We were in high school. My step-sister did not know when the First World War happened. I was horrified! How could she not know that?! It wasn't even the Second World War in question.: Which, for some reason, -maybe because we (i.e. Turkey) weren't involved or because the first one seemed to be the major one- it would have been okay if someone did not know the dates of the Second World War. At least, that's what my teenage self deemed. But how could anyone not know 1914-1918?! How was it possible?
Now... I look back upon it and wonder why I was so surprised. I have no answer actually. Is it really important? I mean of course it's good to know the historical tales and to be able to put them in context, but thinking about all the years and wars we've been taught in history class... What else do I remember? Do I remember Attila and the Hunnic Empire, do I remember anything related to the Roman Empire apart from knowing that it was split in two at some point in time and the capital of the west was Rome, the capital of the east Constantinople? No. Do I even know when the Ottoman Empire was founded? I roughly have an idea of the century. If I am not mistaken... (I checked, I wasn't mistaken.) Oh, I know when Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered Constantinople. 1453. I know even the day. 29th of May. But these I know because somehow they've been stuck in my memory. Through repetition, through coming into contact with it because of celebrations. I know the big sultans of the Ottoman Empire. There are three. The two others apart from Fatih the Conquerer are Sultan Beyazıt and Süleyman the Magnificient. I probably know who came before who. I have an idea that Süleyman got to the doors of Vienna. That's all I know.
Oh sorry, I had an idea that Sultan Beyazıt was wrong. I knew that there had to be a nickname to the third great sultan. It just didn't come to my mind right away. It's Yavuz Sultan Selim. Beyazıt is the son of Fatih, the father of Selim. Ah of course, then there is the famous Sultan Murat who banned alcohol. But I didn't know if it was the Murat the IV, or Murat the V, or Murat the II. (I checked again. So it's Murat the IV. My first choice :) Ah, don't ask me anything about the last sultans Abdülhamit, Abdülmecit, Abdülaziz... They're all the same to me.
Oh I know that we threw the Greeks to the sea on 30th of August. How could I not know that? It's a holiday. Every year, the same story gets repeated. Same goes for the foundation of the parliament, the children's day, the foundation of the republic, the youth day when Atatürk set out on his quest to save the nation... These dates we all know; I suppose.
This is all I have left of my history classes... Don't even get into the histories of other countries. Nothing at all. Nothing! Amazing, isn't it? Considering this is all I have left of the more than a decade study of history, 3-5 hours every week, it's the worst kind of investment. It's a total waste of time and resources. Wouldn't you agree?
Okay. You may say this is history and it has been taught in a wrong way. What about geography? What do the things we learnt all those years serve? We don't live in that geography anymore. Countries are split and formed, new nations spring up.
I'm sorry I don't take it on myself that I am a dumb person who didn't learn anything. Come on... I graduated from the best schools. And with fairly good grades. Sure, there are people who remember more about what they learnt, but that's a deviation from the norm.
What about maths and sciences? Maths, by its own very nature, due to the fact that we are involved with money in our every day lives and that money plays a crucial role in our welfare, is important. But I believe that involves a completely different aspect than getting good grades at maths or really knowing maths, all the algebra, geometry, integrals, solving complex equations etc. My husband, he doesn't know how to spend money; he is just so awful when it comes to spending money. He always makes the wrong choices, he doesn't calculate anything and therefore gets cheated very often. (Okay, more often than acceptable I should say.) As for me, I am very money-conscious. I've been raised that way and I had to develop that skill because I never made much money. I learnt to live on little. That's my trait. I don't need much in life. I value life experience rather than material things. On the other hand, my husband may be bad at spending money, but he knows how to make money. Sure, by going to an office and the way I look at it “selling his life,” but he is fine with that. So what's the problem!
Besides, this hasn't got anything to do with schooling. He graduated from the best university around here. (Here meaning Italy.) In a different area than maths and sciences, but still... he went to high-school and studied maths. Our neighbor, who has only elementary education, knows how to keep money. She keeps track of all the promotions, she spends her money wisely. Because she too, has very little money and has to make the best of what she has. So being good about managing money has nothing to do with school either.
What about literature? Well... My Turkish was never so good. I now have published books. Published by a publisher, not self-published. Still, there are so many mistakes in my first book, any literary person would not take it seriously. I did not care much back then, and the publisher did not even have the manuscript read and edited. Mind you, this wasn't an ordinary publisher either, it was one of the top five publishers and one of the two oldest publishers in Turkey. Anyway... I believe I write better now, but is it of any importance apart from my own satisfaction? People who do not really know Turkish have many published books, people who do not know proper Turkish translate books, and people who do not know proper Turkish publish those books to become best-sellers! You cannot even understand what the author is saying. You have to read the sentences twice, thrice before getting any idea of what they're trying to say. People who do not know proper Turkish publish newspapers and magazines, people who do not know proper Turkish write articles in those newspapers and magazines, people who do not know proper Turkish even become editors! And somebody pays them money for it! Heeey... It's a free world out there. (I mean the market is free. Freedom is for the "market", not for people to move around in the world.) As we say in Turkish “Her topal eşeğin bir kör alıcısı bulunur.” There is a blind buyer for every lame donkey. It is so true.
The only trouble is to find that blind buyer. I guess if you interact with enough people, you will eventually find him. Even though I couldn't :) But that's only because my ideas are so out of the norm. Yet, I still believe there must be somebody out there who would be my patron if he knew about me. Anyway, let's get back to school...
