What is it about learning in school that makes people separate learning from the rest of their lives? Is it the little lecture-hall pull-out tables? The highly technological PowerPoint presentations? The subconscious (or very conscious) which to be somewhere else, doing something else (like sleeping)?
Whatever it is, I’ve determined that what I like to call “scholarly apathy” is not endemic to Canada. In fact, I’m inclined to think it is a worldwide phenomenon. And that’s scary.
Take my Biodiversity Conservation class here in England, for example. What sort of people would you generally imagine to be studying ecology/environment/conservation science? If you’re at all like me, you would expect them make fairly environmentally-conscious choices – even if those choices simply include decreasing consumption and swearing off disposable coffee-cups and plastic water bottles. Well, I’d say this is true for about half of the class, who go home and try to apply at least some of what we talk about in lecture. But then you get the ones who come to class, and participate animatedly in discussions about saving the rainforests from incursions by coffee-growers desperate to scape a living off the land, all the while drinking their (a) regular coffee (by which I mean not shade-grown or fair trade or anything), (b) in a paper cup (usually double-cupped) – the people who are also often wearing the latest designer jeans, not to mention (for girls, anyway) about five types of cosmetic and hair product. Does anyone besides me scent a discrepancy here?
Now, I’m not trying to set myself up as a perfect model, by any means. Sometimes I forget my thermos mug, and use a paper cup. And yes, I do buy new clothing once in a while! But sometimes I feel like there’s some sort of a gap in people’s minds, where they stuff “theoretical-studying-for-exams-knowledge” in a little box, and shove it into a little corner of their brains, entirely separate from the “world-and-how-I-live” knowledge.
Before coming to England, I think I subconsciously imagined this “gap” to be a Canadian thing, or at least a North American thing. But it obviously happens here in the UK too. And I’m sure it’s also true in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America (I would add Antarctica, but I don’t think the penguins would appreciate the slur).
Nelson Mandela said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
But if we want to change the world, we’re going to have to find some way of bridging the gap. All our education is only as useful and relevant as we make it.