Teach for India Diaries 11: Your Brain – a memory device or a creator ?

When was the battle of Plassey fought? What is the capital of Cameroon? What is the exact degree of Tropic of Cancer? What is the Schrodinger’s equation? Write down the chemical equation to produce sulfuric acid? Explain the theorem for finding the equation of the line formed by the centers of two overlapping circles?

Do the above questions for a moment take you back to your examinations and the endless sleepless nights before? Do you still remember any of the answers? If yes, kudos! You just proved that you have a fabulous memory. But then again so does a 2 GB transcend flash drive.

Brings me to the question – Are we using our brain for the purpose it was created for?

Bloom’s Taxonomy for educational objectives simply puts forward a pyramid with verbs going up from Remember > Understand > Apply > Analyze > Evaluate > Create. It is a very neat indicator of how we should progress as human beings at every stage to finally be able to create in any field that we choose. Its clearly at the highest level of the pyramid since it takes mastery at all the levels below to be able to create something.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about something that got me thinking beyond a little further than known boundaries. He said that we all are “mostly”, mark my careful choice of words, testing for retention and understanding of any concept taught at school. We know we royally mugged up data and regurgitated it on our exam papers. To the extent that we almost forgot the answer to Question1 when we reached Question6. Running the race towards top ranks and cent percent marks blindly because every parent teacher meeting we would want our parents and friends to see our name written in chalk on the blackboard against the 1st Rank. If we look back at examinations and question papers from our school through kindergarten to high school, we will invariably find that 80% of the questions fall under the categories “Remember” and “Understand”. Maybe a 10% were based on Application and a mere 5% on Analysis and the remaining 5% on Evaluation. Leaving almost little or no scope for creation.

Think about it. The only place i can think of, where i was creating something from scratch was in the art classes! A little in the science projects maybe; of course assuming that one didn’t just pick the project off a store and actually made it on their own. Am sure there are one of teachers who you remember encouraged you a lot to just “create”! Be it anything, your he-man cartoon strips on the last page of your notebooks, your origami games, or your precarious pencil, rubber band, and eraser airplane models. Let me burst your bubble and tell you right now that these are the only things “you” ever created in school, unless of course you were working in your secret lab in your garage like Dexter!

Why are there such limited marvelous artists, poets, writers, scientists, inventors, architects, engineers, founders, thinkers, creators and so many knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis based professions. This brings me to the inevitable question; if we never taught our children to create in school how do we expect them to create at work and in life???

Think of what you do at work on a daily basis. Which category on the bloom’s taxonomy does it fall under? Are you a knowledge gatherer, a comprehension specialist, an applicator, an analyst, an evaluator, or a creator? Remember, it does not matter what you work as, even as an a run of the mill software engineer, if you are creating things around you, be it within your scope of work or outside of it in your personal life, you are a creator. So what do you do, day in and day out? If you still have not given this thought, you are letting life pass you by with out attaining your original self.

You were born to create. As a child you knew how to create without anyone teaching you how to “NOT” Create. Its only as you grew older and got to school is when you were taught to squash your instincts to create and learn to only just remember and comprehend! “Child, just why cant you remember the formulas, why cant you comprehend the axioms! That’s enough to know how to survive in life! If you do not remember and comprehend, you cannot get to college and get a job! You will not learn how to survive!”

Surviving we all are. Survive we all will even with out us realizing it. “Why should i become a child again? Why do i need to unlearn what i learned? Why do i need to follow my instincts to create something that will change the world? Why do i need to see the poor elephant swallowed by the big bad boa constrictor when all i can see is the mere black hat?”

Its only when you answer, but foremost ask, these questions for yourself, is when you will stop using your brain like a mere memory device and see what miracles of creation you hold with in you. And then remembering the battle of Plassey, the capital of Cameroon, the exact degree of Tropic of Cancer, the Schrodinger’s equation, the sulfuric acid, and the formula for equation of the line formed by the centers of two overlapping circles will feel like mere pieces to the bigger jizsaw puzzle and not the puzzle in itself.

Leaving you with our art classes which still remains one of the only places where there is maximum creation! 🙂



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