Is Formal Education A Mistake?

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It seems a lot of people are questioning the effect of formal education on their lives. Virtually every book I read these days is focused on the need to restructure the educational system and promote self-education (in the West especially United States).

I agree that this is the Information Age henceĀ  there is an abundance of information at our disposal however in a developing country like Nigeria, how do you access/critically analyse this information without formal education? How do you seek out answers from books at home, library or Internet without formal education?

Formal education is very important. It is a ticket to our future. Without it, we rely on easier and faster sources for information like television, printed materials, experts, or hearsay from immediate contacts, friends or relatives to save us the time to self-learn, think and analyse.

It must be said that formal education doesn’t guarantee anyone financial success but it removes the scales of ignorance from one’s eyes and makes your thinking mind to explore and seek several answers. As a consequence, it is a ticket out of miserable circumstances for many; a solution to our backwardness.

Nigerians (like the guy I watched on television recently) who claim formal education is nothing, I am curious to know why they think so. And what helped you to form this opinion? I need to know if they’d be opinionated or able to reason the way they do now if they had no formal education. Formal education gives you a certain level of exposure and thence the will to chase self-education and become an autodidact.

“Autodidacts are the self learners who quench their hungry and inquisitive minds by self learning and finding answers to their questions themselves” – Maaher Sayeed

The problem with our formal education is that we are/were all taught to be status- and result-oriented. Most people believe formal education is all about amassing certificates and titles whilst bragging about them to anyone who cares to listen.

The truth is that what really matters is the transferable and non-transferable skills you pick up. Don’t miscontrue my point, I am not saying having a good grade/result is bad. No! Nevertheless, due to the keeness to have titles attached to our name, cram-la-pour has become a ritual. This is beneficial in the interim but useless in the long run.

“Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” – Edmund Burke

Also, many go to school and focus solely onĀ  academics or social life and when they are thrown out in the real world, they realise their inadequacies and deficiencies. There’s definitely a reason why the Igbo word for a University is “Mahadum” but I prefer to call it “Marahadum” which literally means know them all. The best advice you can give to a student going into school is to allow the school pass through him/her as s/he passes through the school. That way, s/he would be equipped with formal, non-formal and informal education.

I concur that there are certain things you can’t learn in a classroom because experiences shape up our lives. However, in this third world country, you need formal education to ditch crowd mentality, hearsays and blindly conforming to borrowed wisdom, and base your opinions on balanced and educated thinking. As a consequence, formal education paves the way for self-education.

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Poles and Notions

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It is quite astonishing how quick we, as a people, are to pick sides when something happens. Nigerians and sentiments are like yin-yang. Inseparable!

When news reports trickled in about the arrest of former Petroleum minister, Dieziani Allison-Madueke in the UK for allegedly laundering $13bn, two groups suddenly emerged. Those in her support were assembled in the blue corner whilst those against her were in the red corner.

Those in the red corner desperately want to see Diezani jailed and thence celebrated her arrest, without asking questions how the media came to that figure of $16bn. The opposition, in the blue corner, described Diezani as innocent until proven guilty and slammed the President’s anti-corruption war as mere noise used to harass and persecute his political enemies.

This is based on their belief that the President has surrounded himself with chronically corrupt citizens like Rotimi Amaechi et al. Perhaps they are right about Amaechi et al but if they feel Dieziani deserves time until UK court proves her innocence/guilt, why can’t they extend such benevolence to the likes of Amaechi etc? After all, everyone has a right to a fair trial. Or maybe not!

Some days later, there was a fight between new Super Eagles handler Sunday Oliseh and veteran goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama which led to the latter announcing his retirement from the national team. As expected, Nigerians, without waiting to get to the root of the matter, were split again into two sides with both teams hurling insults at each other.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having an opinion and taking sides but the least one can do is to be objective about it and back up your claims with facts, not assertions. Objectivity was lost during the aforementioned debates, and replaced by bias. Being objective is a herculean task for many due to the amount of bias we carry around.

