Illusion of choice

June 12, 2016

The lies we are telling our children

Illusion of choice

Sitting amongst excited young minds and their positively anxious parents for a harmless O-level orientation, I was feeling utterly bewildered. Amid the contagious enthusiasm of those surrounding me, I found a seat in the far corner, listening with quiet attention to the impassioned speech of our host.

Sitting amidst the largely privileged class of mostly professionals and businesspeople, a question kept raising its head. Are we really being given the right to choose or is it just an illusion that we are hopelessly clinging to?

I discovered that many of those around me were being smoothly maneouvered into a direction of thought that is considered socially ‘valuable’.

To me, it seems incorrect to be told that one discipline or the other is more beneficial for a student. As the Romantic poets of the 19th century, whether Shelly or William Blake, suggested that all are capable of ‘discovery’ but not necessarily through the same means. For some, the path is reason, for others it’s mere belief.

Well, to put it more simply, it is as if you were hungry and told to choose between an apple and a pear to eat, when all you wanted was a supremely satisfying piece of steak. The analogy might appear a bit baffling yet, what it intends to convey is that all three options are healthy. Albeit, in this case, the first two options can be seen in relation to social conditioning, whereas the latter in the context of whimsical wants of an individual.

It would be unjust to present a hasty generalisation and state that all we ‘achieve’ is conformity. However, chances are quite high that many of those who wish to delve into literature would be left to decipher mathematical equations because that is what ‘others’ expect of them.

There are classrooms flooded with students who either believe or are made to believe that certain careers command greater authority than others. Perhaps, that is one reason why we can no longer find positions for all those graduating with a particular degree. Diversity of thought seems to be overshadowed by a ludicrous need to have and do what ten others are doing. This is like creating a Facebook account just because your peers have it or snapchatting because it is the new ‘cool’ thing.

For how long would doctors want their children to follow their lead? Why does a family of mathematicians not approve of a child who wants to pursue something imaginative?

The answer came swiftly when most senior attendees started vigorously nodding their approval as soon as sciences and mathematics were mentioned. The other side -- children -- did not look very pleased. For how long would doctors want their children to follow their lead and why does a family of mathematicians not approve of a child who wants to pursue something imaginative?

Education is a privilege enjoyed by a few. Another dichotomy staring at us from the peek holes of social stratification is the sharp contrast between the public and private schools. Although, I have never been unaware of the differences that prevail, they became highly defined through that evening -- as soon as the first speaker (teacher) began briefing the parents, about promises of a bright future for their children.

The presentation ended and, slowly, my mind rose from its place of seclusion in response to thunderous applause. Students stood in small groups discussing their future plans. Soon it became clear that most would be taking up courses "others were taking". With a sigh, I managed to express my views to one. I am not sure if I convinced them or not.

Illusion of choice