Take pride in your learning, no matter what form it may take

The learning of this lady spinning on the charka that and her husband the weaver produced cotton cloth of high quality used to make a kurta which I wore whilst teaching MA students in Bangalore. An interesting link between different kinds of learning.

The learning of this lady spinning on the charka and that of her husband the weaver, produced cotton cloth of high quality used to make a kurta which I wore whilst teaching MA students in Bangalore. An interesting link between different kinds of learning.

Once again I am inspired to write on the basis of  comments posted in response to this blog. Having written a brief piece titled “So then, which of us is an educated man?” Posted on February 9th,  I was delighted to receive comments from individuals who come from the very fishing village featured in my writing. Clement Lopez, an activist for fishermen’s rights and the protection of the coastal area expressed his own views on the need to establish respect between individuals of differing experiences and education and Jenet the daughter of a fisherman from Kerala sent a reply that stated:-

“I never found our fishermen’s knowledge and skill in their traditional occupation as appreciable since I used to develop a feeling that anyone’s informal learning through experience and necessity will make them a skilled worker. But later on , when I was aspiring in getting more degrees in my particular field I realized the fact that to become a master in that field we must be able to apply the learned knowledge “.

I have never, to my knowledge met  either Clement or Jenet and was pleased to receive their comments and to know that my words had encouraged them to think about learning within their own community. I was particularly interested in the juxtaposition that Jenet makes between the learning associated with occupation and her own more formal education. Jenet is clearly taking the opportunity to gain qualifications and to develop her own skills and knowledge as a means of moving forward in her career. I get the impression that she is a thoughtful young woman who is likely to succeed in her chosen area. Reading her comments encouraged me to reflect further upon this balance between formal academic education and that associated with occupational practice and experience.

On Sunday in Northampton I attended a graduation ceremony. This long established rite of passage sees many, largely young, scholars who have studied hard over an intensive period of time, reap the rewards of their endeavours. As they walk across the stage to be shaken by the hand of the Chancellor of the University and receive their degrees as a mark of their earnest endeavours, their families and friends demonstrate their pride with generous applause.  I too felt a warm glow of satisfaction as two of my PhD students, wearing the formal gowns and Tudor bonnets of their newly acquired status were awarded certificates of recognition for the completion of their research and defence of a thesis. This long established and highly traditional ritual is a time for celebration, and for many the commencement of a new journey into employment or further study.

After the formal ceremony the flashing of cameras, warm embrace and handshakes of congratulation and occasional tears of joy (or possibly relief!) are a feature of the milling crowds before they disperse to various parties or make their journeys home. This is a joyous event and one in which I always find immense pleasure.

For those who demonstrate their learning in less regulated circumstances I suspect that celebration comes in other guises. For the craftsman the pride gained through the production of a beautiful artefact, possibly a piece of furniture or a well turned pot and likewise for the cook who prepares a dish for her customers or family, the farmer who brings his crops to harvest, or indeed the fisherman who sees his family feasting on his catch, their reward may be equally satisfying as the award of a degree or diploma. Learning should be celebrated no matter how it is manifest.

Graduation is a day of pride. Quite rightly we celebrate the learning of our students and hope that they will embark upon careers that are fulfilling and of benefit to society.  But it was the final words of Jenet’s posting that led me to reflect upon the nature of such pride and the need to ensure that we celebrate and appreciate learning in all its many forms. Jenet wrote:-

“Yes, our fishermen are masters of [the] sea who apply the right knowledge at the right time, with no kind of formal education and limited access to the modern technology in fishing. Now, I feel proud that I’m the daughter of a learned (fisher)man! Thank you that you made us to feel proud”.

Master of the Sea – now there’s an idea for an interesting degree course!

8 thoughts on “Take pride in your learning, no matter what form it may take

  1. Yes I totally agree and believe that each person is educated in his/her own way and that all learning and ability needs to be celebrated!! Celebration for me is when a student tells me he/she was able to progress by himself or herself and achieve, a parent is able to accept a child for what he or she is and help and when a teacher reaches out to include every child in her class in learning!!

    • Well said Jayashree. Thenotion of acceptance is so important here. Too many children are recognised more for what they can’t do than what they can.