It will amaze you how bias, especially what we hear others say, can sway our judgements and decisions. For example, if you were told that someone is good or bad at something, it would be hard for you to forget that information when you observe the person and in the process, miss other vital positive/negative traits of the person. Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson wrote in his new book LEADING, “It is astonishing how many biases and preconceived notions we carry around, and these influence what we see, or more precisely, what we think we see.”

Subjective thinking is based on an individual’s emotions, opinion and perspective hence it comes easily and naturally to everyone however objective thinking doesn’t. It is a skill that is acquired and developed by paying good attention to details. Just as kids develop vital personal and social skills by observing behaviour of their parents, siblings, peers or teachers, that’s the same way one needs to be a keen observer to think objectively.

Objectivity is based on facts and observations. It is a very important skill to acquire because it stops one from making hasty conclusions by taking a step back from one’s own thinking to critically examine facts/opinions/assertions at his/her disposal.

It also requires one to look at things from other people’s point of view hence one has to be willing to give a fair hearing to what others have to say. No matter how right your opinion may seem to you, a single perspective never reveals the whole truth.

Observing and listening are underrated activities, and they cost nothing. Follow arguments with objectivity, not bias.

Blame It On Me

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I just saw the recent disheartening video footage of Matthew Ajibade, the Nigerian student who died mysteriously in police custody in the United States earlier in the year, being shocked by police officers while handcuffed to a restraining chair and writhing in pain.

Ajibade, who was only 21 years old at the time of his death, was found dead in jail in the US on New Year’s day. He had been arrested the previous day after his girlfriend put a distress call to 911 for an ambulance following an episode of his bipolar disorder which made him strike her. The police showed up instead and arrested Ajibade despite the girlfriend making it clear he needed medical attention.

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This has become a norm in the United States where young innocent harmless black men are more likely to be gunned down by the police than they would a white. Their only crime is being black. Black people are generally presumed to be dangerous, a threat and always guilty until proven innocent. According to promoters of the Black Lives Matter movement, a black man, woman, or child is murdered by police or vigilante law enforcement every twenty-eight hours.

In light of the recent extrajudicial killings of black people, I reaffirm my stance as an unapologetic Black man and throw my weight behind the Black Lives Matter movement. However, I hate the fact that black people blame everything wrong in their lives on racism.

Black music artistes are often quick to cite/blame racism for their failure to get nominations or win music awards. If American actor Leonardo DiCaprio was black, maybe he’d have taken the same route and blamed his failure to win an Oscar, despite mesmeric performances in a number of movies, on his race. Or the likes of Larry Bird, Jason Kidd, Steven Nash and Dirk Nowitski would have pinned Michael Jordan’s recognition as the greatest basketballer of all time on race.

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I do not know if blaming everything on racism makes some of my black brothers and sisters feel better about themselves but it is about time we took some of the blame for some of the things happening to us. There’s a saying that “no one can make you inferior without your consent.” Magnifying our self-esteem issues by seeking sympathy from the world for being black will give others the power to use us as pawns.

I do not seek sympathy from anyone for being black. Being black is not a plague/curse. Back in Nigeria, being black is becoming a bad thing too. It requires painstaking effort to discern a Nigerian from the crowd these days. We have adopted foreign accents and sound more American and British than the Americans and British people themselves.

You are automatically proclaimed intelligent once you speak well with a foreign accent. Perhaps that’s why it has become a “taboo” for anyone, especially those going into media or entertainment industry, to have a Nigerian accent. Listen to the radio and TV stations now, and you ask yourself “why the struggle to sound white?”

The same Nigerian accent we deride was recently ranked 6th sexiest accent by CNN, higher than the the American accent and a spot below the Queens English accent. However, have you ever seen whites  “killing” themselves to have a Nigerian accent? The essence of language is to communicate but it is also an integral part of a people’s culture. It is one of the things that sets one apart.

Accents define us and grant others information about our lives – where we are from, our history and identity as a people/ race. Our accents depict the richness of our cultural heritage and diversity. You don’t need need a foreign accent to have a high self-esteem rather forcing a foreign accent enhances your inferiority complex.

You are a representative of the Black Community; stop making our kids feel being Black and having a Nigerian accent is a bad thing. So instead of blurting out “Don’t Blame it on me” like John Newman, take the blame today like George Ezra and be proud of who you are. Be made of black!

