The Stifling of Creativity in Education: Reification and Cultural Marginalization in Postcolonial Schooling Essay

“Popular culture is like pornography—in, oh, so many ways: we may not be able to define it, but we know it when we see it” (Parker, 2011). I could not agree more with Parker on his simple definition of what popular culture is. We see popular culture on our screens every day. Our ways of life in one way or the other are manifested all the time in films, music and other literary work. It is very hard to come across a movie that is only entertainment and not trying to portray a part of our cultural beliefs. Particularly in the 21st century, movies have developed and are influential enough to tell us ‘what we are made of’.

Depending on the genre or kind, they tell distinct messages. Whichever way we look at a movie, what must be vividly recognized is the fact that they portray a part of our being as well as tell us something worthwhile of ourselves and society as a whole. The Bollywood movie, Three Idiots, directed by Rajkumar Hirani shows how the educational system places more emphasis on rote learning as well as how schools stifle creativity, although the film takes place in India, this also holds true for Ghanaian society because the school systems are relics of the colonial times.

The first part of this arguement is going to be established on the various reasons why I believe the Ghanaian educational system places emphasis on certain learning practices that only prepare us for the job market. It will also focus on how the system causes people to look down on certain disciplines of study thereby stifling creativity. These arguments will be backed up by the movie Three Idiots. The educational system only prepares us for the job market and commodifies us students, as instruments liable for exchange in the economy.

This practice according to the theory of Marxism is reification. It refers to the manner in which human beings are used as substances or elements that can be used in the process of production. Granted the above, Three Idiots is not just about three idiots as the title implies but has to do with three engineering students whose characterizations highlight how true the above rationalization is for most post-colonial countries, which includes Ghana. From the satire, it is made clear that popular culture as depicted in movies has a great deal to do with our ways of life.

Often, we have heard of or even witnessed students shelve their own personal goals and aspirations because they have to live up to the pressures and expectations of their parents and the society at large. The movie reveals how hollow our educational system is, how it most often trains us to become human resource assets in this present day. The educational system and its actors have failed in training us to be creative or rather allowing us to showcase our creativity. It instead turns us into commodities useful in the job market. The validity of this arguement is based on how rote learning in our system has become the norm.

Presently, the basic need of the Ghanaian educational system has been commercialized into an economic venture. I believe however that our systems sprung up from that of the colonial times and hence a little background is necessary. In the 1980s the Europeans trooped into our continent and tried all means possible to Europeanize us. They hence instituted certain learning practices that did nothing but belittle our own identity. Our practices were now tagged barbaric. It was at this time that rote learning was introduced into the system. At that time also, this was the normal way of learning in Europe.

However after colonialism, we failed to get rid of such practices. In the movie, the so called idiots, Farhan Qureshi, Raju Rastogi and Ranchodas Shamaldas Chanchad study engineering at the Imperial College of Engineering ( ICE). It is seen how much emphasis is placed on rote learning. The idea that a student can think and come out with something new from his own discretion is not deemed right and hence, a student must memorize all definitions in books. There is also the concealed comparison between these characters to reveal the emptiness of most educational systems.

Farhan studies engineering against his wish; to be a wild life photographer. Raju finds himself in this subject area exclusively to get his family out of abject poverty. In society, the moment a child is born into this earth, the parents seal his fate. “My son will be an engineer” and comments of this sort, predetermine the child’s own life ambition. This is where my question arises, why do they forget about the arts, music and theatre? The point I am trying to argue out is that, the mindset that our generation has about education and what it entails stifles creativity.

Most class rooms are turned into preparation grounds to feed different sectors of the economy. Students have to study under pressure or memorize texts without actually having an understanding of what is being taught. We have grown into believing that life is a race, and its starting block lies in the classroom. Students hence have to use all possible means to get ahead of this race in order to have a good and respectable standing later in life. Virus Sahastrabuddhe, the director of ICE, in Three Idiots exclaims that the essence of education is to “compete or die”.

