August 28, 2018 Voices Dr. David Wong-Campos
I remember one occasion in a high school math class when the teacher stood up in the middle of the class to talk about stuff not related to the subject and didn't add anything to us. As a young, rebellious and naive self, I grabbed the textbook and started reading page after page to escape boredom. At some point of that short read, I felt interested by those math operations, they seemed interesting and it was exciting to do something different than the rest, especially because I wanted to and not because someone told me to do so, that by itself felt liberating.
Right in the middle of that short read, I got stopped by the teacher who wanted me to pay attention to whatever the hell he was saying, I said "no" in a defiant way and what came next was a small lecture of how we, the students, should behave in a class and how the teacher is the figure of authority. I felt ashamed of my actions and felt forced to stop that small read. Of course, at that time, I did not realize that the whole situation was silly and nonsensical (as most of the things we live during those chaotic teenage years). Geez, that memory still makes me angry and I am sure we all have had a similar experience at some point in our lives.
What matters is what you learn from such experiences. Up until that point, I had failed to understand that I could really think for myself and realized that I could learn anything by grabbing a book or talk to people who had the same interests as me. Up to that point, it was a constant stream of "do this", "finish this homework", "that high school year is tough because of this and that", etc. I felt cheated and angry at a system that quite literally kills any free thinking and perpetuates a "shut up and obey" environment. It then became obvious that I was not the first to think that and in fact, such a topic has been part of several TED talks and is still in debate for improvement. It is clear that we have inherited the system from the industrial revolution and we, as a society, have not changed at all the way we educate our people.
I call that "enlightenment moment" my "singularity point" (those who know about AI taking out the world might find that funny) and has been an integral part of my career and life, to the point that it almost defines my personality. The moment you understand that it's within your capabilities to learn anything and explore the unknown is what I call true freedom.
In some way, thank you my nameless math teacher.
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