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FAMILY FUSION: Does education define you?

Reverend Haynesley Griffith, [email protected]

FAMILY FUSION: Does education define you?

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“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” – Albert Einstein

I AM SO HAPPY for the advancements that have been made in formal education worldwide especially in the Caribbean subsequent to slavery in its physical form.

It was with such educational exposure that many of our Caribbean people have been able to chart directions for themselves and their countries, which continue to demand great respect from many in the so-called developed world. 

Although we have our faults, and perhaps some distance to go in freeing our minds from mental slavery, we should be delighted to be a Caribbean people and must vigorously fight against those who may be subtly seeking to rob us of our right to sovereignty.

On the subject of education defining our lives, I had a school colleague with whom I developed a relatively good friendship; but as soon as he got back a few certificates at GCE level, he stopped speaking to me and began to act as though he was better than everybody else.

My thought was: “Look, how a few pieces of paper, mostly acquired by rote, could turn someone so stupid”. My friend’s life seemed to have been defined by his educational accomplishments.

Formal education

I believe that it is a mistake for individuals not to take advantage of opportunities to pursue formal education. I know of students who have tremendous inherent ability to do much better in life academically, but just waste away their God-given potential by doing very little or nothing with such capabilities with which they have been endowed.

I have great admiration for those who strive toward academic excellence and stretch themselves to bring to fullness their inborn competencies to make an invaluable contribution to their generation. 

However, there are too many people who believe that the acquisition of academic qualifications gives them a supreme advantage above others; so they vainly throw their awards around as a distinguished currency with which they often use to brag over “lesser” mortals. 

Formal education should make individuals genuine conduits through which clearly understood acquired knowledge flows unselfishly toward humankind with the goal of enhancing personal wellbeing.

Formal education should never be used as a means of moulding a person’s mind to become a cistern into which valuable information is poured and stagnantly remains there as a means of stroking the person’s ego or projecting his/her arrogance.

A weapon

When someone has to use educational accomplishments as a weapon to devalue or to degrade another human being, or constantly remind others what he/she possesses from a particular institution, or even express to others the status he/she enjoys because of such awards,  it is safe to say that individual’s life is defined by his/her education. 

Formal education should make us thinkers. Unfortunately, much of the formal education acquired at many institutions of learning does not empower individuals to think for themselves, but to regurgitate whatever is copied to memory.

Individuals’ creativity therefore is not often tapped and applied to life issues, which results in they becoming non-functional academics or what Calvin Coolidge, the 30th American president, referred to as “educated derelicts”.

Aim of education

Dr Bill Beattie was right when he said: “The aim of education should be to teach us how to think, rather than what to think. To improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, rather than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.” 

When an individual surrenders his/her mind exclusively to the thoughts of others without making effort to carefully analyse what is imparted, that mind has the potential of becoming weak and may fall prey to diverse intellectual pirates who may lead them away from the path of common sense. Buckminster Fuller, American architect, systems theorist, author, designer and inventor, said words that are worthy of more than a cursory glance.

“If I ran a school, I’d give the average grade to the ones who gave me all the right answers, for being good parrots. I’d give the top grades to those who made a lot of mistakes and told me about them, and then told me what they learned from them.”

The acquisition of knowledge should also help cultivate within one’s mind a laudable passion to build wholesome family relationships. After all, life at its very core is about family and relationships.

Startling discovery

Dr George Macer, of U.S.C. Medical School, documented a startling discovery. “Despite the rise of higher education, education certainly has not taught the way toward marital maturity; it seems that the higher the education, the more conflicts and tensions are present. It seems more marriages are unhappy and in jeopardy than even before.”  

I concur with the insightful doctor because over my 40 years in interfacing with couples who have reached tertiary educational level at some of the leading institutions in the world, the levels of separations, divorce and destructive conflict are not low.

If an individual has a million degrees from all the leading educational institutions in the world and cannot live with him/herself or with others, he is as dumb as dirt, although he may display his high-quality parchment paper achievements on the brightest side of his/her office wall for all to see.   

Education should furthermore equip one’s mind to be morally decent in one’s behaviour. It was President Theodore Roosevelt who strongly stated: “To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”   

We are living in a morally sick world where individuals who are well trained academically and placed in positions of power, deliberately use their seat of authority to take advantage of the weak and vulnerable.

Greek philosopher Plato raised a question and then responded truthfully to the same question: “But if you ask what is the good of education in general, the answer is easy: that education makes good men, and good men act nobly.” Profound.

When an individual has to flaunt academic achievements as a sign of significance and importance, it is a clear reflection of a very poor definition of success. 

•Rev. Haynesley Griffith is a marriage and family life consultant. Email: [email protected]