, Student Posts, Summer Term 2014, Yukon and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Rethinking Education

  1. Judy says:

    I’m 55 with 4 genus adult children. Since being affected by dysfunctional systems that caused me to become homeless I’ve concluded we live in dysfunctional systems, we learn how to be successful in that dysfunction through our dysfunctional education. Education appears to be all about inside the box thinking and zero out of the box thinking. Industry influences what they want you to learn not what you should be learning. As our economic system crashes we can’t recognize highly educated economics people causes our economic problems yet we rely on their thinking to get us out of this mess. Einstein said it best – you can’t solve a problem using the same mind that created the problem. there is no new way of thinking in our education system.

    my opinion

  2. armikaipainen says:

    Jessy, this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I too struggle with the ‘banking model’ of education – I find experiential learning much more refreshing, and although I might not perform better on a test, I feel that experiential learning prepares me to reapply that learning in another context (rather than simply memorizing things). I look forward to hearing more about your experience with the Yukon program.

    I’m also a huge fan of Thomas King! I have many of his books so if you ever want to borrow any…

    • Judy says:

      banking model is an excellent example. Go to school, learn how to screw an economic system and profit through self interest. Banks don’t appear to be helping society rather bankers are educated to help themselves. If we live in dysfunctional systems, you learn how to become financially successful inside dysfunctional systems through our dysfunctional education. The only knowledge gained through current structures is all old ways, old theories proven not to work. There is no free thinking, out side of the box, innovation of something completely different. School teaches you how to re-invent the wheel over and over like ground hog day. The one’s who appear to know the least about social problems are highly educated professionals, yet we pay them well hoping they come up with solutions – it’s called insanity

    • jlcheung117 says:

      Hi Erin! Thanks for the response – just saw it now. I’d love to have a conversation about your thoughts on education and experience with society when you have time. (And I remember you talking fondly about Thomas King. I may take up your offer to borrow books.)

      Hope you’re enjoying Costa Rica,

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