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What an education, sir

by Rajpal Abeynayake

(November 02, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The big national issue turned out within a matter of weeks to be, would you believe it, education? This is the best time therefore, to agitate for laws that allow people to educate their children at home. The comeback to that may be “this is no time for comedy.’’ When the entire opposition feels that where all else has failed, they could ride the backs of university students to power, they wouldn’t want somebody to emerge from somewhere in the woodwork or on top of it, and advocate of all things, home-schooling.

But I’m in no mood to be funny, not by a long shot. Whereas an education was meant to equip folks with skills and empower them, presently we see education as a process by which morons are manufactured to order, but more about that later. The last two weeks go to show that a large chunk of society expect those who qualify for higher educational institutions to do everything such as protest agitate and bring the government down — everything that is, except getting themselves educated.

Nevertheless, parents themselves who are the products of this assembly-line process of book-learning, never stopped for a moment to think why they should send their offspring off to educational institutions, when everything seems to happen to them in these places, except their being educated.

If parents could educate their children at home perhaps of course with the help of tutors, would it not have a stanching effect on this ongoing national calamity of producing ‘educated’ morons who by habit deal in the currency of platitudes? It would also keep young men and women — especially young men — from being co-opted to the task of periodically attempting to bring down governments.

Home study

Yet they tell me that home study is illegal, and that it is a quaint unworkable proposition at the best of times. This I consider to be quite the hilarious rationale, given that anything can be said about our current education system but that it works.

Anglican Bishop of Colombo Duleep Chickera, making submissions on Friday before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) said that religions which are supposed to foster harmony among communities have in fact had the opposite effect a lot of the time, in this country and elsewhere.

He was remarkably candid in his submission that as an instrument of sowing discord, his religion had been quite often found to be guiltier than some of the others as a matter of fact.

But then when he was asked by the commissioners to comment on the vital issue of education, I was waiting eagerly for him to similarly say about education, that it has done more to keep young people more dense and unimaginative and jaded, as opposed to keeping them educated.

I suppose one cannot expect lightning to strike twice in the same place in one day, and Rev. Chickera said no such thing about education, but went on to prescribe mixed-stream mixed-ethnicity schools as a possible ways out of what he termed were misunderstandings between ethnic communities.

Father Chickera himself during the course of his submissions made the startling observation that in Sri Lanka, the Tamil vote is increasingly and dangerously becoming insignificant. In effect what he was saying, is that the minority vote for instance should be the deciding factor in determining who is the president of this country, for example, as it was thought to be in the past.

Now, this is the kind of skewed and unrealistic thinking that formal educational institutions — such as some whose fortunes over which Bishop Chickera presides — impart; the kind of thinking that does not encourage original thought among students but encourages them to blindly follow the herd.

This is the conventional wisdom which holds that in Sri Lanka somehow the minority should remain Kingmaker despite that is the most artificial unnatural and preposterous thing that can happen in any democratic system of governance. This wisdom prevails because it is somehow thought in the amazing process of distilling the conventional wisdom, that if this artificial-arbiter status of the minority community is not retained, there will be inevitably more chaos and untold misery that follows, to the detriment of this nation.

Educated at home

Seriously, with all due respect to the Bishop on his self-effacing stand on inter-religious harmony etc., which borders on the radical in their refreshing nature, I’d rather that children be educated at home whenever possible than being imparted conventional wisdom such as “the minority vote is dangerously becoming insignificant.”

Indeed the opposite of that is true, as the minority vote is now becoming a significant component in the role of building a just and fair society, whereas earlier it was an aberrational factor which artificially skewed election outcomes to the consternation of almost everybody. Just imagine how agitated the Church of England hierarchy would be in Anglican majority England if the minority Muslims together with some other minority immigrants from Estonia and Latvia for instance determined election outcomes in the United Kingdom?

If this is the kind of stuff about minority votes etc., that our children learn at school together with the art of unsuccessfully attempting to bring down governments every now and then, perhaps even illegal should not stop people from trying to educate their children exclusively in their homes so that there is every chance their minds can be kept alive as opposed to being corrupted with conventional thought.
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