Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The first existential crisis of exam season.

Ah, if only I had the same focus in revision as I do in writing rambling blog posts.

There are many problems with the exam culture that has permeated education, and the most pernicious issue we face is that they are nothing like the real world. Yes, in keeping with the idea that young people know nothing about the real world, exams are structured in a manner that has no realistic semblance of anything which occurs beyond education.

Exams are like machines. You put the Right Thing in, and Good Marks come out. You are obedient and compliant and you spend your days sat in front of books and computers instead of going out getting high on life and other noxious substances - because that is the Right Thing To Do. And we all know if you do the Right Thing, you get Good Marks.

It's not right. It is so not right. Admittedly I am writing this as a form of procrastination, but right now I'm finding it hard to visualise what use literary theories will have in the rest of my life, unless I devote myself to the pursuit of academia. Post-modernism itself is dull as dishwater: it is only useful when considered as part of a grand narrative (which it, itself, so scrupulously rejects). Is our world postmodern or post-post-modern? Can we actually tell? And, most pressingly: does it matter?

I think that's what all exam questions should boil down to. X: Does It Matter?


The Feinmann Diagram: Does It Matter?

Freud's Theory of Dreams: Does It Matter?

What Caused World War 2: Does It Matter?

You can argue - yes or no, or maybe or somewhat - but it shouldn't matter, so long as you can back up our arguments with opinions and evidence and feeling. You can relate it to the wider world, and talk about the importance or lack thereof. Ideas that followed from it, ideas it influenced, ideas it completely destroyed. In the grand scheme of things, maybe it doesn't matter much how to do a basic titration experiment - but you could argue its technique can be applied to times when it does matter, or that it is a waste of time invented to keep children busy at GCSE.

Education should be about teaching people to think, not to fall into line with what is expected. I want university to tell me to rail against the system. Examine the questions we are asked, and ask why it's important. Ask what is important. Have passion and conviction.

A lot of the time, I feel like I have no conviction left. It has been sucked out of me. I know how to pass my English exam, but I don't particularly want to: I would rather be out agitating for fairer wages and having torrid flings with widely unsuitable people, because that's really how we learn. By making mistakes and having experiences, not writing set things within an allotted space of time.

Maybe this should all be boiled down to Exams: Do They Matter?

Yes, I suppose they do. They are why I am at university, fundamentally - to get that piece of paper which says I passed exams and know what I am doing well enough to be considered for jobs. But it seems like a terrible waste of youth, to spend it revising.

Once exams are over, my real education of dancing till dawn in strange cities will resume.

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