In my final year of undergrad, I had a criminology presentation that was about 10-15% of my grade. I had done alright with the other %, so I had the dumb idea that 10-15% of my grade is no biggie, I would just chill and do it whenever. Naturally, procrastination took its course. I ended up preparing the presentation two hours before the lecture (bear in mind this is a presentation that had been assigned over a month and a half in advance). Writing that now I realise how stupid that was and in FINAL YEAR! Erm, yeah, kindly avoid using this information you are now privy to, to make an assumption of my whole attitude to education, I promise you, this was just an error in judgement.
Anyway, where was I? Aah yes, two hours before presentation time. When it was time to get to class, I literally went in with summary knowledge. Smart me of course – not a snarky comment, I was actually street smart for this one – decided I cannot be unprepared and look unprepared. That would be two levels of fuckery I could not afford. So I dressed up like I had bare time to look good since that would give the impression my work was long done, walked in there confidently, and presented my summary like I had dived in a whole ocean of information and re-emerged from under the waters a knowledge goddess. During the Q&A, I answered the questions presented like I knew what I was saying, giving the lecturer the “anymore questions for me to boss out? I can go all day” look.
At the end of my presentation, he says to me “this was a GREAT presentation. Well prepared and your arrangement of information was brilliant. VERY WELL DONE”. He wore that “this is impressive” look on his face and I wore that *cue in fake modest smile* “if only you knew” look on mine. I smiled, said “thank you”, pulled out my USB from the computer, and walked back to my seat with my head held up like “minor ting”.
On that day I learnt four life lessons:
1) Confidence alone, will get you far some times. Combine confidence with concrete knowledge and hard work (unlike my deceptive presentation) and you’re unstoppable!
2) Concrete knowledge and hard work without confidence, will have you selling yourself short. I know students who had worked really hard on that presentation, and did not do as well as I did, yet I did not deserve to because I had not put it any time or work. But because they lacked the confidence, or could not articulate their ideas well enough, I aced and they did not.
3) Our education system is absolute shit! When we got our results back, I had 92% (I believe that was the highest mark) and my total grade accumulation for the module was a 78 (pardon the crappy image below). Some of the students I know, who had actually taken the time to work hard and prepare for the presentation and knew what they were talking about because they had done extensive research unlike me, had 40’s, 50’s, 60’s e.t.c According to the piece of paper that supposedly determines intelligence and determines who gets a job and who does not, I was more intelligent and would get a job over everyone in that class if that presentation alone was the determining factor. Would I have deserved it? Absolutely not! Was I more knowledgeable than the rest of the 99% of my classmates, HELL NO! Standardisation robbed them, and rewarded me. That is how our education system is. Not all those who are awarded strong marks and degrees are actually knowledgeable on the subject matters and not all those who are awarded weak marks and degrees lack knowledge on the subject matters.
4) There is no satisfaction in what you get without earning through hard work. Of course I celebrated how the grade reflected on paper, but that was it. There was no sense of pride in me, because there was nothing to be proud of, save for my bullshit game(?), which you must admit was hella strong there for me to get a 92% for work I should have taken, at the very least, a month to prepare.
I pretty much cheated because I knew how best to manipulate the system at the time and it worked. Was I going to say I am not prepared for the presentation and get a 0 though? Absolutely not! Call it improvisation. I mean, how was I going to explain to my father that I had one job, just ONE job, and still could not do it because I was just kicking it with friends and on a “love and hip hop” marathon? Nope, I had to freestyle/backstroke it and have faith that the lord would forgive a sinner and give his only son (again maybe?) to die on the cross for my sins – after all, Jesus resurrected. If I failed this paper, I would be milking cows in some village right now. To this day though, it still bothers how I got away with so much bull. It was from this, that I learnt to earn something, even if I can get it through other ways.
Back to main point of this post: the education system is not made for learning, but for passing. That is why most times we do not stop to think or ask ourselves “what have I learnt?”, instead we focus on “what result did I get?”. Such a simplistic view of what learning is actually about. We are taught how to pass and not actually taught to LEARN. It is the reason we know which selective questions always re-occur in the exams, so we pay much attention to them so we can bag a decent percentage.
We then leave this system and go into the world where a piece of paper determines our next step. Where some of us are celebrated and others are made to feel worthless. Some of us, maybe many of those reading this have already passed this stage. For those who have not, for those in this stage, next time the world puts you down, basing your worth on a piece of paper that did not take into account that you are a slow writer, that you are not good with speaking out publicly, that you know the answer but are not good with words thus cannot put your answer to paper in a manner deemed eloquent enough or that you lose it under pressure… I want you to remember that piece of paper does NOT define your mind, measure your intelligence or even remotely speak of who you are. Neither does it mine. You are not your grade! We are not our grades. This world will tell you otherwise. The industry you want to get into will not even give you the time of day because you do not meet that minimum of an upper-second class degree, but that is the flaw with our society. With our education system. The world, our society, has mastered the art of projecting its problems onto individuals and making them feel worthless. You are not worthless. You are just part of a world that attempts to make sheep of complex individuals. One that attempts to place us all in one box, one size, yet we are all built differently.
That said, let me point out that this is not an excuse for not putting in work, but an understanding for when your hard work is not enough, not because you did not put in the effort, but because you were forced into a narrow path that did not understand you. Instead of letting your grade, a piece of paper, define you, in any aspect of life, just take what you are given when you must, and use it as a stepping stone to forge your own path; one that acknowledges your complexities and works for you. If it helps, remember Beyonce just served hot lemonade in a bath tub to a world that is used to having it served cold, in cute glasses and now has another million dollars on the elevator.