Break free and start taking charge.

Because only you know what you want most and what is best for yourself.

At a tender age, we’re sent to a system where what we are to learn and think, and how long we are to think, are regulated and pre-determined. This inevitably instills a permission-based mindset that is today so permanently etched in most us. How did we get here?

Let’s rewind to the period where Massachusetts became the very first state in America to provide every citizen access to free public education, and then some more years back. Where did this idea of having access to free public education come from?

Let’s dig a little deeper.

Back in the 18th century, the Prussian Army was decisively defeated by Napoleon during the War of the Fourth Coalition, resulting in Prussia’s loss of major territories, with only approximately 42,000 men standing. This drastic loss prompted the implementation of a new schooling system, created to not only provide skills for the early industrialisation world, but also to ensure a strict education that taught duty, respect for authority, discipline, and the ability to follow orders. It aimed to create and emphasize on social obedience through indoctrination, and remove the need for independent thinking from the masses. Prussia became the first country to implement this compulsory and free education system throughout the country.

Prussian’s philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte was the thinker and advocate for this system. By combining Locke’s view that children are a blank slate (“The human mind at birth is a “blank slate”) and Rousseau’s idea on how to write on the blank slate (“State of nature will degrade without law and morality”), Prussia developed an education system that was scientific in nature — it defined for the child what was to be learned, what was to be thought about and how long to think about it — critical thinking had to be done away with.

Several of Johann’s quotes and views on the education model can be found in his Addresses to the German Nation. He was best remembered to have quoted the following:

The schools must fashion the person, and fashion him in such a way, that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will.” — Johann Gottlieb Fichte

With this ideology, the education system was implemented to achieve order and create a tolerant, civilized society throughout Prussia.

This model struck well with none other than Horace Mann — also known as the Father of American Education — the man who in 1837 became head of the newly created Board of Education in Massachusetts. According to Professor Jerome Bruner in his book Toward a Theory of Instruction, it was his (Horace Mann’s) aim to shape the curiosity of the child and to manage the child’s mental development. Mann had supported the decision to adopt the Prussian education system in Massachusetts, and soon after it was adopted by schools across America.

The effects of this model are still witnessed in many classrooms today, where obedience to authority is expected. For example, students must obtain permission to use the bathroom. Our students are brought up to believe that they require the permission of some higher authority to pursue what they want or believe in. They’re not brought up to allow themselves to decide for themselves, to try and perhaps fail, and learn from their failure to increase the rate of success in the future. Zak Slayback’s article “School is Keeping You From Thinking Big” succinctly describes this phenomenon. With years of being subjected to such a belief, it becomes difficult for one to break free of this mindset.

I’m not pushing the blame to teachers — rather, I’m looking at the beliefs which today’s education system is built upon, and advocating a reform for education. We are living in the age where innovation and the ability to keep up with the pace of the rapidly advancing world are needed. Innovation doesn’t follow a set of rules or guidelines — to innovate is to think outside of what is expected and what is the norm.

To make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.

Erica Goldson’s speech highlights many pressing issues on education today, and helps us understand why so many of us are struggling to innovate.

As mentioned in the previous article What’s Next for Online Education, I emphasized heavily on the need for education to adapt and keep up to pace with the innovations happening across different verticals, such as healthcare, transport, and communication. However, these things take time. And as other amazing individuals and myself take on the challenge of reforming education, you could start doing your part by abandoning this mindset and allowing yourself to make your decisions.

Take charge of your life, the decisions you make, and ultimately your future. If you don’t do this for yourself, there isn’t anyone out there who will.

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