Education for the Unknown Future
Nowadays there is a trend of un-schooling, world-schooling, road-schooling... Does everything really have to be “Ah look at me, I'm just doing something so great,” trying to show everyone how to live and show the road they should take? It's good of course, to show that it is possible. People should not be confined to only one option, confined to one road to take in life. There is no one road that leads to happiness... Unfortunately, the society we live in today promotes a pre-designed one-size-fits-all life for everybody. I mean in the modern, developed places that's the way it is. And the developing ones are looking up to us. Trying to mimic what we are doing with education, technology and business. Certainly, there is a point for scholarly learning. If I roadschool or worldschool or unschool my daughter, she won't have a chance of becoming a professor, making a scientific discovery, inventing anything.
But even that is not so true. There are people who invent machines without having studied physics and maths and engineering or without having gone to school. There are so many successful dropouts in the world. Still... School gives you an opportunity to study different fields; you may see what interests you most and develop it. And if you want to do research in some fields, an official education would serve you well.
Some people tell me I undervalue the good of school but I myself have gone to the best schools myself. Or they say I undervalue it and do not care because I have gone to the best schools myself. They say it would be unfair to my daughter if I don't give her that chance. They say that it's my desire to live away from this kind of society, this rat-race, this grid. It's true. What if Lara would choose a different path? I have to give her the opportunity to make that choice when she grows up. I mean I feel I have to. On the other hand, she came to me. She chose me as her mother. I don't know if it's true that we choose our families but why not? Could be. Even if not, she was born to this family. That's her birth lottery. (And may I say I believe it's not a bad one!) She will live whatever is carved out for her. I think the only responsibility I have to my daughter is to give her the tools for her to be happy, to let her develop her interests. To teach her to live the moment. Actually, children know that very well. The important thing is not to make them lose that, not to let them forget that trait.
I remember I had it when I was a child.
I had a strong sense of intuition too. When my brother or my cousin hid something in their hands, I always could tell which hand it was in. Okay, I know you normally have a 50 % chance. Nopes. I got it right all the time. Or almost all the time. Then I tuned out. I was taught not to trust my instincts.
I was taught to ask for advice. I was taught to do what others told me to do. I was taught to live the life that others deemed appropriate for me, to live the life they chose for me.
I'm a big city girl who has studied at the best schools in Turkey, been overpraised for it, inoculated with pride and thus has become stuck-up. We all are inoculated with pride, those of us who have graduated from Robert College and Boğaziçi University. I don't know about the other good schools. But my schools were the best and you bet we were proud of it. The pride is grounded, of course. It's well-deserved. We were chosen among hundreds of thousands in the exams, we were among the top 1 %, we were the crème de la crème. But over the years, coming across graduates who are running big firms, newspapers,* banks* etc. (* the links are in Turkish) who are considered “successful”, and seeing that they're not really capable of even understanding or implementing basic logic, or not exercising good work ethics, I was disillusioned.
Let alone the above examples, -all the things that we learn and forget,- what did I know when I graduated? I didn't know about the world. I didn't know life, I didn't know death. I didn't know anything about healthy cooking. I didn't know anything about the amazing things in the world. I remember we learnt about clouds in elementary school. And I believe that was one of the good things that we learnt. But then we didn't put it to practice, we didn't go observing the clouds and the weather, it was of no use. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all forecast the weather, tell if it's going to rain or if a storm is coming? Sailors used to know that stuff. Okay, it takes practice. Still... what about learning about the skies? It's interesting. Think how wonderful it would be if you were a child again and had all the time at your hands to observe the universe, the stars. There is the macrocosm on one side, the microcosm on the other. I studied these myself after I grew up. But couldn't go in depth. I wish I had that opportunity when I was at school, or when I was a child. So naturally, that's what I want to give my daughter. Don't we all do that, want what we didn't have for our children? Still... I hope I will not enforce any of the things that I think my daughter should do for a good life, but observe her and guide her in the things she is interested in. I want her to do the thing she likes.
Many of my friends decide where they're going to live according to the school of the child. First they choose the school, then they choose the house to move. I won't be doing that. I cannot do that. I will go about my life. I will try my best to raise her with responsibility, give her all the tools that may help her in life and contribute to her overall happiness. I think language is one of those things and she is blessed to speak three languages at the age of 3. I wish to go to South America for some time where she can learn Spanish. Yeah, that I'd be doing. Travelling for her to learn a language and to interact with different cultures and ways of life.
I don't think children need the teachings of school specifically. After learning to read and write, you give them books, they read and learn themselves. I believe critical thinking and questioning are most important. We were not taught these at school. Or maybe we were, and I just wasn't aware of it. Maybe it was subtle. So subtle that I didn't even realize. Maybe even my engineering education which I now see as a complete waste served something. Perhaps it affected my thinking. After all, people sometimes tell me “Ah, that's just engineer's logic.”
I don't know... Things sometimes seem so random. Whatever I do, I'll do it thinking it is the best for Lara and our circumstances.
As Ken Robinson said in his famous TED talk in 2006, (I say it's famous because it's one of the top watched talks!) "If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise that's been on parade for the past four days, what the world will look like in five years' time. And yet we're meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary."
It's true. The world is changing so much.
So I guess my reasoning makes sense. I do what I think is best for my daughter and then hope it actually turns out to be the best...