Thursday, 26 November 2015

Education is not intelligence

The following five quotes present the themes of this writing:
Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family. - Kofi Annan 
Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance. - Confucius 
Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours. - John Locke 
Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom. - Charles Spurgeon 
There's a reason that education sucks. The owners of this country don't want that. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. That's against their interest. They want obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits. – George Carlin 
This exquisitely decorated piece of A4 paper, embossed with my school’s emblem, is a reflection of my numerous, sleepless nights, and subsequent mornings characterised by an agitated brain and caffeine-induced shaking of my hands.

Anxiously, I faced another examination paper in which I had to write a minimum of four pages per question in two hours to test my brain’s information retention capacity. For the higher marks, critical analysis, mention of further readings, and well-illustrated and written answers were required. Alas, formal education is essentially a test of what you have been taught.

This paper further signifies the first terrifying days I began at university, the first failed assessments, the first great passes, the many attended and the few missed classes. It’s my three years on paper. The written percentages engraved on accompanying papers are my first time passed assessments and a few capped do-overs. The overall grade on the exquisitely decorated piece of paper is the one I sacrificed so much of myself for, to secure my path to a range of opportunities for further study or good job prospects.

This paper signifies the debt I am carrying. It is also proof that I have been a part of the public educational system, which is generally a chokehold on knowledge and thinking ability. The public educational system in many Western nations, primarily teaches you what they want you to know, not how to critically think. Thus, this paper signifies all that I have read and retained, all that I have been taught and independently researched, and all that I can often not distinctly remember without brief revisitation of my work.

Culturally and socially, this paper is viewed as a ticket out of poverty and our passport to the future. Essentially, this paper is perceived as the be-all and end-all of our future. Collectively, this paper is symbolic of the continuous burden faced by the youth - cuts in budgets, the rising tuition fees, the rising student debt, the increasingly competitive application process and the increasingly low job prospects. However, young people do not remain idle when dissatisfied with educational or political issues. They find strength in numbers, immobilise and put pressure for reform. Thus the desire for affordable and high quality education, often motivates.

Fallaciously, education is often and widely used as an indicator of someone’s intelligence. More disturbingly, field of study or the institution’s prestige is also used as such indicator. Intelligence should not be regarded as one dimensional. By many, the very definition of it has been neglected and solely put down to ‘the ability to acquire knowledge,’ particularly in the case of education.

In reality, it is also the ability to apply knowledge, and judge, reason and comprehend - it's the ability to critically think. Therefore, the measure of intelligence is not solely by retention and subsequent regurgitation of the obtained information – it’s how a presented theory is judged, how the solution materialised, how the problem was solved, and how the conclusion was reached.

What it means to study could be the desire to intellectually progress, to secure a desired job, or to have access to a desired work or field of study. The very essence of wanting to learn and wanting to know with humility and sincerity is never using it as a measure of intellectual superiority or an ego booster which inadvertently belittles others. True intellects come to terms with their own limitations. They comprehend that information changes consistently, they acknowledge that no one will ever know everything, they do not assume superior intellect because of a piece of paper, they are open to learning from others, and they do not believe that formal education is the sole method of learning or display of intelligence.

However, it goes without saying that survival of the higher education system should always be commended. It is not undemanding or uncomplicated, but it also is not one dimensional. I wrote this to illustrate that education has its merits, but also its shortcomings. Primarily, I wrote this to highlight that many educational and intellectual elitists have not clearly considered the definition of either or their relationship with the other. Education and intelligence do not have a linear relationship, rather they do aid one another, but one can always be present without the other.

Intelligence isn’t just obtaining the knowledge, retaining it and regurgitating it. Intelligence is also what you are able to do with your knowledge, your past experiences and learned skills. Most importantly, intelligence requires you to have the capacity to be imaginative and creative, to enable you to formulate solutions to problems. Your education can supplement your intelligence and the right education can teach you all you require to improve your intelligence, however, a direct relationship between education and intelligence often ignores outside factors and the fact that intelligence in itself, is not limiting.