Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The School Effect

Since I want to get others to be interested in science, I began to think about how it started for me. My interest in science has certainly an above average intensity. In the last few years it took a new shape though; this happened through getting to know people like Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan better, through internet.

(I was always interested in science actually, particularly in new technologies. There was never a time in my life when I thought of science in a negative way I guess. It was just that I found the process; mathematics, numbers etc, lack of emotional interaction and all that sort of boring and decided that it wasn't anything for me, it seemed like the result you get isn't worth the effort.)

But I gave a little more thought and realized that even before Feynman and Sagan, there were other factors in shaping my views: I remembered that I wanted to be scientist in the primary school! (How did I even forget such a thing in the first place!?) And I remember really dreaming about it, I was more interested in being an inventor I guess... If you think about it that's not so interesting, because almost every child wants to be an astronaut or something like that when they're still young and "silly". But how did I lose that passion?

Well for me it's pretty easy to explain: The school suddenly got much more complicated!

My education became more exhausting and hard after primary school. We were forced to learn a new language(German) and almost all our lectures were taught in that foreign language. That's a huge factor. We were expected to learn physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics in a language that was essentially unfamiliar to us, and the language itself isn't even so much fun to speak in the first place! That's when I had to part my ways with my education, the school became a burden and not a place where you go to learn new, interesting things. Maybe it would have been different if I were motivated to learn the language in the beginning, but I had no reason to back then.

So for years I ended up doing only enough to pass my classes, nothing more. This also involved copying homeworks of others' and cheating during the exams of course. I remember cheating once in the primary school and feeling extremely guilty. Also in the sixth grade -when I had still hope- I was shocked to hear others talking about a girl having cheated during an exam, I seriously considered telling the teacher about it. But all this had to change as school became more and more meaningless for me... I learned to cheat myself and enjoy it. (I mean it was pretty exciting sometimes, and also knowing that I was able to fool the teachers was not bad for the ego either. But I never was a hardcore cheater, I kept it under control...)

In the last 2-3 years of the high school, as the time to make decisions got closer, I decided that I want to get out of the country, sort of like an adventure... So after that decision I had to increase my efforts in school and really learn some stuff to match the required levels for my ticket out to Germany, the Abitur. I do remember even enjoying biology and mathematics a little bit during that period...

"The school effect" is also mentioned in the books of many scientists like Sagan and Feynman, also peeking into Einstein's biography might give you more insight. They're more concerned with the system and teacher's attitude I guess. An unenthusiastic teacher can make you even hate the most exciting subject after all. Although I didn't mention that above, that doesn't mean I didn't suffer from it, it's just that it was a secondary factor for me. (But Richard Feynman also seems to have understood the role of the language when he taught in Brazil, you can read about that in his books.)

I don't complain though... Even though I don't approve of that system I'm using the advantages of the language I learned today. Being able to live in a foreign country at that age is something very valuable. (Even though I could also speak English, having an Abitur made that process much less complicated.) Apart from forcing you to overcome many obstacles it also broadens your world view and stuff like that. Also the internet connection is faster here... :) And no ridiculous censorship like in Turkey. (The nazi stuff is still censored here though.)

Plus, the time I spared from school enabled me to invest more time in other things, like art.

Anyway the current education system has to change if we are to live in a perfect world, or as close as it gets to it. Since my desire is to get us all as close as I can to that point it's important for me to keep that in mind. But it's a complex issue of course and there are some other problems, which maybe should be dealt with first. Like instead of teaching every nation in their own language, it makes more sense to me to try and use one language worldwide. That would have some huge advantages, many of them even completely irrelevant to the education system. English is a good candidate right now, even if it isn't optimal.

To get the teachers more enthusiastic about their subjects and try to invoke more interest and motivation among students would still be a very worthwhile cause though... I don't think this can have any significant disadvantages, and the advantages can have very exciting results. But also this problem can't be dealt with purely on a psychological level; politics and the whole underlying system must be considered. Maybe I'll put more thought into this issue when I can really deal with it.
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