Tag Archives: life

I Need No Education – A Suicide Pact for the Future.

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
– Albert Einstein

With each passing year, and with each new educational “reform” I believe in this pity statement a little more.

We have to realize that education prepares the society for what lies ahead, and what lies ahead includes challenges and competition. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – when a child learns to walk, the parents don’t give him or her a pair of crutches – but that’s exactly what we are doing to our education system. We give degrees to kids who don’t possess the knowledge to deserve that degree and when they walk into an organization for an interview, we crush their hopes that we ourselves had helped them build, by telling them that they don’t have the skill or the talent.

Let us look at the duality inherent in our system through this case.

A busy career-focused manager in her forties is a mother of a 10-year old. The boy who studies in a primary grade gets homework assignments and is learning to learn. The father of the child works in another organization and his job requires him to travel, which obviously means that he doesn’t have a lot of time to spend with the child.

The child is a normal, happy child, who hasn’t been bitten by the competition bug, and he doesn’t mind that his performance is really top-of-the-band. But the parents do. They want their child to perform, and so they continue to chide him, often indirectly (“Do you want help with that subject?” “Another tuition perhaps?”) and while they are at it – they also want their kid to learn how to play the Casio/Guitar/Violin etc.

Note that the child is stressed not because he has to learn what’s there in his books but because of those ten other things that his parents want him to do, so that they could brag about him in the society.

Now imagine the worst. The kid doesn’t pass. Ignominy of the ignominies. The parents have to hang their heads in shame. The kid might not feel shame, he might just be sad, but the parents feel it all – and through them the child feels it. And then the kid realizes that his parents are ashamed of him – and he ends his life.

This of course is a fictional scenario, but one that has been written after reading a lot of news reports on this matter.

The truth is that the society, which is made of grown individuals, has already found a way out. Though there might be exceptions who may think otherwise, but all parents have to educate their children and the education system doesn’t change itself because one quirky parent wants to raise a child with strong conviction and correct values – this applies to all of us.

Dos – As practiced by the Teachers as well as the Parents.

  1. Don’t let a child fail. Do whatever it takes to ensure this. Keep the questions at BL1 and 2, Let the exams be all objective type, let there be no penalties for incorrect reasoning, as long as the answer is correct…I could really go on and on about this…as this really is going to paralyze our society one day.
  2. Always praise the child for every crooked line he/she draws (or any other silly thing you can think of)
  3. Make sure that the child has enough tuition/vocational training programs to keep him occupied while you work.
  4. Tell the child that he or she is the best.
  5. Always be there to help the child out of every tiny problem.
  6. Help the child in doing the class-assignments – or do them yourself – or pay someone else to do them for the child.
  7. Simplify “being educated” to “getting a degree.”
  8. Value “degree/certification” over “skill and learning.”
  9. Follow the principle, If you pay the fees you get your certificate, instead of following the old, tattered principle, if you learn, you get your certificate. (Note that this is closely related to the first point.)

Don’ts – Again, as followed by the teachers and the parents.

  1. Don’t let the child realize that the world out there will accept real performance.
  2. Don’t tell the child, even a grown-up teenager that goodness and badness both win or lose…it isn’t that goodness always wins and badness always loses.
  3. Don’t let the child understand that earning money even by doing the simplest of chores is good. (After all it could be bad for the image of the school and also of the parents.)

Do you see the problem?

We are taking the easy way out. We are being selfish. Instead of doing what’s needed, which is setting up the right value system for our next generation, instead of acknowledging that the world of tomorrow will be a tougher place to live in, we are stressing out the kids by pushing them to perform in areas that won’t matter when they grow up.

The essence of these changes is that they:

Allow the parents and the teachers to breathe easy by removing the imminent threat of suicides, without striking at the root-causes, which comprise the incorrect value-system and the self-esteem needs of the parents.

Push the threat of nervous-breakdowns and suicides further into the child’s future, when he is grown man or woman – but then…who cares what happens to them when they grow up? Not our responsibility anymore, are they? The parents would’ve grown old by then, the teachers would’ve retired…and they’d all wring their hands and say, “we did the best we could – but it’s the bad-bad world that led to this.”





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A Manifestation of Approval-seeking Behavior – Do you like the new look of my blog?

I hope my readers like the new look of my blog.
I hope they approve of it.

Do you see a similarity between me and Charlie Sheen? Both of us are seeking approval – he of his audience, and I of mine.

