Conform! This is Education.

The current education system puts emphasis on bashing individuality out of those new to being human and instilling conformity. We are all grouped according to age, rather than ability or interests. We are told that deviation from the norm is not allowed and shall be punished. We are taught that only certain jobs, certain paths will deem you a successful person. We are battered and admonished creatively and mentally until we leave school at 16 having been transformed into some kind of Borg. Any intrinsic interests you had, especially creative ones, have been stifled into a little box named ‘hobbies’. Successful little you then has to decide what form your future success will take and then, at the age of 16 – barely alive yet – you must decide what trade you will do until you die. It makes about as much sense as an honest politician!

And so the mental stress begins. This is no kind of environment for creativity, let alone the fulfilment of a person’s full potential. Surely this is all back to front? How can a person possibly know who they are, never mind what trade they want to pursue, if they’re never taught about themselves, about what it is to be human, the differences, the reasons why, the psych of our species?

Why do we find it so hard to concentrate on understanding our inner psych? Well, we’re never taught to use our brains at school for one thing. In her recent Edinburgh show (soon to be toured in theatres) Ruby Wax talks about not being given a manual for life, for living, how to do it. She’s right of course. Where do we get taught how our brains work? Wouldn’t that be a useful thing to understand? The process of learning, for example. How people learn, how a human learns. How about how to teach someone else? Doesn’t matter what, just how to teach, following on from your understanding of how people learn, and therefore why people are as they are. Or why people get depressed, why people want to belong to groups, how statistics work, how to read a scientific paper, how to analyse text, a speech, a complex financial/emotional/political situation, how to deal with life! When will we be taught how to do life? When are we ever taught how to and why to think at school? I mean how to think in a broad sense. Thinking is the basis of everything, yet our brain is the least explained thing. This understanding, I would argue, is more fundamental than even A, B, C or 1 + 1 = 2.

I agree everything up to the end of primary school is useful: how to talk, how to add up, how to spell, how to write, all the basics of communication and physical doing. Everything after that only serves to break down your personality, stamp on it, ensure your confidence is non-existent and then attempt to build it all up into some form of acceptable human according to current societal values. How boring. What a really boring human race we have become. Of all the things we, individually, and therefore collectively, could be capable of and we deem success to be how well you fit in, how high your salary is, how expensive your car is, how much breeding you’re capable of, and the location in which you choose to exist. I cannot even bring myself to say this is living.

Is this why there are ever increasing rows of council houses springing up with eight month pregnant girls waiting eagerly to start their new existence, ever perpetuating their family definition of ‘success’ in a world that won’t accept a non-mainstream human into its ‘freedom for all’ arms?

For instance, when I was at that delicate stage in life, younger than I am now, I was interested and enjoyed writing and art. Full stop. But when it came to art at school I hated it. Mainly because I was made to draw/paint/batik things I wasn’t interested in. I loved to draw faces, still life, and horrific monsters. When I was ‘made’ to do painting I chose to make political statements about homelessness or the environment (not that I knew that’s what I was doing, they were just subjects that touched my heart). My drawings were good, and I enjoyed doing them. My art teacher was into abstracts, and so decided to label me in my end of year report as ‘a copier’ because when given the choice I would pick still life to draw during art lesson time (mainly because it was an accessible subject to do in a 90 minute time frame). My mother took exception to this by telling the not-long-graduated-from-art school-failed-then-did-teaching-certificate art teacher that perhaps if they took us out and showed us something different then we might be inspired. Even after the eighth trip to an art gallery I wasn’t that much more inspired than I had been previously. It had only served to tell me that I wasn’t as good as many, many others out there, so why bother? I’d much rather have spent those long six hour days, which consisted mostly of humping a rucksack round flights of endless stairs endowed with 18th Century fruit, drawing something I chose.

As it turned out I did draw what I chose. I did what I chose in art and in many other lessons. Even when I was excluded for three days as punishment for doing what I chose they put me in a room on my own and gave me artwork to do! Three days of heaven! I drew the most horrific skull I could for my GCSE submission (an apt word if ever there was), I suppose as a proverbial ‘fuck you’ to my scholastic superiors. I ended up with a B.

But to be honest the school had done its job. By the time I left I got the impression that I wasn’t any good at art or writing after all, or anything for that matter. I wasn’t submissively creative enough, I was a failure at even that, so I may as well give up hope of doing anything I’m interested in or passionate about. So I stopped being interested and started being scared of life, as viewed through the eyes of a failure (the bullying didn’t help either). It is only now, at 34, that I am really getting back into both things I intrinsically loved when I was a small human. Having wasted many years trying to please society, family, peers, superiors, gain friends, lovers, respect, I am now starting to feel comfortable and confident enough in myself to say if you don’t like it, fuck off; I like it, and that is all there is. And I’ve found that a lot of other people do like it too. People I never knew existed, my kindred spirits, near to me and far away. And thanks to social networking I can keep in touch with them and perpetuate my inspiration. Why didn’t I know of you when I needed your acceptance, when I needed your enthusiasm to inspire my confidence? Oh yes, I was at bloody school.

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