I can take no claim for such a brilliant phrase, but I can thank Rabindranath Tagore … a Nobel prize winner from India that achieved such accolade for his literature in 1913. Here is a man that did not receive formal education in the current sense framework, but instead was educated at home. At the young age of seventeen, his parents, however, did send him to England in hopes to expose him to formal education, but Rabindranath did not finish his studies and instead went on his own path in pursuit of many things … like managing the families estate … social reform projects … founding an experimental school that integrated Upanishadic ideals into education … participated in the Indian nationalist movement. Did I mention a good friend of his was Gandhi?
Rabindranath is heralded a success as a writer by many …. building his affinity for writing initially from his love of poetry. But, what I find I particularly admire most from his journey is his approach to learning. You see, I’m like most in Western society where at a tender age of five years old I was woken at the crack of dawn most days to be dressed – fed – driven to an educational institution where I was expected to sit and consistently exercise my optimal level of attention for hours on end. Not only that … it never failed that quizzes …. tests … and eventually term, and semester, projects and exams were piled upon the grind of proving to others the knowledge known at a particular point in time. Rinse and repeat, as they sometimes say.
So, why the rinse and repeat? I suppose it correlates to why the American educational system began in the first place. And, we can’t ignore the why without also giving acknowledgment to the when. Two words will start connecting dots to both why and when: Industrial Revolution. Apparently, as America was embracing … and, by some measures, leading … the industrial revolution the great leaders of the nation needed to have comfort in knowing the workforce entering this period for decades to come were coming with a “standard” level of knowledge. Thus, the word standard and all that it implies became a nuclei mantra for the forefathers of the American educational system. We were all meant to be standardized!
I can’t fault the good intentions of wanting the American people to decrease literacy rates … increase opportunities for individuals whom otherwise would not have exposure to broader topics of knowledge. In fact, I applaud the nobility in this endeavor. But, a significant fact was overlooked in all of this that has caused me to stop and pause longer than normal.
“every brain and how it learns is unique”
You see, I just finished my first course in neuroplasticity this past semester at Harvard University, under a fantastic teaching staff led by Dr. Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa. I took this course for my own thirst for learning about the brain and how it works. I assumed we’d touch on many mechanical and chemical elements of the complexities to learning, which is true. But, something not expected was a sort of intellectual playground of sorts we were given on other dimensions of learning …. like protective and risk factors that influence learning … behaviors that impede or support education … neuromyths, etc. But, one thing that often rings, and runs deep, from what I’ve taken away is that every brain and how it learns is unique. Sure, there are bodies of knowledge available thru common platforms … and knowledge can, and is, taught in a standard instructional construct that has given many minds, both past, and current, the ability to learn. But, what is fascinating is that with all of the “standardization” that has been built over the past centuries to support the goals to amass the industrial revolutionary workforce, there were still so many individuals who struggled … who feel they failed … who were convinced their intellectual aptitude was capped because of a point in time when they were unable to grasp at the rate of another peer in the classroom … and the list goes on. I call farce.
Want to know something fascinating that you hold possession of? Your brain … it is the most complex organism on the planet. I mean – seriously step away from this post for a few minutes and really think about that. And, now … coming back to the post … reflect on the limitations you may be giving yourself by thinking the education and knowledge you’ve been exposed to today is all you should consume. Something seems wrong … doesn’t it. I was raised in a generation where going to college was the pinnacle of education, and at the time I was being raised I didn’t doubt that concept. But now … especially with the latest revelations in modern science proving the brain’s pruning of new and used knowledge continues well into our last breaths on earth … why would we ever suggest hanging a diploma on a wall is as far as you reach. And, as a parent … sharing my knowledge is absolutely a duty I enjoy … but giving my children the opportunity for exposure to new insights outside of my own is … with my American Express commercial voice: Priceless!
“the brain is the most complex organism on the plant”
Rabindranath Tagore was an individual who followed his instinct that he was just as capable of learning as the next guy entering his days in a classroom. Neither individual is better than the other. But, what I find beautiful about Rabindranath’s journey is his embrace to following the uniqueness he embodied … and along with his life’s path he kept learning as the forefront tool. He didn’t let society brand him as incapable because he didn’t attend class … and Rabindranath tread his own course, taking with him bites of knowledge that eventually had him to being rewarded and recognized for a skill he loved: writing.
Rabindranath is just one example of those that realized at an early age that you are not capped. With all of my veering here and there in my post, what I hope you leave is with a newer appreciation … or at least open-mindedness … for your beautiful brain and all that is capable in offering.
- Don’t judge your, or anyone else’s, abilities and knowledge based on present-day.
- Keep a thirst for learning something new, every day.
- If you’re a parent, influence your children towards higher learning – all of the time.
- Don’t limit your knowledge to what is taught in the educational institution.
- Because everyone is different in how they learning, don’t give up on yourself if you need a little more time to grasp a concept; you can get it!
- True learning occurs in searching, therefore constantly explore.