Most of us succumb to the need to seek approval only once in a while, but there are some of us who are habitually seeking approval, primarily because we are worried that we might not come up to the expectations of others.

Approval-Seeking Behavior – Some Examples

Here are some examples that illustrate general approval-seeking behavior in humans.

  • A woman dresses up for the evening, and looks for approval in her husband’s eyes. (The husband continues to look at the TV and… approves!)
  • A child gets a puzzle right, and looks at the mother for approval. (The mom who’s got to do the holiday shopping, take the sick dog to the vet, and cook dinner; doesn’t pay attention – check out “The Middle”.)
  • A mother cooks dinner for her son, and waits for the son to say something; but the son is oblivious to his mother’s need for approval.
  • An executive designs a PowerPoint presentation, and seeks approval from his boss (You know all about this one – don’t you?)

When we do something, we want an approval from someone special/specific…from someone who matters.

Approval is sought only from those who Matter

I am reminded of a situation from Ayn Rand’s masterpiece, “Atlas Shrugged.” If you’ve read the book you’d remember Dagny Taggart telling Hank Rearden that she had finally discovered what Dr. Robert Stadler wanted from her. She tells him that for some reason, he wanted her to approval the course of life that he (Dr. Stadler) had chosen, because he believed that among all the people who hadn’t disappeared, she was the only one whose opinion mattered.
(If you haven’t read the book, please excuse my using this example here. However, I’d recommend that you find your car-keys and rush to the nearest bookshop. You have to read “Atlas Shrugged.” It will help you analyze the forces that drive the complex machinery of the human society.)

Approval-Seeking in Learning and Training

Despite its clinical undertones, approval-seeking behavior is present in most of us – and for this reason, those who are associated with learning, should look at it more closely. There is a strong possibility that our learner might be seeking some sort of approval from us. For instance, a pat on the back for working hard on an assignment, or a positive stroke of some sort for answering or even attempting to answer a question correctly.

The learner seeks the trainer’s approval because the trainer matters. In other words, when the learner attempts to elicit approval from you, he or she does so because you are important.

As trainers, it is a good idea to train our minds for becoming more sensitive to the approval-seekers. We should practice the fine art of picking up clues that the learners are sub-consciously throwing at us. Remember, we aren’t talking about the Charlie Sheens of the class here, but about normal learners, who want you to tell them that their efforts were worthwhile, and that they were noticed and appreciated.

What was I saying when I started this post?

I hope my readers like the new look of my blog 🙂


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Establishing a Process of Change – Overcoming Learned Helplessness

In the “Learned Helplessness Banishment” trilogy…
Read the first post (to understand the Concept of Learned Helplessness), the second post (to identify and ascertain the existence of Learned Helplessness), and this of course, is the third and final post (to establish a process of change and overcome Learned Helplessness).

In the previous post we learned to recognize the issue of learned helplessness. Have you identified a symptom in your behavior? If you haven’t found even one instance of learned helplessness, I suggest you look again. All of us have our apprehensions, our doubts, our beliefs about our inabilities – and they derive their sustenance from LH (Ah – I finally broke the chains and used an abbreviation.)

So let’s be good and review our own actions and corresponding justifications more objectively. Stop for a moment; pick up a pencil and a paper (or whatever else you use for jotting down your thoughts in the e-savvy environment of today.) Don’t tell me, and don’t tell anyone else – but be honest and put down the one thing that you’d really like to change.

Before you move on, remind yourself that life is a thousand times more beautiful when you are in-charge:-)

Photo by YimHafiz
  • Apply the litmus test – Confirm the Need to Bring About a Change
  • Identify/Establish a Motivator and a Process for the Change
  • Review & Fix the Motivator & the Process
  • Repeat the Process
  • Measure Results

Apply the litmus test.

Do you suffer from a physical, objective inability to achieve your specific objective?
Yes>>>Stop. Get help/resolve the real issues impeding your progress towards your objective.
No>>>Good. The issue can be resolved then – merely by controlling your runaway thoughts. Now answer the second question.

Do you attribute the issue to external factors?
Yes>>>Read ahead, apply, and get a life.
No>>>You have a genuine issue. Talk it out with someone – get help from friends – or learn to accept the reality. (I have been suffering from a back problem for about five years now; the pain and the resulting unease aren’t the product of an external factor. So I’ve learned to accept the reality of pain, and I live accordingly.)

