For five years now, perhaps, a little more, I have been trying to convince my son that it isn't a good idea to argue with teachers, flout the rules that are meant to enforce school discipline, condemn the text books, question the rationale of the examination system, scorn peers who do none of the above etc etc ---- in vain. For five years, I have relentlessly urged him to pay some attention to what's happening in class, to complete assignments, to read the prescribed text books, and to answer questions as per the expectations of the examiner ---- in vain. For five years, I have tried to sell him the idea that worldly success may not be all that its trotted out to be but is not to be sneezed at either ----- in vain.
Even now, when he's preparing for the Entrance Exams that will decide which college he gets to join for his undergraduate studies, he spends innumerable hours convincing me of the weaknesses of the system, how it favours those who slog and cram and aspire to get an engineering degree only as a means to a well paid job in the corporate or worse still, the government sector, and places at a disadvantage those who'd rather NOT memorise formulae and short cuts but focus on comprehending abstract concepts for the simple joy that such comprehension brings.
All these years, he has pursued his interests with a complete indifference towards the "system". He's learnt to play music, taught himself to compose music, written poetry, spent countless hours engrossed in abstract art, read philosophy, devoured biographies of scientists, read Quantum Physics and Game theory , downloaded thousands of hours of music of every conceivable genre, caused three laptops to crash in 5 years, replaced his wardrobe with clothes that he is comfortable in with no concern for fashion, learnt to cook, driven me crazy with his compulsive emphasis on order and cleanliness etc etc. We engage in discussions on every topic under the sun, whether it be politics or patriotism or poverty or the purpose of life. We have serious differences on charity, population explosion, Islam and how society ought to treat the elderly.
He's a delightful young man who is educating himself and me every day ----but as far as the education system is concerned, he's a failure because he scored but 80 per cent or so in grade XII and is unlikely to get into an IIT. His plans for the future include teaching, research and writing an opera. It is getting increasingly obvious that he will find it difficult to live his dreams in India, so I'm getting reconciled to sending him abroad, in search of an academic environment conducive to his multifarious interests and passions.
I wonder often whether I have done him an injustice by not opting for home schooling ----- and urge every parent who's beginning to doubt whether the school system is doing more harm than good to immediately begin looking for home schooling options. Everything my son has learnt is DESPITE his formal education, not because of it ---- or as Mark Twain would have said it, his schooling has interfered with is education.
The irony is that if he succeeds in his dream of becoming a teacher, he will become a part of the very system he abhors -----unless he sets up a school of his own!!!