What did the cheese say to itself in the mirror? Helooo-me
What happened when the cheese factory blew up? Da-bree was everywhere.
I know that was cheesy but I think it’s grate. Too much.
So it is Shavuot, one of my favourite Jewish chaggim, I always look back on Shavuot memories with a smile on my face and a pain in my stomach full of lactose.
Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Torah on Mt Sinai and the end of the Omer, the transition between slavery and spiritual liberation in the desert. Contrary to popular belief I did not do the Omer this year, I always have a ginger birds nest on my face.
Besides the cheesecake, pizza and copious amounts of facial hair in the community on this day, my favourite thing about Shavuot has got to be the learning. Tikkun Leil is a highlight of my Jewish year. Tikkun Leil is the all night learning extravaganza that we endure as we expand our minds and hearts to a variety of topics. I like to think about it as a Golders Green edition of TED talks.
The Jewish people have been referred to as the people of the book and the scholars. Our communities throughout history have always idolised and revered the intellectuals. We are so proud of the fact that 25% of all Nobel prizes have been awarded to Jewish people. Our communities leaders are the learned scholars of the Talmud, the legacy of Rashi remains in his ability to quote Jewish text word for word without double checking. We pride ourselves on the intellectual standards we place on our Jewish schools and the high quality of profession that our children enter. The scientific and technological revolution seems to always be coming out of Israel and some of the biggest economic minds of the modern era are all Jewish. Coincidence?
Education has always been a pivotal part of the Jewish nations identity, and the world, but what kind of education I find myself asking. Is it the consumption of knowledge and fact? The ability to regurgitate information in an essay, test or conversation. What kind of intellectual ability does the world strive for? Look no further than our education systems to see what we aspire to create in our world. The systemic standardisation of education has consumed our population to believe and think in a linear fashion about the potential for growth, inspiration and creativity.
Is education simply the passing on of knowledge? Should it not be giving opportunity for critical thought and providing more questions than answers?
I never understood maths, it was just one of those things that I never had time for and because I never got it I became disruptive in class. My teachers always told me that if I applied myself well than I would be great at maths, they thought I was the problem. They thought the reason I could not sustain concentration was an innate quality in me. It obviously had nothing to do with hour long lessons about triangles and trigonometry. This was all until I found music. Every music class I would apply myself, be on time, be creative, smile and expose a sense of passion I never felt in any other class. Music opened my eyes to the expression of the soul, the moments of human emotion and the desire for creativity as sense of fulfilment. I was given the opportunity to experience this as part of my ongoing education, but of course like all good institutions I was made to do a test to prove I did it, be compared to my peers and become a number on a graph.
Was I the problem or was the inability of the education system to try and recreate that for all students the real problem? What about the kids that never found music, art, drama or a creative outlet. There is so little choice at your standard institution, the system is not designed for individuality but rather to test conformity. Why was the education system not looking out for them, why were these children being left behind and compared to each other on a scale that none of them wanted to be on and told they were less smart by comparison.
We are a world built on the shoulders of intellectual innovation. Modern political structures, democracy, philosophy and art has defined and shaped the world in which we live in and it was all derived from passion and purpose. I would argue these are no longer the goals of our standard institutions and if they are then we have a lot of work to do to change the paradigms that our societies perceive education and learning.
With Shavuot and Tikkun Leil, a celebreation of education, approaching perhaps a redefinition of education is in order. A revamp of the concept of education, not as the consumption of knowledge, less of knowing this and that but rather answering the how and why. Our institutions should be individualising education and being the guide on the pursuit of passion and happiness.
I think Socrates said it best when he said, “Education is the kindle of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”