(Note for the Instructional Designer Audience: In Instructional Design parlance, you’ve just confirmed the need to learn (to unlearn an attitude that’s bordering on a belief.)

Identify/Establish a Motivator and a Process:

Let us now begin the process of uprooting the unhealthy belief that “you can’t” do something.
The first step that you need to take is – do a physical activity that will help weaken the LH.

Here are a couple of illustrations courtesy Sloth and Froth:
Sloth: “I can’t talk to strangers.” >> Create a situation where you need to speak to strangers. (ride a bus to an unknown place in the city and get lost.)

Froth: “I can’t lose weight.” >> Create a tangible motivation for losing weight. (Spend half your salary on buying a pretty dress (or a handsome suit) that’s one size too small. )

It is quite possible that you are an internally motivated individual and you might not need the external motivation generated by these actions – Nevertheless most of us (even the internally motivated ones) are happier when we can “see” a tangible, achievable, motivational factor.

Now decide upon the process.

Sloth: I’ll get lost in the city and speak to at least five strangers, at least once a week.
Froth: I’ll not eat chocolates on weekdays, and I’ll jog a kilometer at least four days a week.

Review & Fix the Motivator & the Process:

The next step is to analyze what worked and what didn’t. Let us continue to follow Sloth and Froth.

Sloth: “I tried getting lost in the city, but the fear of having to talk with strangers made me get down the bus.” (Corrective Action: Sloth can tell his friends and relatives, that they should “dump” him in unknown locations, without prior warning.)

Froth: “I bought the dress…I spent a whole month’s salary on it! But I still weigh 65 kgs and I can’t keep off ice-creams and chocolates!” (Correction: Froth, I advised spending half-month’s worth of salary on it and not full-month’s…any way, here’s the corrective action you may want to take. Froth can keep the dress in a place where she sees it every day. She can also try it on (I know what it feels like to put on a dress a size too small – You feel like you are reborn when you peel it off.)

So the process changes to accommodate your problems:
Sloth: I’ll ask my friends to help me get lost in the city and speak to at least five strangers, at least once a week.
Froth: I’ll wear the new dress for an hour every weekend. I’ll not eat chocolates on weekdays, and I’ll jog a kilometer at least four days a week.

Repeat the Process:

After you’ve cleaned up your process, and got your motivational factors in place; now apply the process repeatedly, and after each repetition revel in your success, however minute it may be. Remember that every learning (or unlearning – as in this case,) experience has three fundamental phases: knowledge transfer, reinforcement, and assessment. The first phase is akin the identification of the issue, determination of the motivator, and establishment of the process (of learning/unlearning). The second phase is about practicing the learning/unlearning, and the final phase is about figuring out whether the learning/unlearning was successful.

So now you need to practice through repetition of the process. To get rid of your LH you need to go through your specific process again and again – and with each repetition, you’ll feel more confident of having kicked the demon out of your system.

I still remember the day, when in my final year of graduation, I faced my demons (read: LH) of not being able to speak formally, and I spoke (about something that I’ve now completely forgotten,) in front of the entire class. A year from that day, I had got over my fears. I addressed about 200 executives and senior executives of the organization I worked for, without getting the jitters – though what I said was undiplomatic…yet, my confidence came from the knowledge that there was no external/internal reason that should inhibit my ability to speak my mind – in front of everyone!

Measure Results:

When you begin to feel confident of having exorcised your demons, put yourself to test. If you have a close confidante, design the test with him or her by your side. Let’s see what Sloth and Froth would do at this stage.

Sloth: I’ll visit all those heads of marketing; all those I’ve been avoiding like plaque, and make them a presentation to wow them.
Froth: I’ll wear the new dress to the party that my colleague is throwing.

Assessments not only confirm whether you’ve achieved what you had set out to achieve, they also help you determine the lacunae in your approach – and if they succeed, they instill you with the confidence required to bring about other positive changes in your life.

So we’ve reached the end of this trilogy of posts. I know that the only bright points in this lengthy monolog must be Sloth and Froth…but I hope you found them useful. Try working out a process of change for your own brand of LH – and see it work:-)

In the “Learned Helplessness Banishment” trilogy…
Read the first post (to understand the Concept of Learned Helplessness), the second post (to identify and ascertain the existence of Learned Helplessness), and this of course, is the third and final post (to establish a process of change and overcome Learned Helplessness).


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