by: Abhishikta Sengupta

In the words of the pioneering cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” The distorted notion of education existing simply as a means to meet each succeeding requirement for the attainment of an ultimate goal, for instance a grade or an occupation, is one that needs to be dispelled. This motivation by way of external regulation cripples any scope for the development of indispensable practical tools, such as that of decision making and critical reasoning.

We have largely been conditioned to associate a certain rigid form of education as a recipe for success, which goes on to perpetuate damaging beliefs, such as the culture of rote learning. It is imperative to recognise that such philosophies were formulated during a time when the world had not evolved sufficiently to value unique abilities and require differential skill sets to be present amongst its students, and thus its working age population, in order to reach its full potential. The stimulus that evoked the conditioned response of failing to challenge the ideologies presented to us is no longer a factor, thus provoking the necessity of shattering them and developing meaningful passions of our own, rather than those that were conventionally acceptable.

There exists no distinction between a human student and an artificial intelligence system if the prevailing educational structure seeks only to feed and program its learners with incomplete, censored and even irrelevant information or data that is mandated by age-old tradition, and requires them to absorb it and then consequently act on it. Rather, it should be aiming at cultivating personal and genuine interests and individually suited approaches as opposed to encouraging only standardly “rewarding” or résumé building activities.

It is of vital importance to ensure a comprehensive overview of subjects such as history and politics so as to prevent the formulation of baseless and ignorant stances as a result of exposure to a biased or one-dimensional outlook. This in turn inspires the emergence of well-informed opinions, values and morals in students that define their future actions. This along with effective teaching of fundamentals, open-ended questioning, idea exploration, allowing of diverse perspectives and opportunities for creative expression and practical experience makes for the creation of emotionally intelligent, innovative and competent students with superior logical and analytical skills, adept at displaying empathy and tact as well as approaching and assessing a situation in a multitude of ways, and discovering constructive solutions for the same.

An education system that focuses on teaching its students what to think in a bid to produce compliant and deferential citizens sacrifices on the potential of originality, diversity and natural instinct. The career landscape has reached a juncture wherein the customarily acceptable professions are no longer the only ones considered worthwhile, and it is crucial that students are made aware of that, so as to ensure that they work to hone, develop and enhance their other skills. There is no greater tragedy than indoctrinating students into a system that it hardwired to fit them into boxes by teaching all of them to think just the same.