“We all strive to be like everyone else – or, even more accurately, we all strive to be like everyone else, but only better. Gifted students are designated as gifted because they took the same standardised tests as everyone else, but performed better. Top job candidates are desirable because they have the same kind of credentials as everyone else only better. We have list the dignity as everyone else, only better. Our uniqueness has become a burden, an obstacle, or a regrettable distraction to the road to success” – Todd Rose, The End of Average
This is one of the questions that I wish my readers answer. Think!
Think really hard and then answer – What do we want for us (if you are a student)? What do we want for our children (if you are a parent?) Is uniqueness indeed in danger because we all want Standard?
So I understand that most people will say that these are one of those questions that have no right or wrong answers. Yet these are questions that require answers, and it is important to find the answer that is Right For You.
Is it right to hide behind the standard because we do not have the strength to battle for the unique?
Is it right that we encourage the standard or the ordinary and then applaud when we see (someone else) extraordinary? Oh yes, but we always add – “he/she had different circumstances”. Sure they did and they faced it and more importantly fought it.
As an education consultant, I encourage students to identify their Skill Pool before they embark on their journey of choosing the best course for them. Skill pool is an attempt to retrospect. Each of us has a different set of skills that we acquire as we go along. Some are even genetic. These together make us UNIQUE. It is therefore extremely surprising that we spend most of our student life and then our youth trying to get rid of this unique feature to try to become the AVERAGE. It does sound like a conspiracy theory to me, does it not?
The Conspiracy is to disregard the Individuality or the Uniqueness. Conspiracy to encourage standardization and make us believe that it’s the best way forward. To recognise and applaud the individuality, the first step is to recognise the flaws of standardisation. If the system recognises the flaws,then the system will have to work to create and alter the existing systems to match the individuality. Sounds like a lot of work does it not? So what do we do, we carry on with the systems – not for lack of understanding, but for the sheer magnitude of change that this would require.
We often deem the uniqueness as “Deviation from the standard”. In reality, it is the deviation from the expectation that we have created as a standard. This standard is, of-course, carefully crafted on basis of many measurements and characteristics. There is no denying that there is a lot of thought and science behind these “Exercises of Standardisation”. Standardised exams, Standardised scores, Standardised course which goes right up-to standardised looks and size too (reserving this debate for another time). As a student, the moment we deviate from these pre-existing standards we are deemed mostly, UNFIT. This – becomes our battle ground.
The Battle – Achieve standard grades in a standard education system studying the standard course in a standard manner. This is where we usually witness the death of uniqueness that the students may harbour in their hearts. How can he take pride in the unique, when you deem him “idiotic” or “useless”? We take away the most important aspect of their lives, their individuality, give them what’s left of it (usually not much) and then ask them to cope. It is difficult to cope in this world with all of your strengths intact, how then does a child cope when you have snatched most of the strength to begin with.
What do you think I am suggesting that you do? When a student does not perform well in the exams, what exactly is my solution? After all he needs to go to college and he will not make it there with 40%.
My Solution – Fit a round peg in a round cavity or more importantly do not fit a square peg in a round cavity. It will not FIT. Remember that educational toy you got for your 1 year old?
Unlike the 1 year old, we are mostly trying to fit a square peg into a round cavity. When it does not, we use the Hammer. Remember the Hammers? Tuition, cutting down TV Time, I-Pads, confiscate phones, more tuition, more study time, more tuition – all act as the hammer. And yet, mostly these hammers fail to give us the desired result. The Square Pegs still have the Rough edges and corners that do not fit into the edge-less circle. What a PITY!!
When it does not fit, we initiate the judgements. Bad grades in class: he must be stupid (for lack of a better word).
When a child does not perform well in the exams, lack of intelligence, is not the cause. There are other causes; we need to look for them. Academic Performance is directly linked to – Academic Perseverance, Growth Mindset, Relevance of Education and many more (I will discuss these in my later articles). It is important to understand this and to find the reason for poor Academic Performance. It could be that we are judging on parameters that are irrelevant to that particular student.
We have, slowly begun to understand the importance of non-standard. We understand that education has to be made relevant to the student if you want the students to truly learn. Some even understand that being non – standard is not a deviation, it is just individualism. Some of the finest institutes across the world envisage the requirement and are working to reinstate the NON- STANDARD. But little is being done, at the moment.
The change also has to begin with us. Like all else, we cannot wait for the government, the universities and colleges to bring about the revolution. We too share some of the responsibility. ENCOURAGEMENT is the key to building the individuality. Encourage your friend, your child, your student when they show signs of individuality. Deviation from individuality should be a point of worry, not deviation from standard.
Look around you, it is the deviation from standard that are remembered not the standard. Take pride in IT. We are not statistics that can be measured with mean, medians and averages. Best way to do that is to beat the Average, not give in to it. Rising above the Average should be your goal. It can be done. You only have to apply your Specialisation!