By: Taylor Zachary ~Staff Writer~
I had no reason not to ask a question, so I asked a question. The subject of the question is not important. The fact that the subject of the question does not return to me as I’m writing assures me of its irrelevance.
I had raised my hand many times before, as any middle school child might, each time having no legitimate reason to keep my arm dormant across my desk. Curiosity is one hell of a drug; only euphoria lies in the space between the world and my question.
As my teacher finished her lesson, my right arm stood tall in the air. It is almost a game we play as youth – finding the correct arm angle so that the teacher’s eyes recognize how much a comment or question burns inside of us. Only her calling on us can temper this flame. To align ourselves with her sight, we might fidget in our seats, wave an arm or whisper the teacher’s name, as if this silent utterance demands immediate attention.
Convinced she did not see me, I repositioned myself. I dug my left elbow into the surface of my desk, grasped my fingertips around the tip of my right elbow and sank into a position which kept my right arm raised with little effort. Even if my hand could not find its perfect placement in the sky, at least my arm would not return to the surface of my desk any time soon.
And then it happened.
Her right arm dropped from the white board. Her chin met her left shoulder, and they were both headed my direction. Now facing her 32 students, we made eye contact. She saw the fire. She knew the way questions burned inside of me and only her acknowledgement could liberate my curiosity. My eyes glittered with expectation and excitement.
“No time for questions,” she said.
That day, I learned to never invest my curiosity in the time restrictions of a school day or a teachers’ lesson plan. I did not know it then, but that day, I learned the difference between schooling and education.
The brevity of this essay does not allow for a generous elaboration of these two realities. However, I can certainly begin.
Schooling refers to the process by which you are taught information through a developed and perpetual system or institution. The system or institution has a goal, and the information you are taught coincides with all respective objectives. The information you are taught is predetermined – absent of your consent and interest.
Schooling is no more than a system of expectations. Schooling is predictable. You know what the teacher or professor demands. You know when assignments are due, when deadlines pass and what will be on the next exam. The chess board could not be clearer. However, 15 years after playing the same game, many students still struggle to develop a strategy for success. As the subjects and degree of difficulty change, the game, schooling, remains the same. Schooling teaches us that learning is a linear process, that there are prerequisites for knowledge and a subsequent hierarchy of wisdom.
Conversely, education is a messier process. Education has no syllabi, no deadlines and no pre-determined information. It does not exclude the wisdom of Black, Brown and indigenous peoples. Education does not colonize knowledge. It does not rewrite history to favor the narrative of a moral arc.
Education is an odyssey. It is jumping into an ocean and learning how to swim. It has no flotation devices. There are often no rescue ships. It is a self-imposed challenge, a commitment to exploring truth and navigating paradox. In this water, you will crash and be tossed around. You will almost drown but learn how to breathe underwater. You will question your previous obsession with swimming above water as undercurrents whisk you into unimaginable depths.
Education is examining your organic creativity. It is seeing life not as a problem to be solved but as an experience to be explored. Education means learning how to ask questions that decentralize your self-interest. Questions that are damaging and disruptive. Questions that create time for ideas that go unaddressed in traditional classrooms and lecture halls. It means never denying time to a creative and curious mind.
It is seeing yourself through the world, rather than forcing the world to be seen through you. Schooling is preparation for convention. Education is a practice of freedom.
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