College: Pathways of Possibility

What do you want to do in life?

A very simple question we expect our children to answer at the age of eighteen. This is while most of us can’t say confidently even in our mid-life what is our calling. Forget about the fact that we can hardly recall what we had learnt in the programs we picked at the threshold of our adolescence! Sadly, we are people who don’t learn from our experiences and mistakes.

But the author of the book ‘College: Pathways to Possibility’, Saikat Majumdar refuses to fall in the trap. By virtue of being a student and a teacher both in India and abroad, he raises some pertinent questions and attempts to answer most of them. That’s why the book is called a guide to college. But more than that it lives up to its subheading ‘Pathways of Possibility’ and opens a whole new world for a student.

Shouldn’t child foray into a program that helps him/her to understand what he/she wants to do in life eventually instead of opting for a specialization and committing to a certain discipline at the age of eighteen? This question by the author lifts the weight off your shoulders and gives you a sky to spread your wings.

What is art and what is science?

The word ‘scientist’ may actually have been built on the analogy ‘artist’. With this statement, Saikat Majumdar artistically blurs lines between various polarities constructed by the education system. It then dawns on you how suffocated you have been feeling within the boxes. By establishing the co-dependency of various subjects, one begins to breathe the fresh air of various permutations and combinations.

Is there only one kind of intelligence?

From a dingy room in Kota where engineering students strive to ‘prove’ their intelligence, Saikat takes you into an aeroplane proving how even arranging luggage in the cabin could be another form of intelligence. As you go through the list of multiple intelligences by Howard Gardner, you recognize how each one of them is imperative and indeed useful in your day to day life. Yet we fail to acknowledge them. As I said, we are people who don’t learn from our experiences.

Are we consumers or producers of knowledge?

Why is it that we have to soak in facts of a discipline before we set out to research or think something of our own? Shouldn’t absorption of knowledge and its application go hand in hand? Is that not why after years of investment students find themselves starting all over again when it comes to practical life? Some questions for you to ponder and wonder about.

What is the ultimate goal?

Learning the discipline or acquiring the attributes in the process of learning that discipline? What will last and stay-the facts or the qualities of critical thinking, communication skills, and persuasive abilities? The author sums up with the age-old debate and once again gives you a chance to learn from your experiences.

College is a book you will have to read at least twice, given the number of years of conditioning. It is also a book that will take you a good amount of time to absorb and understand what it hints, don’t go by its sleek size. There will be ‘eureka’ moments you will want to refer to time and again. You will find yourself going back to it, even more, when you find yourself split between choosing a course for ‘career’ and a program for ‘learning’ for your child.

It is not a book for those who have the ‘clarity’ that a certain college or a degree or a program or a country or a career has an edge over the rest. It is not a book for those who have resigned long back that this is how it is and this is how it will be.

It is a book for those who are at the crossroads, who find themselves neck deep in the dichotomy. For those who are who are questioning and grappling with the question what education should be like.

It is a book every policymaker of education should read and ideally keep next to the bed so that he/she can’t sleep thinking how much work needs to be done. But since we have found policymakers snooze through years, as parents and as educators let’s not wait for them to awaken and pick up the loose ends ourselves.

 

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