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 hence  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 on  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.

Game of Thrones: Lessons

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As the season 5 of the popular TV show, Game of Thrones (GOT) comes to an end, let’s look at the possible lessons we have learnt so far.

1. GOT has completely changed how we view Mondays. New episodes are often released every Monday hence making the often dreaded Monday a day to look forward to. Thanks to GOT, “Oh God! I hate Mondays” is now “Thank God it’s Monday.”

2. Wisdom is better than strength.
“Wisdom oft comes from the mouth of babes”

Tyrion “dwarf” Lannister had little or nothing to match Stannis Baratheon’s army during the latter’s invasion of King’s Landing but he had a good head on his shoulders and a chemical that could kill thousands. With combination of these, he was able to defeat Stannis.

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3. Family is everything.
“Whatever you may believe of me, Lady Stark, I promise you this – I never bet against my family.” – Tyrion Lannister
“It is the family name that lives on. Not your personal glory, not your honour..but family” -Tywin Lannister

GOT depicts how powerful (the names of) families can be. The Lannisters, Starks, Tyrells, Martells, Targaryerens, Boltons all fought to protect their families and married each other to form an alliance and strengthen their authority over the 7 Kingdoms.

4. Think before you make a promise.
“A Lannister always pays his debts” – Tyrion Lannister

A promise is like a bond; don’t take it lightly. One of the quickest ways to lose respect and power is to make promises you can’t keep. Going back on your promise can result in unexpected situations. Walder Frey never forgave Rob Stark for not honouring his promise and slaughtered him, mother, wife and unborn child at the Red Wedding.

5. Knowledge is power.
“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge” – Tyrion Lannister
“Knowledge is a weapon, Jon. Arm yourself well before you ride forth to battle.” -Maester Aemon to Jon Snow

Lord Varys and Tyrion knew their weaknesses and focused on acquiring knowledge. In this information age, knowledge is everything. We are lucky to have abundance of information at our disposal, thanks to Internet. Knowledge, wisdom and a broad perspective are just some of the things one can gain from reading. These help one see to the world more objectively.

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6. Learn from your experience.
“A bruise is a lesson…and each lesson makes us better” – Arya Stark

Everyday we experience things that change us. Bad experiences, whether mental, physical or emotional, teach us more. The scars definitely hurt but don’t dwell on them rather focus on the lessons.

7. Winter is always coming and usually defines your character.
“Chaos isn’t a pit, chaos is a ladder. Many try to climb, fail and never try again. The fall breaks them.” – Lord Baelish
“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?” Brann Stark asked; the father Ned replied “That is the only time a man can be brave.”

Everybody maintains his composure when the going is good but it takes a person of character to rise above obstacles against all odds. There’s always some form of evil lurking in the dark. Tough times reveal the true strength of every individual; effective leaders keep their heads up and never give up. Pray for the best but prepare for the worst.

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8. Never appear desperate.
“A true man does what he will, not what he must.” – Cersei Lannister

You make yourself an easy prey when you appear desperate. Stannis was desperate to take control of the 7 kingdoms and sought the help of God of light (religion). He ended up killing his brother, Renly and burning his only daughter. The wife committed suicide afterwards. Lest I forget, Stannis still didn’t get the Iron Throne.

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9. Friendzone sucks.
This is just to reiterate what we already know, getting stuck in the friendzone fucks you up big time. Just ask Ser Jorah.

10. Life is not a straight-line graph.
“Every man must die Jon Snow. But first he must live.” – Ygrette

GOT, unlike other fairytales, seem more realistic because in reality you can’t predict what life will serve you the next minute. Life is unfair and full of twists & turns; bad things happen to good people all the time. The only thing certain in this life of uncertainty is that all men must die. VALAR MORGHULIS 

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11. Be modest; let others praise you.
“Any man who must say I am king is no true king” – Tywin Lannister

There are five things that can make one arrogant: fame, beauty, affluence, intelligence, and talent. If you possess any of these, it is important to maintain a cool head and let others praise you.

12. First impressions are often shallow and wrong
“When Jon Arry named you master of coins no one cared. Always been a grumby job, why not let a grumby man do it.”

Sometimes what we hate end up being the best things that ever happened to us. Many hated the title, “Master of Coins” but Lord Baelish yielded more power as master of coins than he/others expected and ensured Joffrey assumed the throne.
The best love story in GOT remains the one between Khal Drogo and Khalessi however many forget the beautiful story started with a forced marriage and rape.

13. Everybody wants you to do well but not better than them.
Listen to this convo between Lord Baelish and Lord Varys.
Lord Baelish: “It is flattering really..you feeling such dread at the prospect of me getting what I want.”
Lord Varys: “Thwarting you has never been my primary ambition, I promise you. Although who doesn’t like to see their friend fail now and then.”
Need I say more? Ok! Maybe one more.
“It is not those foes who curse you to your face that you must fear, but those who smile when you are looking and sharpen their knives when you turn your back.” – Melisandre

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14. Power intoxicates like wine.
“Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.” – Lord Varys

Power is something everybody yearns for however being power-drunk, like Joffrey, or lust for power, like Cersei, are recipes for disaster and discontentment respectively.

15. Self-belief/self-pride, not self-obsession, is required for success.
“Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like an armour and it can never be used to hurt you.” – Tyrion to Jon Snow

If you do not believe in yourself, how do you expect others to do? Never underestimate yourself. Our minds and brains are like transmitters, people pick up what you transmit. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and work hard to develop/magnify the former and diminsh the latter. Despite the famous saying, “you know nothing Jon Snow” he grew to be the leader of the Night’s Watch.

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16. Love is powerful.
“The thing we love destroy us everytime lad. Remember that.” – Jeor Mormont to Jon Snow
“Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same.” – Cersei Lannister

Everybody longs to love and be loved. Love makes everything beautiful and gives humans drive and purpose. Virtually every character in the show is driven by love. Khal Drogo lost his life and power cos of his love for his wife and never born child. Theon Greyjoy’s infamous love for the female genitalia was his undoing.

17. Listen to elderly people, they know the short-cut to life.
If Brandon Stark had listened to the mother, he wouldn’t have been thrown off a cliff by Jaime, which led to his father,Ned, travelling to King’s Landing to seek justice and ended up losing his leg and subsequently his head.

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18. Everybody wants something; don’t be afraid to take a risk.
“Everybody wants something and when you know what a man wants, you know who he is and how to move him.” – Lord Baelish

Give and it shall be given to you. One must be willing to give in order to take. You don’t always receive when you ask; people aren’t God but you increase your chances when you offer help to others.
Cersei and Tywin Lannister wanted Tyrion to pay for Joffrey’s death at all costs, Tyrion took a huge risk and demanded trial by combat even when all odds were against him. Take risks, you might surprise everyone including yourself.

19. Don’t get too attached; learn to let go.
Humans often grow intemperate likeness for people and things, including TV shows. GOT teaches one that all good things come to an end. Do not, I repeat, do not get attached to a character in GOT lest he/she may end up dead.

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20. If a woman asks you if she’s the most beautiful girl in the world. Just say Yes, your life might depend on it. Never trust anyone especially someone who loves your partner; just look at Ned Stark and Lord Baelish. Your child may end up like Joffrey, a king, if you decide to give him everything. No woman born of a woman is immune to flattery; flatter that lady today. The street is military and only the strong survive; all hail Lords Baelish and Varys. Never believe anything anyone says before a but...”you know my brother once told me nothing someone says before the word “but” really counts” – Benjen Stark to Tyrion on the wall.

What have you learnt from the series that I omitted? Please do tell.