Killing Zombies

Jun 05, 12 Killing Zombies

It shouldn’t really be surprising. Zombies are in fact everywhere already. We didn’t need biological viruses or parasites to infect the population’s minds and break down willpower. But the disease is still a manmade product that eats away the mind over a period of a decade. It sucks out passion, obliterates ingenuity, and eliminates willpower.

Zombies are the perfect population to serve the capitalist needs of an industrialist economy – zombies make obedient workers to produce, and spineless customers to consume. Power can be exerted over them quite effortlessly. A zombie promptly obeys authority, follows precise directions without deviation, and they are quite expendable – pay them for the time they are needed and replace them when their jobs can be done cheaper, mechanized, outsourced, or eliminated.

You can survive amidst them, assuming that you are already not one of them. But only a zombie would think about personal survival and neglect the collective decay of the community and society that he lives in. I don’t think this article is really about killing zombies as much as it’s about liberating them; more importantly, this is a discussion about changing the current system of indoctrination.

Entrepreneurial vs. Industrialist:

If power is at the heart of industrialist system, the modern schools are exactly founded upon that – to control the students and give power to the state where the teachers are middle managers. Schools do not have the resources to coach you (or your kid) through discovering your dreams, or develop skills to pursue passions, or develop your mind to critically develop and assess your strategies.

No. Schools are meant to produce mass uniformity based upon minimum standards. Your worth is in congruence to answer keys and grades that everyone else is subjected to. The learning objectives are broken down into measurable units (what isn’t measurable is ignored) that is pushed as trivia without any analysis or coordination. The subjects are isolated without any sort of harmonization and relevance.

Industrialized system of schooling doesn’t have the resources to jump-start those who are a bit “behind”. It can’t go out of the way to nurture those who are “slow”. It’s just easier to bring everyone up to a lowered average instead.

Reasonable doubt vs. Certainty:

So the students are indoctrinated to accept and obey, while the new professional life is about questioning the status quo, questioning the advertisers and marketers, questioning political claims. Growth and innovation comes from the ability to question, and questioning comes from the minds ability to create reasonable doubt. How is an industrialist school suppose to impart that when its aim is to establish one perfected methodology, a single step by step approach, that is assessable, testable, measureable (and in no way or form significant).

Committed vs. Burdened:

Learning is something that you do, not something that is done to you. As one of my childhood friends told his parents, “you can send me to school, but you can’t make me learn.” What would happen if the students committed to learning? Would they choose to spend their spare time in stupor and trance in front of electronic media, or would they choose to become smarter?

The barrier to learning is no longer information and resources (consider Khanacademy, Udacity, Slader, etc). The only barrier now is the decision to learn and motivation. What we need to do is amplify their drive and nurture their dreams.

But when a student lacks determination and interest, whose fault is that really? Maybe the teachers fooled themselves into thinking that the student lacks natural aptitude, skills and genes, and drive, and motivation. Maybe in having that attitude, it sucked away the passion to learn. We can no longer use these cheap excuses of blaming.

Passion vs. Fear:

When commitment is missing, fear must be amplified to control a mass; conformity must be added and passions must be destroyed. Why passion? Because, people with passion are dangerous – they question status quo and challenge authority. It’s hard to fit the passionate into a system of conformity.

So the result of the current system is that the students become so apathetic that they lose interest in caring for their own development. The society, including parents, discourages dreams and passions and encourages the safety net of compliance. The society was raised upon fearing risks and that’s what they teach the future generation as well.

If the students become passionate about learning, they would develop their own forward leaning posture in their own development and progression that would be a lifelong habit of learning, expression and innovation, bravery and creativity. When students take responsibility they become fast, flexible and focused to start their own movements, companies, and projects. When the students become brave, they stand out and take chances that cause other people to connect with them.

Creative vs. Trivial:

When students are passionate about something (basketball for example), they immerse themselves into everything about the object of that passion by learning everything about it. They learn the names of all the players, and all their details, game strategies and it’s usually on the tip of the brain.

Passion should precede learning. What do schools do – teach all the facts first. They teach you history of a subject, ask you to memorize everything about it, quiz you about it, drill you on it, and test you. No one loves a subject because of this; it’s in spite of this. I wonder if they even want you to love learning or just become submissive to the system.

Teaching has become a medium for delivering facts and information, aggressively testing for trivia, while avoiding issues of practicality. Trivial are things that are predictable with reliable processes for problem solving. Why is multiple choice used so widely when it is “a test of lower order thinking for lower orders” (in the worlds of the inventor of Multiple choice questions). You can’t calibrate dreams by jamming testable data into student. Problem in an industrialist school is that individual passion is hard to scale.

Academics are only means to an end. Education should be about perspective and understanding. Instead of symbol manipulation (in math for example), education should be about relating that to the real world. Real learning happens in bursts that occur in places or situations that out of the ordinary and that motivates dreamers who are engaged and committed to learning on a regular basis.

