I have attended two high schools in my lifetime. One for lower school and the other for the completion of upper school. The two schools were very different in their representation of the quintessential successful student and now as a university student–employee (*beats chest proudly*) I see that only one of those perspectives makes for the ideal worker.
Co-curricular activities aside, high school places too much emphasis on one thing. The 5 years spent preparing for CSEC for example, does not provide room for experimentation. The aim is to pass and that’s about it. Branching from the grail of curriculum offers little forgiveness and it’s for this reason that free thinking is limited. Except for Literature– 6th form Literatures in English that is, English B is already so dissected it’s basically a recital– which allows one to spring any interpretation as long it can be proven, few subjects showcase skills like self-control, resilience and self-motivation. These qualities are far better predictors of success in the work world than high grades.
Nowadays we see that #CommonSenseIsNotSoCommon (this is suspiciously obvious in college) for this reason. Being overtly intellectual does not equate intelligence, I had to learn that the hard way.
At my second high school I realized that the requirements for the teacher’s pet (and generally everyone’s favourite) fell from the mild mannered, well behaved student who could beam with pride due to the the A’s that webbed student and teacher together in a quiet bubble to the outspoken, crass, fiery student who would put teacher on blast if he/she happened to pose a challenge to a freshly taught lesson that teacher could not answer. Teacher and student then became friends in a web held together by mutual and open respect. In my experience, the latter student is still a rare commodity.
I suppose this is why I forced myself into presentations early, they made me feel as if I was actively growing, even though I hated them. At my first school we had Dionne Jackson-Miller like discussions over a topic and we had debates that would feed into lunch time because they were so heated but these were limited to The Arts and they were never consistent, they were never ingrained in the curriculum. Subjects like Math never had presentations like these which I find to be problematic. That type of teamwork fosters new interest in boring subjects, it builds bonds that emphasize soft-skills. These are things noone tells you you need until you’re working (the building bonds part, not teamwork).
Right now my boss–coworker, coworker–coworker people skills are mad poor. There are people with kids, people much older than me, people who’ve worked before, people who are starting over who I work with… and I never knew I had so much hang ups on the requirements needed for me to connect.
My first high school taught me to see differences not similarities: the borders the separate professor from student, driver form passenger, I was inadvertently taught to know my place… if you’re not a Millennial, I’m sorry, what are we talking about again?
My second high school gave me more school trips, more guided volunteer work, a 50/50 approach to theory and practice in all subjects. I was introduced to things that helped to bridge the gap.
Maybe doing more of the latter could develop emotional intelligence. This is the part of us that develops solely as human first before anything else; something that the, “generation that wants to be emotionless so bad” in my humble experience, desperately needs to have.
The real world demands self management skills and relationship building abilities that have foundations in emotions like empathy. I shouldn’t have had to go to two separate (traditional) high schools to understand what one school should have prepared me for.
It’s 2017, let’s get realistic about ‘fixing up’ education in Jamaica now, man. #WheBookKnowledgeAloneAgo? — Blessings.
Footnotes: So, The University of the West Indies, Mona (UWI) is in the news again for student–money issues (surprise, surprise). First there was news that the university was going to demolish 1 hall of residence, Irvine Hall (apparently the first of many) to build new towers for cash-grabs then the news was that this part-demolition of Irvine Hall will be a single incident for the purpose of remodeling. There was a frenzy where students had to (and still have to) find housing at the only available and the most expensive, 138 Student Living at a cost more than double their annual residence fees. Pure wickedness. UWI for some holds that single key to equality in Jamaica. (UTech has dug itself into a hole with debt and poor accreditation standards and NCU, I wouldn’t go there unless I had to.) A tertiary education provides a viable bridge between Jamaica’s wealth gap, UWI knows this but I naively thought that they understood that responsibility, I thought that UWI was more than just a school. Guess not. So now imma start preparing to be one those South Africans who are crying over their skyrocketing university fees. It’s nice when true colours are finally shown, thanks UWI. I know what your real values are now.
[cover art by: Leon Zernitsky]