"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Monday, April 30, 2012

I swear school is making me dumber.

My English teacher always apologises when there is a test coming up. It's not like how the other teachers apologise - cynically, sarcastically, or to avoid getting their ass kicked for giving us so much torture work. My English teacher never apologises when there are take-home essays, even though they're bloody hard work. He apologises when we're forced to show just how brilliant we are in an hour of unprepared writing. He maintains it's the most useless way of testing someone's ability. I agree.

In high school I have amused myself enormously by getting on people's nerves. I like screwing with the system. I had one thing on my side; I've always known what I'm good at, I've always known what I wanted, and I've always known how to use the former to get the latter. School has never really known how to get me what I want; the schooling system doesn't care about me. Of course they wouldn't. I am, quite literally, just a number.

I've never understood why schools group children by age - not even by age, but by the year they were born (they've changed that since then, but it's still a largely illogical and dysfunctional system). For example, I was born in 1996, and I am assumed to be, for all intents and purposes, more or less the same as every other child born in 1996. Because I've skipped a grade, I'm considered 'smart for my age'. Even if there was a direct correlation between age and development - I argue that there isn't - I was born in early February, and I am nearly a year older than some of my peers; and believe you me, I can certainly see it. Now that I've skipped a grade, I am schooled with people born in 1995, and I am always considered the 'younger one' - I am always treated as such, assumed as such, and The Propaganda Minister even has a habit of calling me 'young one' or 'little one'. And, because I'm not such a hotshot at maths, I always assumed I was a year younger than my peers. But I'm not - I'm barely six months younger than someone born in September. If you follow this reasoning, the year groups in school are seemingly random. 

In some ways I am wiser beyond my years. I've always had a way with words. It is my primary source of communication. If it were socially acceptable I'd tell all my friends to wait for my email, and we'd just chat from there. I am the only person that I know who has the motivation and stamina to keep a very active blog. My talents are so one sided I could probably sneak into a university, aged about thirteen or fourteen - and given that the areas or study are so specialized and personalized - get away with it.

I considered this very carefully when I skipped a grade. Nobody knows more about my own failures and shortcomings than I. I don't know if I can accurately explain to you the frustration and torture of maths class. In the rare occasions that I am doing something right and getting the right answers I am not really in it - I don't understand what I am doing or what purpose it serves. I am simply copying a pattern and hoping for the best. The only maths I remember and can use is 'useful' - and I learned it in primary school. Addition, subtraction, basic percentages, stuff like that. I use that on a regular basis, I understand the usefulness of it and when I do those kind of very basic sums, I understand what I'm doing and what purpose it serves. But in anything more complicated than that numbers mean as much to me as a foreign language - occasionally I'll notice patterns, understand a word or two, but to me it is illogical beyond reason. To make things worse, this 'foreign language' is often taught to me by people who cannot comprehend that anyone can or should be ignorant of this language - Anglophiles, in a way, in that the condescension and impatience is exactly the same. 

I made the unusual decision to only skip a grade in English when I was in year eight, and I constantly found myself telling people 'my year nine classes are easier than my year eight ones' - and it was true. Because even though I hadn't the faintest idea how to write an essay, my teacher hated me and I was buried in mountains and mountains of reading material and various other catch up, I loved what I was doing, I understood what I was doing, if someone taught me something I didn't have to pretend to get it; I really got it. It was my own, familiar language. I loved to learn and was very good at it. I used to highlight all my English classes and look forward to each one - I remember sulking at the prospect of Wednesday because I only had three subjects - sport, French, and maths. Wednesdays in year eights were the worst Wednesdays of my life. In contrast, maths and science were torture. I hadn't the faintest idea what the teacher was yakking on about, and it was humiliating that everyone else seemed to understand what he was saying. If I asked questions I would firstly get a look of utmost despair and disbelief, followed by the most nonsensical response that in the end I didn't bother. If you're anyone like me, at every single parent teacher interview without fail, your maths and science teacher will complain that you 'don't ask enough questions'. But for me, asking questions was like talking to a brick wall.