Section review: When was multiple choice tests invented?
a. 1914 by Fredrick J. Kelly
b. 1941 by Fredrick J. Kelly
c. 1914 by Horace Mann
d. 1941 by Horace mann

Dumb vs. Stupid:

What would happen when faced with a question you couldn’t possible look up the answer to? This is in fact the future of our economy. There are no maps; what is left is ability to be usefully wrong in order to figure out the right.

While dumb is not knowing what you are suppose to know, stupid is making bad decision while you know. Schools attempt to equip you with knowledge, but never really teaching how to deal with it. Solution to being dumb is information, which is readily available at everyone’s fingertips. Information is not the future, ingenuity is. Everyday bad decisions aren’t a result of lack of data or lack of access to it, it’s the inability to synthesize complex ideas and invent new concepts.

If knowledge is dots, we should teach connecting dots as opposed to collecting dots. The dots can change, but analytical skills will always come in handy. We cannot drill infinite knowledge into the population. But, if we teach our students to be passionate and inquisitive, knowledge will follow.

Reading vs. writing:

Reading leads to more reading and writing leads to better writing. Reading is a opens doors for growth and writing allows organization of thought and expression of ideas.

Leadership vs. Pretension:

Leadership isn’t something that is just given to you. It is a gradual process where you incrementally take more responsibility years before you are given actual authority. Instead of exposing students to the pain and learning that comes from actual leading and living with the consequences of their action, we create simulations where they merely pretend to lead in an environment with a well created map. Ultimately, we only encourage well scripted leading without practical experience of dealing with pressure.

Can our students think fast and slow? Can we make people into life hackers who passionately experiment to discover something new, and are willing to roll up their sleeves to figure things out – on their own?

Meshed vs. Isolated:

Leadership involves initiative in the connected world with an unclear map. The future is micro organizations, with individual leadership that leverages work of a small innovative team. Future is about doing what cannot be mapped or scripted. Future is about being a linchpin with scarce skills and scarcer attitude. The future requires bravery – to make mistakes and fail and to persist in face of negative criticism. The future requires building connections (while in school we are constantly graded on working in isolation).

We are persistently isolating students with homework, exams and writing with very isolated group projects. The accountability is individual not group. Ability to connect and work with others is essential. No competent doctor tries to figure out a complex issue on his own – not even House.

We are in the connection revolution where value isn’t increased by productivity (produce more goods at a cheaper price to sell more with mass marketing), but by increasing connections – with people, data, businesses, machines. Scarcity has been replaced by abundance – abundance of information, networks and interactions. What is necessary now is ability to connect and bravery to do so.

Responsibility vs. Deniability:

Deniability is the ability to say that the outcome and results are not your fault. The students definitely aren’t being challenged to take any. We have to make something different and in order to do so, we have to make it differently – we have to change the process. We can’t switch the vision unless we also switch the mission and objective, and we can’t switch the objective unless we also switch the method.

Willpower vs. Obedience:

No matter how much obedience we desire from our youth, blind obedience is never a good thing. What would really matter is to raise up individuals who are unyielding in their ethics, effective in communication and interdependence, ingenious in efficiency, and excellent in leadership. They would be aware, caring, supportive, committed, creative, innovative, informed, incisive, insightful, improvising, independent, integral, initiative, strategic and so much more.

Persistence in the face of skeptical authority is a powerful ability. We need builders and artists in our economy. They are people who are passionate. What is required for them is to go through the discomfort to accomplish their goals – and that is based on willpower (not compliance or obedience).

What is school for?

How would you enhance schools so that the students emerge with self-starting, self-reliant, self-directed initiative taking attitude of improving the civilization? What tools would you equip the students with? How would you teach your kids to lead and teach them to solve problems that matter? Can we bring up a generation is that more than mere zombies?

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1 Comment

  1. salaam. at a high level Imran it sounds like you’re talking about how the world no longer values the “replaceable cog in the machine” type of worker and instead needs a free thinker, innovator and charismatic personality unbound by the mental restraints of institutionalized education. Agreed.

    The paper seems to be aimed at going deep into the problem, and the deep issues of the problem.

    In my brain my initial response to ask, Ok so whats the solution? But I know better than to do that. Seeing as how the internet has trained me to go for the instant gratification i.e. talking about the solution, I’m not going to ask that question. I know that my mind tends to think that by merely talking about the solution, I’ve actually done something “good” and that’s “good enough”. i.e. lets talk about it and thats enough. real action isnt required from me because now that I’ve acknowledge the idea and get it, I’m a good person I’ve done a righteous deed and Allah (swt) will inspire someone else will do the work.

    So I’ve listened to my brain/nafs and am doing the opposite. I am going to ask: what deeper analysis can we do here. What champions of this cause exist in the world already today? What non-muslim people, groups, authors are into this idea? What existing communities are into this idea? Is it feasible for me to relocate close to that community…

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