  2. To me real education is in attitudes and not in skills.
    Are we human in our attitudes when we assert,burn in ambition and competition?
    Today’s crisis is not created by simple people but by skilled crooks.They could be finance management persons becoming advisers to prime ministers or doctors who lack morality or ethics.All the nuclear scientists are brilliant people working for uncouth politicians or generals.
    Education is not of skills but to be human

  3. Attitudes are shaped by adults and often imposed on children. As you say, it is not being clever with finance or as a scientist or doctor that causes difficulties, it is the ways in which the skills, knowledge and understanding of these individuals is used or abused. The imperative on teachers to teach about the moral consequences of actions is clear. Even more so the need for educators and their managers to take a stand for what is right.

  4. Today, I find parents and children chasing success. Success is measured, pre determined, planned, strategised and achieved at any cost. Brilliance and intelligence is measured by how good we are at showcasing our work through exaggeration and not through learning. My husband has been reading out to me, few excerpts from the book – Zen Garden by Subroto Bagchi which talks about people who have “achieved”. Most of the people he has talked about did not plan their achievements, they worked relentlessly, did what their principles gave way to and what they truly believed in and enjoyed. I find parents and teachers making robots out of children. They take admission in techno schools these days for their child when he/she is just 6 years old because they want the child to go to IIT. It is sad that so called education and literacy has made us such big fools and dictators. Learning is to be able to stand up and question, to be able to say fearlessly that I do not agree or I agree, to be able to be aware of oneself and the surroundings and the extent of relationship between the two, the willingness to live with others despite differences, the courage to walk on a chosen path even if there are no companions….. and a lot more, learning unfolds in new ways every minute and being open to such learning is education to me.

  5. Hi Savitha,
    The kind of education you advocate requires courage for sure. You use the word principles – somethingthat we need to discuss much more I feel. Maybe by carrying on this conversation and possibly including more people in the discussion we can encourage the development of educational principles that foster inclusion and encourage respect for a wider range of learning.

  6. Respected Richard ,
    Firstly, let me express my gratitude to you for making me again proud that , I,a fisherman’s daughter prompted you to blog on a much worthy subject . Your blog started with an illustration of ‘invisible people’ in our lives. They are present , but we don’t see them. Your blog increased my emotions even more. In the previous blog you also mentioned these ‘invisible people’, whom we take for granted .I wonder how many
    educated people including us will think on how deprived will be us if these invisible people like newspaper delivery people, autorikshaw driver, milkmen, laundry men, house cleaner, helper, porter,weaver, tailor, fish vendor, grocers., etc disappear for a while
    (of course they are paid for their effort). Yet, at times we forget the fact that even though these people seem invisible they are indispensable for us in our daily lives.Don’t we see this as a paradox ‘to live a learned man’s life and living we need unlearned man’s life (service). Granted, that the wealth and position of the successful people creates within them a feeling that they are invincible and forget the fact that “Invisible keep them viable”.

    Now,let me comment on your concluding sentence; “Master of the Sea – now there’s an idea for an interesting degree course!”
    For your information, I’m happy to point out
    that there is hardly one college in Kerala for the degrees of B. F.Sc and M. F.Sc ( degrees in fisheries science) and twice a hand full of colleges for the former and a hand full of colleges for the latter in India
    which is inadequate for the larger population in India. Besides this ,the admission to these degree courses are made through entrance examination in which all the science subject students can apply and most of the questions will be related to other ( their )areas of science. Since the degree holders from this faculty are eligible to chair higher posts in Fisheries related govt. posts this( poor) degree course attracts many ambitious profession seekers who fail in their dream to become a doctor , an engineer and so on as
    their last and final resort! How the poor (eligible ) students from higher secondary ( fisheries science ) background can compete with them?. I doubt whether other countries call this particular science in some other names like Ocean Sciences or Marine Sciences. But here , the question which haunts me every moment is how many of (true) fishermen kids are getting opportunity to conferred as Bachelors , Masters or Doctors in Fisheries Science.
    ( In USA, Program of Affirmative Action have made a noticeable difference. Justice of the U. S Supreme Court Clarence Thomas was able to reach his high position by being a recipient of affirmative action effort )

    It’s obvious that your blogging cannot directly put forward this issue but you are igniting the thinking about a rationale of accommodating a reasonable amount of fishermen kids in this proud faculty . May be in the distant future the fisher folk will pay tribute to your efforts in this regard.


  7. Hi Jenet,
    It is very good to have this correspondence with you. I have learned much by reading your words. The idea that individuals can gain degrees that give them a paper expertise valued more than the experiences of those who know the sea intimately is a real conundrum.

    We should all honour those who provide service through their lives and work, no matter how humble this may seem. In several religions there is the saying “work is worship”. If this is indeed true then those who serve their communities are surely of the status of saints.

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