In year nine I got braver. I no longer cared about maths or science, or doing well. I skipped a grade in social science, and that was more than enough on my plate. I was yelled at over the phone for maths and yelled at in person in science, but I brushed it off. It was one year of growing a very thick skin and ignoring a lot of 'grown up stuff', but it was worth it. In the end, I had used what I was good at to get what I wanted. Years eleven and twelve comprise of five or six subjects that are entirely your choice; or at least they are when you have parents who are smart enough to realize that you're not the next Einstein and never will be. My mother may be the only Asian woman I know to not cry at the prospect of her beloved daughter being barely able to count.

A lot of people saw this as cheating. I remember my science teacher in year eight reduced me to tears with the (empty, as I found out later) threat that he would remove me from my year nine English class if I didn't improve in my year nine science class. Schools these days are far too inclined to favour 'all-rounders'. I maintain that you are smart whether you're good at one thing or twenty; intelligence is really something of quality over quantity. Because it doesn't matter if you're good at one thing or twenty; all that matters is what you do with that one talent, or those twenty talents.

But that was only the first hurdle, I should have realized that. Now my biggest fear is exams.

I hate exams. It's not the work; I don't mind hard work. You haven't seen me write essays; in my really good ones I pour my heart and soul into them. It's just that exams stir in me what math class used to stir in me - that horrible frustration when you know that you're wasting your time. I am a writer, but I can't write anything in an hour of intense pressure and unpreparedness. My best work will never be written in an exam room; yet it is what I write in an exam room that counts. I will never again be judged by what I write in exams, yet that is what I am judged on. It is the most illogical way to test whether I am ready for the 'real world'. If you hear me throwing a tantrum it's not over some huge assignment that will take hours and hours to complete. I throw my biggest tantrums over the shortest assessments.

I hate how school has become so...exam oriented. Call me idealistic, but I firmly believe that education should purely be in the pursuit of knowledge. Last year was much like that; everything was creative and experimental, and classrooms blew up with the most invigorating discussion. I constantly lament to my friends how much I miss my year eleven lit class, where a few boys and I would just spend hours and hours chatting about literature and just life in general.

I spend a lot of time on my computer. I'm a true modern child. Every day I'll come across something unfamiliar and I keep note of things to Google later. I spend a lot of time on YouTube, but it's not all a waste of time - I watch a lot of documentaries and other educational stuff. I think that we've become too puritanical in our academic pursuits; we don't give enough credit to more unorthodox sources of knowledge, and knowledge is knowledge. I wouldn't be half as esteemed in my general knowledge if it weren't for the internet. I mean, God bless Wikipedia.   

A lot of people I know think that I am a bit off my knocker. I'll admit, they have many reasons to think so - I'll barge on about the evils of shampoo to anyone who will listen, I take English and Literature, which to people with no imagination may seem a little counter-productive, and I have a rather annoying penchant for sitting on laps and ruffling hair. But the single most kooky thing about me, apparently, is not my distaste for economics and maths and the hard sciences - a lot of people share my distate -  but my decision to be proactive about what I do and do not like and choose a career path that completely avoids them.

But I argue that my reasoning is practical. I will never be good at the things that I do not enjoy. I will always be good at the things I enjoy. Simple as that. Why would I condemn myself to a life of unhappiness and complete lack of productivity?

I keep telling people that they should do the subjects they like rather than the subjects they think they should like. I keep telling people that the world is not about to end just because I'm not studying maths. I keep telling people that if you don't like the prerequisites, chances are you won't like the university course, and if you don't like the university coures, chances are you won't like your career options after that. I don't know. It makes sense to me.

I am an artist. I don't want to be an artist, I don't hope that someday I will become an artist; I was born an artist, and I will die an artist. The people who love me must love an artist, or else they do not love me at all. 

There are great risks, I suppose, doing only what you love. But the rewards are marvellous - if I have a comfortable home, a good man and a family; if I wake up every morning looking forward to my work, then I'll be happy. Honestly. That's all I need.

I'll tell you someone I truly admire - Sir Ken Robinson. I've posted one of his videos here before, but he just keeps coming up with genius shit! Everything he says is true. He's so funny and cynical but so honest. My mother and I are huge fans.

As usual, I have no idea where I'm going with this post ;)

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