DIANE PHILLIPS: Time for a revolution in our thinking and our schools

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Diane Phillips

One of the brightest men I know was engaged in a conversation with another friend and myself on the subject of education when he remembered a quote, grabbed his phone and found the words he was looking for. It was a quote by Einstein on genius and how the misuse of teaching thwarts potential.

Here’s what Einstein said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

If Einstein, brilliant as he was, had the wisdom to boil education down to commonsense, why can’t we?

Instead, we lament the fact that our national grade point average is pathetic, that just over half the population which starts school finishes, that our classrooms are overcrowded and our students unprepared for the job market. I say, who cares? Except for the last two – overcrowded classrooms and underprepared students – we are judging our education system by all the wrong metrics because the system itself is founded on all the wrong principles.

Okay. I know this sounds like blasphemy and anyone in the system reading these words is likely to be thinking, what does she know about education?

That’s the point – you don’t have to be an educator (though I did teach Economics and Sociology while in graduate school) to know that the reason we think we are failing is because we are failing to understand that we don’t have to teach a fish to climb a tree.

Our education system, like many, is an attempt to throw everyone in the same pot of boiling water, fill it with academics from ancient history to geometry and ignore the fact the person who succeeds in today’s world may never need to know a single geometric equation but in fact would be a lot farther ahead if he or she studied how to handle digital finances or install a t

However, in The Bahamas where the education system has its head buried in the past, attempting to force-feed non-essential academics to a generation that grew up on YouTube and Snapchat, the system implodes, leaving gaping holes in a labour force begging for advanced skills and progressive thinkers.

It’s time to take a new look at what we are trying to achieve.

After all, a fish that does not know how to climb a tree does not lack genius. So long as it knows which way the wind, currents and tides are taking it and the difference between predator and prey, it has a chance, at least, of success and survival. A fish not knowing how to climb a tree is not an aberration. Survival tactics are the knowledge that matters in the world the fish inhabits.

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Renee Zellweger, left, plays Judy Garland, right, in a film about the singer’s life.

Judy’s real story a long way from being wizard

She was America’s sweetheart, the pig-tailed peaches-and-cream skinned child who skipped through the Wizard of Oz and into hearts with her joy and naivety in the height of an era bookmarked by the Great Depression and World War II. Yet the behind-the-scenes story of the making of Judy Garland is the antithesis of innocence. The studio that forced her to swallow pills to stave off hunger, the deprivation of a social life or the sensual pleasure of tasting a hamburger, issued with a stern warning and more pills, the attempted defiance by tasting a single bite of a French fry and relishing the flavour interrupted by threats and more pills.

All that and more is revealed in the recently released movie Judy, a peek into the sad, inhumane, slave-like conditions of studios of old. It is little wonder so many of Tinseltown’s greatest talents became the tragic figures they did, producing fodder for others to play their characters in biographical screen pics based on true experience.

It is interesting that the current year has produced three movies based on music icons whose lives have had as many high and low notes as their best songs – the incredible Rocketman, based on the life of Sir Elton John, an Oscar contender in anyone’s book, Judy, based on the five-times married, hungry for love and a desire to ‘stay put’ Judy Garland and next week on November 11, The Gift, a Rolling Stones special on Johnny Cash. Would their music have given us the great pleasure it did if they had not suffered the tragedies they did? Perhaps not and so all we can do is try to understand what made them who they were, forgive their frailties and thank them for the emotion they wring out in us every time we hear their voices.