Recently I enrolled myself for sewing classes in order to make my home an economic profit center. I was delighted to learn something new an d started imagining colorful tapestry and designs which I would someday create. I wanted to re-live my high school days when I first learnt how to take up needle and thread and hand-stitch little girls’ frocks. In my ecstatic envisioning, I forgot one thing: the needle pricks. And so it came to be, but in an unexpected fashion.
While I was learning to juggle the left hand on the stitches, the right hand on the hand-wheel and my foot on the pedal, trying to keep the wheel from fooling my feet ( I hate to admit I have mild spatial disorientation!) a voice was synchronously cheering me, “Fast! Fast! Fast!”. I took a week to get the spool rolling well enough to stitch something complete. More pressure mounted on me because my tutor compared me with other beginners who learned to co-ordinate in a day’s time. My! That sure is some record. I mused. She ran the comparison drill almost everyday, on every new garment I stitched. And the thread broke. And I rolled the wheel again. My tutor grew irritated towards me for another reason: I asked her many questions. Why are we using different centimeter scales? Why are we cutting the garment this way? What are the parts of the machine? My teacher was more a kinesthetic learner, and she expected me to grow that way. You’ll know it when you do it was her answer. I grew more impatient and worked my assignments fast enough just to get done with them, and hoping not to undergo another grilling session. On the whole, my learning experience was worse than needle pricks. However when I worked from home, I finished my work in less than half the time and I used common sense.
Welcome to the Indian education system, where questions are despised and answers sound smug. As one who’s gone through some of life’s ups and downs, good parts and bad, wrestled with issues and tested all things before applying them, a tutor teaching me the wrong way or the wrong things are fairly discernible to my well-trained mind and I can correct those anomalies. Think about a little child, an innocent babe, sent through those philosophical doors with high expectations of “exploring” the world, only to come back weeping and frustrated with unanswered questions and unexpected expectations from others. You may wonder if this is still the case in the 21st century schools which are Internationally bench-marked and certified. Did you know that as early as this year, many schools in India have replaced ceiling fans for table fans for fear that children may commit suicide owing to stress?¹ Or how about this: According to a recent report, our nation suffers from a youth suicide rate ten times more than the global average¹. Let me ask you a simple question: Do most schools you try to enroll your children in, hoard slogans such as “Excellence”, “Achievement”, “Future-ready”, “Full potential”, “Success”? Then brace yourself for some trouble.²
Although outwardly these schools promote excellence and holistic growth, within closed classroom doors they compare and contrast the gifts and performance of children of the same age group so that a child can rise above another and excel.
Now I want to help you see a difference between Competition and Competence in their origin and how we see it played out today, so that you may be a discerning parent. It’s funny that although both competition and competence seem to come from the same Latin word competere which originally meant to strive together or to seek together, both of them don’t imply the original meaning today. Competence or Capability (often used interchangeably ) indicates the innate capacity for someone to be successful at something. Competition on the other end is a more comparative term, and implies success in something by subduing another. Although competition is a normative word when it comes to sports and games (remember the age-old Olympics?), the full blooming and effect of that word in everyday life can be attributed to Evolutionists. Richard Dawkins, a famous evolutionist, thinks that evolution is that competition of one gene over another for a certain trait to be developed. Almost all evolutionists believe in inter and intra-species competition to explain the survival of the fittest.
Some social darwinists claim that competition also serves as a mechanism for determining the best-suited group; politically, economically and ecologically. Now do you see where this can get us?
Creationists, on the other hand, believe that God inbuilt all living creatures with a complex set of code that lies dormant within them, but gets activated when the situation calls for it. In other words, our genes are complex structures that don’t gain information from outside and don’t compete with each other, rather, God built us with an innate capability to survive, if He would have it that way.
Competition is not some abstract idea which we just carry in our brains. We see this sort of thinking almost wired in us such that it shows up when we work long hours at work, when we compare our pay slips, when wives compare themselves to their husbands, when children compare each others toys or fight over them. The Bible, more than any other reliable source, shows us the beginning of the competitive spirit in the first chapter. Gen 3:5,6 is a precise account of the temptation of competing for the wisdom and understanding of God and the sin thereof. However, it was God who provided them every fruit-bearing tree such that Adam and Eve didn’t have to devour each other over a meal. We see competition again in the construction of the Towers of Babel (Gen 11), a competition for God’s glory, and how God condemned it. In stark contrast we see God rebuilding the ruins of Jerusalem under Nehemiah (Neh 2:17,18), God feeding the sparrows (Matt10:29), God providing us our every need (Romans8:32) and God defending the poor and the oppressed (Ps 68:5) which evolutionary thinking fails to explain.
Scripture as we have seen, is not silent on this issue. Competition -against God, each other or even with oneself, in order to survive -does not belong to God’s order of things. Well, you may say that Elijah competed with the prophets of Baal, but that competition was not to uplift himself but to uplift God’s Holy Name. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4 :6)
God however makes us competent. It is in God’s dictionary, and this is how He does it (prepare to be shocked.)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2Tim3:16,17(ESV)
Scripture dictates our life, not the other way round. And all of Scripture, being God’s own breath, is useful for all of life, so that we may be made competent for every good work ( not just ministry or missions ). That means we also see Scripture as sufficient for training up our children in the knowledge of God ( Eph 6:4 ) and from this, in all things created (Ps 78:4), that they may be effective stewards of God’s grace apportioned to them and escape these competitive traps, being prepared in and out of season to trust God in every circumstance.
Now for the million dollar question: Think about our own education system for a moment. How effective are Indian schools ( and perhaps colleges ) in getting our children off the competitive track and how much premium do they place on Scripture being sufficient for all life and godliness? Switch to a scene at our homes. How much value do we place on training our children in godliness and facing the world head-on? Have they girded their loins for the battles of the world or are they as ewe lambs being sent for slaughter?
- TheStar.com, March 22, 2011
- Some interesting revelations about an International school in Bangalore that touts ‘Excellence’ is shared in two reviews by parents