Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire – Jordyn McNally
Good morning Ladies, Gentlemen and distinguished judges. I am delighted to be here to talk to you today: to talk to you about inspiration. Inspiration, invention, creativity and learning. I’m sure we’ve all been inventive or creative at some point in our lives, that we’ve all been inspired – by a person, place or event. It is these things that enable the progress of our world. For new inventions to be created, new songs to be written, new works of art painted or sculpted, new medical breakthroughs to be discovered…the list is endless. The question is, is school the place for developing the potential scientist, artist, musician, inventor, athlete or astronaut within each of us? Are our schools doing enough to seize our potential, nurture it, feed it and allow it to grow and develop? I don’t believe so. I believe there is a massive gulf between the learning we experience in schools and the inspiration we need to go out into the world to make a difference.
Even some of the most renowned inventors in the world experienced constraints in educational establishments. The education system would have had us believe that even the inventor of the lightbulb didn’t always have such (pause) bright ideas: Thomas Edison, co-inventor of this life-changing object was told by his teachers on a consistent basis that he was “too stupid to learn.” One of the men who gave such a vital discovery to our world was “too stupid”, as defined by the people who are supposed to nurture and develop our potential. It is teachers like Thomas Edison’s that have the ability to squash potential, stop it in its tracks. What would have happened if Thomas Edison had believed this and resigned himself to a life of mediocrity? It is teachers like this who make students believe that they are only capable of average, standard outcomes. An A, B or C and I refuse to accept that.
Personally, I adore learning. I love being taught new things, expanding my mind and broadening my horizons. But at what point do we stop gorging on random, curricular-led information and start to be inspired? In my opinion, there has never been such an abundance of staff within education and yet so few TEACHERS. This generation is systematically force-fed information like cattle, herded towards final examinations, with our minds ending up as hollow as the intentions of those within education. We need to be allowed to develop individuality within learning, to find a place within ourselves to love creating, changing and discovering. We need to kick over the bucket of mediocrity within our schools and spark the flames of an astronomical revolution – the age of refusal. A refusal to be less than extraordinary, a refusal to believe that we are not capable of making the impossible possible. Education needs to be much more than textbooks and assessments. It should be about the birth of hope, the hope that in our lives we can achieve anything we want to.
Some may question whether it is, in fact, a teacher’s role to inspire their students to follow their dreams. Teachers, after all, have a job to do and that is primarily to prepare us for the examinations on which so much importance is placed by everyone – schools, pupils, parents, universities, workplaces. Our society is results driven: if we do not leave school with a piece of paper saying we are proficient in Maths, have a good grasp of the nuances of the English language, can converse in another language, then what does the future hold for us? It is our teachers’ job to ensure that we do, so that as many possible opportunities are opened up for us. But is this really what they are doing? If it is not a teacher’s role to inspire us, then whose is it? Who is going to inspire the future generations to change the world we live in? When we die, our thoughts, our minds, our existence – and our exam results – die too. But the difference we have made lives on. Every photon of light that has bounced off every object on this earth is still hurtling through space, and every single ray of light that has touched each and every one of your faces has changed the universe in more ways than you can imagine. That’s what we do when we actually TEACH our children. We are capable of changing the world in more ways than we can imagine.
Nicholas Selby, a Georgia Tech University graduate, spoke out about achievement. About inspiration. He stated:
Our mission as students is not to follow in the footsteps of the astronauts, Nobel Prize laureates or the presidents that graduated before us but to exceed their footsteps, crush the shoulders of the giants upon whom we stand!
This is what we need to be inspired to do. Not to be guided towards a pass in a subject that will have little bearing on your future life but to be told that you, I, we can change the world. We can be better than those considered the best.
I want to learn. I want to be told of the wonders of this world, worlds past, other worlds altogether and worlds yet to come. I want to BE one of those wonders. I want to know that I’m worth every single atom in my body and I want to be inspired. Maybe it’s time our education system focused less on what they want us to be able to do and more on what we want to be able to do. Maybe it’s time that our teachers were the ones doing the learning.