*massive disclaimer: Teachers are to be respected, they are not failing the system the system is failing them. Except for Mr. Brook. He was a dick.
It's impossible to recognise the next great mind of our times. Pfft you say, you can see who the smartest kids are right off the bat at school. Actually often the very brightest struggle with school, even to quite high levels. Using myself as a conceited example - I was uninterested in what was being taught to me in school, and as a consequence paid little attention. I passed easily enough, and well more often than not. But I wasn't paying attention and seldom had anything brilliant to add - because I didn't care. It took unusually gifted teachers to pull my mind away from it's own observations and actually CONSIDER what they were saying. I cruised through school barely taking it in.
At home it was a different story. My father and I would lie on the back lawn late at night stargazing, and discussing philosophy, classics, psychology, whatever else cropped up for whatever reason. He recognised a kindred spirit and shot the breeze with me at every opportunity. I only wish that my siblings had seen this side of my father. Even stupid things like watching crappy TV often resulted in spirited debate. From this I know that my father was absolutely TERRIBLE at being proven wrong. I mean I'm sure some of my friends think I hate being wrong - I do. But I usually accept it, with evidence. Dad wasn't much for accepting evidence when he thought he knew better. I used to give him grief for it - you can't claim to be a scientist (and electrician or not he was a scientist inside his head, as am I) and ignore evidence. It was hilarious to me every time he continued to argue after the evidence was in - mainly because his God argument, which came out quite often, ran along the "I can't _not believe in God_ because I can't prove he doesn't exist any more than a religious man can prove he does. I believe there is no God, I don't _know_ there is no God."
But I digress. As usual. At home my gifted mind was fed. A steady diet of 'figure it out for yourself' which was perfect, because that is the way my brain works. I have to figure things out for myself to have any faith in the end result. See. I am my fathers daughter. At school there was not the resource to deal with a gifted mind that wasn't interested. (Not aided at all by my fathers disillusionment in the workings of the education system). I grew up with the opinion that school had little useful to teach me. Though I have to say hindsight hasn't actually changed that opinion very much.
The most telling comment I ever received on a report card, "Diana's results do not reflect the lack of effort she has put in." Thank you, that honest teacher. I actually needed to hear that. After I left high school an old teacher remarked to me that I was a regular subject of discussion in the staff room as a gifted student that they could not motivate. I found this fascinating because from my perspective only two teachers had ever really tried to capture my attention. One I hated, and still hate - he was a complete douchebag - but he did see that a kid who had been rocketed through advanced classes at intermediate school was going to be bored to tears in a high school that had no room to accommodate this. He gave me university texts and let me sit at the back of the class with those while everyone else did regular stuff. It was better than nothing. You old bastard. The other started a regular class thing of giving puzzles to any one who finished early, deciphering them became a matter of pride for some of us. Me especially, for no better reason than 'I could'. There were few other moments I could remember ever really giving a damn about classes. In primary school a teacher who used to challenge the whole class first thing in the morning - but I look back on that and realise that the less talented members of my class must have loathed those morning sessions. Watching Kane and I always the last two standing. An English teacher who saw through my dickbaggery to recognise my writing as not just silly not_quite_as_intended frivolity but as well written and clever frivolity. Yes, English staff of my past - there was a reason I always wrote exactly what was asked for and yet somehow completely inappropriate text. BECAUSE I COULD. The Biology teacher who completely freaked out when I told him I'd skipped a section we'd done in class in order to write an essay on a topic we hadn't studied, in my final exam - who had the balls to apologise to me after he saw the A+ on it. I did it because the topic we did in class was boring. And the topic we hadn't was something I had waxed philosophical on at home. Brief glimpses of what could have been. But mine was not a mind that was easy for teaching staff to deal with. And like the less able, into the too hard basket I went.
But this is not a story of the past - this is a story of now. I see a lot of the same thing happening, kids that I can see are smart, really smart, overlooked because they aren't using it on the mundanery of school. There's this boy - I hate thinking about him - he was at school with Catherine for a while. I expect he's in prison now, or if not won't be far from it. He was a little pain in the ass. Bucked authority at every opportunity. Annoying little pissant that appeared to WANT to be yelled at. And considering his background probably did. Any attention is better than none right? But I could SEE this clever mind in there. Utterly wasted. Because no one believed in him. Not even me quite a lot of the time, because I couldn't see how it was possible for him to crawl out of his shitty situation when the ladder kept being pushed away. Because that's what we do. Not to every kid, but to the inconvenient ones, who on top of their inconvenience don't have the money to make the system play their way. Don't have parents willing to fight for them.
HOW MANY GOOD MINDS HAVE WE THROWN AWAY?
Everyone, no matter what state their brain is in deserves the same opportunity. No matter what state their body is in. I'm not suggesting that everyone CAN achieve the same, I saying that everyone should have the opportunity to be everything that they can be. Poor kids shouldn't be left behind for such a stupid misguided economic farce. It does not save us any money at all to only educate those that can afford it. Society as a whole is increased by everyone having the best opportunities. I'm not going to bother looking up the information, because I am a deeply lazy blogger. I am going to tell you what I have seen. I grew up in a time when education was cheapily available to pretty damn nearly everybody. There was little legitimate reason for a bright kid not to go to university if they wanted to. There was little reason to not finish high school. Apprenticeships were about the only valid reason. And we were a BETTER, HAPPIER society for it. Things have gone further and further down hill the more unattainable higher education became. The more we had to worry about debt from our education the more we had to chose between a job now or furthering our options. Or choose to do a minor degree so the debt doesn't become an obstacle to a happy existence.
Now we throw on top of this falling standards at high school. (oh do fuck off government, it is at least a bit your fault). Standards falling further in the poorer schools because they don't have the same access to resources. What is this elitist bullshit? Why is a publically funded school in a posh area so much better equipped than a publically funded school in a low socio-economic area? What, do poor kids not deserve the same opportunity? Fuck that. Stephen Hawking came from a relatively poor family, where would he be without funding I wonder? On the scrap heap with the rest? One hopes not, but one fears so. His parents were motivated to see him well educated, what of the child who's parents are less interested? Is crappy parenting also a criteria for failure?
HOW MANY HAVE WE THROWN AWAY?
Education is the very centre of a well run society. YES I MEAN IT. The better the quality of education to all of our children the better things run as a whole. From the little to the huge. The child who grows up understanding that everyone has their place and that no place is unvalued doesn't look down on the kid who grows up to clean his pool. Do you want your fucking pool clean or not? We want equality, but we aren't teaching it to our children. Everything they see shows them that some people are more equal than others. If we don't show them how important it is to respect everyone's rights then what do they learn? Some of our children are growing up feeling undervalued. Unvalued. What point is there for them to be productive members of society? Society's job is to raise our children into responsible adults. Yes I said society, even you non-parents have an ongoing responsibility here. Because society stagnates when we neglect our children. The whole thing, not just the bits that have chosen to reproduce. THE WHOLE THING. No man is an island, entire of itself.
We are creating a society full of holes. As the education system falls into disrepair the gap between the well educated and the not will grow wider. We need middle people. They matter too. Go and read the story of the Golgafrinchans. (See *The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams) More truth is written in comedy...
We also need top people, and we are not producing enough of them (or more correctly, we are not producing enough of them that are sufficiently stupid to hang around after they qualify). Like rats, they recognise a sinking ship. Alright, alright I'm not really suggesting that you'd have to be stupid to hang around. You'd have to have different priorities than a simple life with a stack of cash to hang around.
And how many people have different priorities?