Information is everything

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Last weekend, I sat down to tinker with my thoughts; to evaluate how the past month went. After a while, I discovered that every important decision I made was dependent on the information I had at the time.

Information is the lifeblood of every decision. It is at the root of everything. We depend on information to make decisions, solve problems and resolve uncertainty.

In this Information Age, information is ubiquitous and more accessible to virtually everyone. We are overwhelmed by the abundance of information at our disposal.

Everything that informs our world – music, writing, movies, news etc – can be described as information. According to Business Dictionary, Information is described as data that is accurate and timely, specific and organized for a purpose, presented within a context that gives it meaning and relevance, and can lead to an increase in understanding and decrease in uncertainty.

For instance, if you don’t read the instructions on your exam paper (information given by the examiners) before proceeding to answer the questions, you are likely to misunderstand the questions.

Information is an integral part of our lives; it can affect a behaviour or an outcome. Those with accurate, reliable and timely information have an advantage over others.

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Scientifically, information defines who we are. Every individual possesses a genetic code, which is the biochemical basis of heredity. This genetic code serves as biochemical instructions that translates the genetic information in one’s DNA or messenger RNA sequences into amino acids for synthesis of protein. Pardon my use of medical jargon.

Information can be facts, opinions and/or assertions. Our relationships, including marriage, is based on facts and/or opinions. It is hard to know everything about an individual so one tries to make a smart judgement based on facts and opinions and not a risky one based only on opinions.

Information provides knowledge. Knowledge is a prequisite for success and power. I am yet to see a rich man that doesn’t have information/knowledge. By sharing his/her knowledge, he acquires more wealth and power.

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However, information can be disastrous when there is an overload. Differentiating between good and bad information requires skill, patience and practice.

In this school of life, everybody is a researcher and every researcher is in dire need of information for his/her research to be successful. When you find this information, evaluate if it is good information. Successful research is based on having good information and then using it to make the right decisions.

Information is everywhere; the challenge is to make good use of it.

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Overthinking kills

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As humans, we think all the time, consciously and subconsciously. Thinking is a wonderful tool for education. It helps us generate information that can motivate and inspire us.

However, sometimes we get stuck worrying about something that happened or something that will happen. Some are constantly worrying about posting the perfect picture on social media, analyzing people’s statuses, spend much time thinking about to tweet or wondering why someone just unfollowed them on Instagram.

We all over-think in one way or another. Whether it is general worries about the future, self-worth, decisions or regrets, we are often overwhelmed by our own thoughts as we try to analyse our steps from every angle imaginable.

As we over-think, we become stuck in our heads; we fear being wrong. We become rooted in fear, doubt and uncertainty. The human mind abhors uncertainty.

Uncertainty implies danger so we try to take cover and protect ourselves. Over-thinking often comes with paranoia. Everything seems more dangerous than it actually is.

For instance, you have a crush on someone but you are afraid to make the move because you are uncertain of what his/her response would be. So you over-think approaching the person and making your feelings known and in the end, convince yourself it is best not to say anything.

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Also, when one is diagnosed with certain ailments or has certain symptoms, s/he over-thinks and believes the wall is closing in on him/her. One fears the uncertainty surrounding his/her future because of the sickness. As a result, over-thinking kills faster than the sickness itself.

When we over-think, we focus on what if instead of what is and this can have  a devastating effect on our health. We become engrossed in our own thoughts and emotions that we zone out and become numb to people, places, and things around us. We lose our identity; we forget who we are.

Knowledge is a wonderful tool but too much of it can make one over-think and paranoid. When faced with difficult decisions, we try to acquire information from our environment, friends and family. We generate many possible solutions to a particular problem that we succumb to over-thinking.

Over-thinking gets you nowhere. It can kill your happiness. If you are over-thinking an experience, limiting the number of people you talk with can help you think soundly. The best thing you can do if/when you over-think is take action and take a step forward.

Everybody is going to over-think and over-analyse once in a while but it is best to minimise these thoughts and make them productive.

Are you an over-thinker?

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your view on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.