The Mask · A Criticism of Public Education
Have you ever wondered, why every child is a special snowflake that is unique in every single way, yet so many people are almost identical when you look at them? This phenomenon occurs through something that I call “The Mask”.
by Maksim Ivanov, student at DNS 2018
School children are obliged to take a seat
Since the very first day we step on the school doorstep we begin the journey that eventually will lead us to hide our true self. The child, being as pure and full of life as it is, is strictly put to sit at a table for several hours. You are only allowed to speak when you raise your hand; you can socialize only in short breaks and you can go to a toilet only under the condition that you ask for it.
Subjects that involve creativity, expression and uniqueness are more put down to a secondary role, thus they are considered not as accountable or rigorous. It is expected from a child to do well, to score the best results and to be a “jack of all trades”.
A toxic education culture
This is what you learn at school: you learn how to lie, so you will go away unpunished; you learn that your feelings don’t matter when it comes to results; you learn how to please a group in order to join. No matter how special you are, it doesn’t matter on a paper.
Our toxic culture of education was designed to make factory proletarians and this is what it makes of children, by the time they are teenagers. Then they go to high school, then the university and after all the struggles – work. By the end of the journey, they are fully trained to wear “The Mask”. Then they pass on the knowledge to their own children, continuing the cycle.
A spider web of lies
By tossing away our true selves to please our boss, to seduce a woman or just to feel safe by not exposing our vulnerabilities we create a spider web of lies. Furthermore, because of the self-made comfort zone that we prefer to live in we also try to avoid conflicts, arguments, and challenges, because it shows our true nature.
Therefore, we stick with “The Mask”, because it helps us to keep ourselves together, it is easier for us to be in the group in this way, thus we can lie about what we think, what we feel, what actually bothers us so the people would accept us more easily. And we expect the same from others.
Religion or political parties are a great example of this. Without a doubt, not everybody in these groups truly believe everything they represent, but for convenience sakes, we lie about what we really think, so do the others, and in the end, we have a huge pile of lies made of thousands of layers. We would rather have mirrors around us instead of other people.
“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”
~ Marcus Aurelius, “Meditations”
Unmasking the Uroboros
As mentioned above, the masked society is cyclic. One generation passes on “The Mask” to the other. Therefore, you need to imagine this destructive process as an Uroboros, a snake that is going in a circle, eating its own tail.
The way we are now is enough for us, as a species, to continue our existence, but it is far too little to go forward. What I’m proposing is to start a new process called “Unmasking”. We should consider looking away from the tail that we are consuming. At some point, we need to realise that we are living a fake, fragile life, one moulded strictly by the world’s influences and pressures.
To do so the most effective first shift would be to change our toxic education into something that would encourage the students to express themselves, to be unique, in other words – to be free. Stop the catastrophe that is standardised testing, promote subjects where children can create, and abandon the ancient industrial revolution way of teaching.
Think of nowadays schooling as an architect that makes a design for a large building with lots of apartments in it. Most of them, with few exceptions, look the same and you’re only allowed to change the bare minimum, but now think of a crazy-creative building, where every room is designed by its owner. This is what it means to be your true self, to be the architect of your own room that is your soul. By the end of this century most factory jobs might and will be taken over by robots, therefore, we need to change, in order to compete. The soul is what separates us from mindless robots and unlocking its full potential through education would allow people to keep the upper hand.
The convenient mask
The second shift towards unmasking should be a personal one. Attending a private fancy school or to home school would not be enough. Even if you haven’t had the pleasure to obtain “The Mask” with the means of education, you will need to, when entering society. There is no denying it; “the Mask” is a powerful and unimaginably useful tool and shield. Most people will consider using it.
Sometimes you need to hide your weak spots, to avoid people exploiting it; sometimes you lie for the sake of other people and sometimes you mimic happiness to spare others of the pain that you feel inside. On the other hand, if you exploit “The Mask” too much, you inevitably will get corrupted.
Same as using a microwave instead of a stove, the second option might give you better food in the end, but the first one is way too convenient. By using the “The Mask” to succeed, we sacrifice the progress of humanity to achieve progress for ourselves. Consequently, the personal shift should come from the inside of the individual. By acknowledging the damage that we do to humanity, the person would naturally, just like most vegetarian after being in a slaughterhouse, with countless struggles, become authentic and real; serving as a lighthouse for many others.
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
The light beam and the prism
Through only two shifts we would achieve goals far beyond our imagination by having numerous thousands of perspectives which will allow us to create better solutions. By self-analysing and building up a strong character we would lay the foundation for the generations to come. Just imagine the society not as a snake, but as a light beam, which just like on the Pink Floyd album, is going through a prism, turning into many unique colours.
Student at DNS 2018
By the end of the journey, they are fully trained to wear “The Mask”
DNS 2017, the senior team, is now finalising one of the last periods of DNS programme: Teaching Practice. Teaching Practice lets us experiment in the reality of the classroom, apply teaching methodologies and most importantly, make mistakes and learn from them. However, teaching practice doesn’t end after the lessons. We also contribute to the teaching practice place by being in charge of the programme in the school and initiating a chosen project, our “Footprint”.
European Reality is a 6-months period, part of the second year of the DNS programme, during which the team moves to a bigger European City with the goal to find jobs, a House, learn about the European working class’ way of living, and get involved in the city’s cultural life. In this article, you can hear Laura from DNS17 expressing her view on the educational value of experiencing such a period!
To choose the path of teaching took me some time, I must say. It started on my very first 1st of September, this is the day when the school year starts in Lithuania. I simply loved it. And I am not talking about the lessons and tests, but about all the kinds of people I got to interact with and about the learning process that was happening there, somehow in between lessons most of the time. Though I was in love with the school and Summer holidays always seemed too long of a break, I never thought I will become a teacher. It is now, when I reflect, I see lots of sense in my actions and choices that led me to choose this profession.
Imagine you had to make a list, a catalogue, of all that exists. Where would you start?
You would probably look around, and start to name or to write down everything that you see or that comes to your mind. Soon, you would come across some dilemmas, and start to notice that it is not always so easy to establish what exists and what doesn’t.