“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” – Sydney J. Harris
Sydney J. Harris’ quote is both thought-provoking and debatable. A mirror reflects what is in front of it. Hence, it represents a one-sided view. It only pays attention to what is directly in the front. Windows on the other hand, are made of glass. Glass is transparent. It is porous, in the sense that what is on one side can be very clearly seen on the other. It takes into consideration both the sides of the picture. Now, does that mean that anyone who has a strong opinion on a subject is uneducated? Personally, I like people with strong opinions. Opinionated is good, if you ask me. Having an opinion usually means (And the word I use is ‘Usually’. Not ‘Always’.) you have knowledge of a subject. When there is no opinion, there is very little thinking involved. But again, this is simply my opinion.
On the other hand, I guess I know what did the journalist mean when he indicated a transformation from mirrors to windows. Like a window, an educated person should see both the sides of the coin. He should be fair, balanced, unbiased, and stepping into the shoes of others. That really, is the purpose of education, particularly school education, since it is easier to shape children into wonderful people, than it is to grown-ups.
I am glad that I graduated out of my school in 2005. The education system by the time I finished school, was undergoing a metamorphosis and I am happy that I was a part of it. An increasing number of audio-visual aids were being used to make learning interesting. Extra curricular activities had become curricular, and we were given marks for our performance in art (Painting), music and dance. And no, these activities were not forced upon us. We had choices, and could opt for the ones that interested us the most. When I was in senior-secondary school, one of the empty rooms had been converted into a gym. Gyms may be a common feature in western schools, but back then, they were not that common here, in India. I learnt that kindergarten had been turned into a home away from home. The idea was to have a classroom devoid of books for little kids – where learning happened through play, art & craft, knowing about each-other and experiences.
Had Harris been still alive, he would have been happy at mirrors turning into windows. Schools have been increasingly teaching tolerance – for people with different opinions. This is just how it should be. Education, after all, is the ability to listen to almost anything, without getting angry.