Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hypocrisy of the Prison School

Dad gave me a film camera to play with. Fixed exposure, fixed focus, fixed focal length, and a 2-element plastic lens. Cool, sounds like a disposable film camera. Oh wait, the film is replaceable, and dad threw in a roll of ISO 200 film too. (Just in case you think he's been very generous, he got them free too.)

And so one fine morning, I walked around town, taking pictures around the market -hasn't changed much- and the nearby lake -changed too much, yuck- before moving on to my old secondary school.

Upon arrival, I found that the roads had been widened. That seems to be the only positive change.

It has been there even before I graduated, but the whole place was surrounded by barbed wire. It is designed to keep people in, not out. Metal prongs attached to an electrical pole on the inside of the wall confirm this, daring students to try and climb it and reach over to the outside world.

That's what I like about photography, you see things that you would otherwise have missed even if it didn't make a good photo op (not in this case though, I'm so going to go back with my dSLR). Then you can ponder the meaning behind all this mess.

Modern education is like gavage, or forced feeding. You won't have to do much, but you won't like it and you have to do it. It is almost literally forced down your throat regardless of how quickly (or slowly) you can swallow, regardless of allergies or dietary requirements, and regardless of any objection (which are quickly suppressed anyway). I think its ethically questionable too.

If you're lucky, you might end up with a fat juicy liver brain to serve up to the needs of society. If you're not, you'll just puke everything out, forget everything, and since schools have a tendency to stifle creativity, you end up with nothing, and probably worth nothing.

I find learning fascinating. I would quite often grab a book and read and read and just keep on reading. My favourite topics are science, technology, environmental issues, photography, military history, philosophy and many more. No coercion whatsoever. But what is it about schools that never fails to make every subject seem so dreadful even to myself? So repulsive? So much so that you'd just have to turn it into a prison. I don't know, but the temptation to burn books after finals seem to be a running joke amongst students.

And then, I walked up to the field where I used to play football on the odd occasion, or maybe it was dodgeball without me realising it. It now has a asphalt road running across it, almost completely killing off its usefulness as a sports field which is also shared with two primary schools. I was told some time ago that instead have having sports day there, the schools now send the students by bus to another field some distance away. Now how could that possibly be a good idea?

Then I walked pass the Angsana trees, now reduced to mere tree stumps. There were 3 of them, each must have been there for a good part of a century, perhaps more. They were HUGE.

They could use a trim I guess, but they're gone for good. No more fragrant rain of yellow flowers every April. I pondered the irony of the fact that the school has won the state level recycling competition several times, by imposing a quota on students to bring old newspapers, sending them out to collect trash from supermarkets ect, and beating the nearest competition by several tonnes (no kidding). They got the brand new computers for the effort, but I think the trees show more than anything else: what a shallow, superficial exercise it was. A farce!

FYI, Angsana trees are on the IUCN Red List, in the "vulnerable" category. It also has a vital role of housing Rhizomes which fix vital nitrogen to the soil.

I'm glad to have graduated when I did. The place looks so dead now.
As dead as the desert. As dead as the cement. As depressing as a prison too.

I wonder if they have fenced up that "secret tunnel" too.

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