The Right to Think for Myself

Angalee Nadesalingam


If you’re reading the JHR section, you’re probably expecting to see something about the
Arab Spring, or child soldiers. But I’m going to tell you how your rights are being violated at school, how your parents, teachers, and the media have made you think that
there’s only one way to get ahead in life.

Do you remember that first day of kindergarten? Life was easy. School was about learning to write the alphabet and matching the shapes to their names. Fast forward to
today, and you realize that something’s changed. School isn’t really about
learning anymore. It’s not about growing to become a more self-sufficient,
intelligent person. Nobody studies for a chemistry test because they really
care about the hydrogen bonding of atoms. Somehow it’s become about getting
high marks, and learning how to hide your report card from your parents for as
long as possible.

Now, before I continue, I want everyone to understand this is not a rant about having too much homework or the ridiculously hard tests. Homework is a good method to build
academic endurance and encourages diligence. Tests are a way to keep track of a
student’s understanding of the subject. And while there are a number of
problems in the education system itself, my problem is not how or what it’s
teaching. My problem is with the fundamental message that’s being taught.

The education system has convinced us that education is the only way to get ahead; that to study something that we hate is fine, as long as we end up with a fat paycheck; that we should work towards a successful career. But why aren’t they teaching us to work towards a happy life?

Do you remember Careers class in Grade 10? I recall doing at least three personality tests, and then trying to find careers that would match the type of person I was. But it’s
not about finding a job that suits your personality. It’s about finding
something you’re passionate about, and chasing that dream. The Career Cruising
website told me that my first choice was a cement mason and my second choice
was a truck driver. Unfortunately, neither of those appeals to me.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, education is a right to every human being. But what if the “education” that we’re being taught is wrong? I’m not
demeaning the value of the tremendous amount of information that our society
has created and uncovered. But some of the most important people in history
weren’t working on a deadline to rush on the so-called path to success. Copernicus
didn’t first propose that the sun was at centre of the solar system because he
unquestioningly believed the authorities.

To add to my argument, I’ll mention some well-to-do people who dropped out of high school or didn’t complete college. I’m not suggesting for you to drop out of school,
rather I’m simply showing that even in our society, education isn’t the
determining factor of success:

-Novelist Charles Dickins
didn’t finish elementary school.

-Director James Cameron
dropped out of university.

-Playwright William
Shakespeare only had a few years of formal schooling.

-Astronaut Scott Carpenter
flunked out of university twice.

-Jackie Chan dropped out of
grade school to become a martial arts and acrobatics student

-Actor Robert Downey Jr. dropped
out of high school during his sophomore year

Education isn’t the epitome of society. It isn’t necessarily going to get you far, or make you happy. Before you jump headlong into following the path that everyone else has
paved out for you, think about where you’re really heading. Because you can be
just as happy living a simple life in the depths of the Amazon jungle, as you
can be living in an expensive studio apartment in the heights of New York.

If you think that’s not true, it’s because someone has stripped you of your right to think
outside the norms of society. Even if you do agree that people can happily live
in all corners of the world, can you do it yourself? If the answer is no,
you’re still letting society determine what’s right and wrong.

And maybe it’s time to break free of those shackles.