Sunday, August 29, 2010

Confessions of a Traditional Schooler

I have been wondering. Is unschooling only for children? Read some of my thoughts below. Sorry about the length. I have never been very good at being concise. J

Part 1: Life of a traditional schooler

1977: Born on 2nd November
1983: Class 1. Amongst the top 3 performers in the class.
1992: Class 9. Amongst the top sportsmen in the class.
1994: O Levels: 6 As out of 7 subjects
1996: A Levels: 2As plus admission in IBA (Institute of Business Administration)
2000: MBA from IBA. 3.5 GPA

Having achieved pretty decent things in a schooling life of 17 years, and having made my elders and self proud by getting reasonable distinction out of the crowd, I was “above-average”. Having sought inspiration from the financial successes of my family’s elders & entrepreneurs (most of whom were dead when I turned 4), I wanted to be an entrepreneur too.

2005: After a 4 years stint in the corporate world, and after having the pleasures of working with some of the top names of Advertising (Interflow), Islamic Banking (Meezan), Conventional Banking (Citibank), I laid the foundation of my business……………..

And failed miserably! …………nearly 4 million rupees down the drain………and a mountain of debt on my head. Oops, what went wrong?

2008: Time to seek answers……..let’s be the Sherlock Homes…….however, this time, let me not do something that I learnt in schools which was to seek the easy way out and ask some “specialist” for answers. I will do my own research. I will find out about successful people through reading.

Reading? Are you nuts, Ahsan? The only time you read was two nights before the exams, and that too was “intelligent textual scan”. Look at the GRADES you got. There is no correlation between your “success” (measured by grades) and reading. So, forget reading. Do what you were taught in school. Visit an expert. He will do some diagnostics on you, and give you some quick-fixes and you should be back on track.

2009: Fortunately, I did not visit the doctor, and spent hours doing something I never did before. I read one book on the Google’s Founders, The Google Story. (Hmmm! That was fun!) I followed that one with a book on Wal Mart. (Interesting!!) Next, Good to Great by Jim Collins. (Wow!!) Seven Habits of Highly Effective People…………..and recently, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki……….I am reading Winning by Jack Welch now, and am planning to study Technical & Fundamental Analysis techniques for Investing, and Vision Development Techniques & Time Management Techniques etc etc


17 years of expensive education!!! Firstly under the amazing O & A Levels system of UK, and then 4 Years with one of the top universities in Asia, and you don’t know how to manage time, finances & people?  Mr. Ahsan, that is pretty basic stuff that you have missed……and what was it that you were saying about yourself? You felt you were above-average, right?

One last question, sir. Your schooling system must have taught you to direct your life to some worthwhile vision. So what is your vision, Mr. Ahsan? Mr. Ahsan…….Mr. Ahsan? (He’s lying on the floor, stone-dead)

June 10, 2009: Mr. Ahsan, the above-average product of the schooling system, the self-proclaimed genius, passed away under serious depression that his 31 years have been absolutely directionless.

Part 2: Confessions of the Traditional Schooler

A few minutes ago, my wife coerced me to hear an article on the drawbacks of traditional schooling and while she was reading it, my mind drifted towards the questions I have been battling to answer. A lot of these books that I have read recently have been amongst the best sellers, and are easily available if you were to visit any bookstore in Karachi. Not only did this literature help me identify my deficiencies, and the loop-holes in my overall strategy, they have given me access to incredible tools that I intend to apply in my personal and professional life from here on. I may have lost money, and am in a fair bit of financial duress too, but I learnt that I am not the first one to be in this mess. Almost all successful people have benefited from their good & bad judgments and as someone aptly stated:

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment”.

While I find consolation in the words and text of the books that I read, I still struggle to understand why the schooling system that I have been associated with failed to share this important and basic information? While I may crib and cry about this thing happening to me in Pakistan, it is a sad reality that even in the strong economies like the US, the educational system fails to teach students the basics of “financial literacy”. For weeks, I have been thinking about all this, and whoops, my wife reads this article (fjkjfkdjkf) to me, and it all dawns to me that this inadequate transfer of right amount of knowledge to the masses is not due to bad luck! It is most clearly because of the deliberate design of the current educational system that aims at churning out masses that are capable only to do basic, manual, clerical and repetitive tasks.

So if you are trying to be different from the herd, and are targeting being more productive than the brother-clones that were “educated”: along with you, you need access to a totally different curriculum. While the traditional schooling system has managed to keep that information out of the reach of their students, the natural process of learning, the unschooling or the homeschooling is alhamdolillah still there.

What I went through between 2005 and 2009 was an unintentional process of unschooling, and it was the financial failure that got me to “unschool” myself. Through a true accident, I came to this painful realization that unschooling is essential for all of us, and at all ages. My schooling made me think that I know everything, but the more I read independently, the more I got to know that I knew not.

While I am happy that my unschooling has started, and I am also happy that the homeschooling efforts being made by this group would help produce better individuals from grass root levels, I am still very worried about the rest of my herd. Not only do their children need homeschooling, they too need to go through a process of unschooling.  

My wife is probably reading this mail too and thanking Allah that I have become the “convert” in favor of homeschooling. Well, I have become a lot more than that. I’m planning to work on hardcore traditional schoolers like myself.