This is the kind of pressure I am trying to argue out. As a matter of fact, we go to school and find ourselves cramming wordy definitions into our heads without necessarily understanding the meaning of these texts. We can all remember rhymes such as ‘Emperor Napoleon’ that we used to repeat after our nursery teachers. How many of us however even knew who Emperor Napoleon actually was? That notwithstanding a good number of students who passed through this kind of ‘repeat after me’ system and can boldly rattle without fumbling paragraphs of text, do not know the true meaning or significance of what we learn.

Moreover, our education system is seen as a competitive venture and hence we tend to centralize more on studying geared toward living up to the expectations of the competitive economic world rather than expanding or building on our creativity. Let me at this critical point of this argument elaborate on why I believe education stifles or even kills creativity. With a typical look at our culture now, there is a sense of confusion between education and training. What we fail to recognize or that we simply ignore are the conceptions and ideas behind what we learn. The limitations are just innumerable.

Our system mainly addresses grades, how to get jobs, salaries and competition. “Most students never get to explore the full range of their abilities and interests … Education is the system that’s supposed to develop our natural abilities and enable us to make our way in the world. Instead, it is stifling the individual talents and abilities of too many students and killing their motivation to learn”( Robbinson, 2009). Sir Ken Robbinson at a TED talk questions our systems “The world is changing rapidly but is our education system keeping pace? How do we educate ourselves in order to meet the challenges of the future?

And what is the point of education anyway? Our government, through cuts in funding to the humanities and arts are casting a resounding vote for traditional STEM subjects such as science or math, promoting them as the way forward for our culture, politics and economy. Other voices are saying that for a successful future we need to embrace collaboration and encourage creativity, or that we must look beyond established education institutions. “(Robinson, 2009) In simple words, the future of educational schemes that have the tendency to uplift certain disciplines of study to the detriment of others is very blur.

The second part of my argument, still backed by the three idiots movie is the rationalization behind why I stress that school systems of Ghana are relics of the colonial times. Post-colonialism is related to national identity. “National identity is the transmission of each generation’s legacy to the next and the enabling of the nation citizen to take pride and identification of the country “(Stephan, 2009). Due to some practices after colonialism, we are relegating our identity to the background, especially the educational system which has become a hybrid of the Ghanaian culture and that of the colonial masters’.

Go to any senior high school in Ghana and you will observe to effect how much another man’s culture has sunk into our society. Its surprising how a student is severely punished because he has chosen to speak the Ghanaian language. Clementina Amankwaah carried a research on the topic, ‘Negotiating Culture: Tradition and Modernity in Elite Ghanaian Secondary Schools’. Upon a conversation with one student in an elite school in Ghana, “Kofi at PRESEC told me when there was any time in school that pupils would speak the local language the teacher would give you such a dirty look you wouldn’t even dare speak Twi! ‘(Amankwaah, 2006) Our own lamguage is now tagged as ‘vernacular’ or a crime and hence calls for punishment. We find ourselves pretermitting our heritage and way of being with the dominium of a foreign one. (Ngugi, 1981), a citizen of the once colonized Kenya, displays his anger toward the isolationist feelings colonial education causes. He asserts that the process “annihilate(s) a people’s belief in their names, in their languages, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves.

It makes them see their past as one wasteland of non-achievement and it makes them want to distance themselves from that wasteland. It makes them want to identify with that which is furthest removed from themselves”. Our way of dressing in school now is not very afro centric. We find ourselves dressing more western and forgetting of our own African designs and clothes. This is where the question of wearing uniforms arises. All this arose from the background I have discussed earlier. We have grown into believing that we have to look formal for work. It has gone to the extent that we have to even set a day aside to display our own culture.

How did this ‘Friday wear’ issue even arise! It is quite irritating how in a week of seven days, just a single day has been set aside to display our culture. There are however a number of arguments that contrast with mine, hence the question, since colonialism died fifty five years ago, can we still blame it? India and Ghana were both colonized by the British. Making a comparison between these two countries, we realize that, India has come a long way in education after independence. The point here is, India has taken reforms to change the educational system from the old ‘repeat after me’ way of studying, especially at the elementary level.

Gloria D’Souza of India has triumphed in her agitation against this trend. Her aim was not to gain fame or recognition but rather to enhance the creativity of the young ones through the liberal way of learning. The main rationalization behind this section of my argument is that even though both countries started off under similar circumstances, India has taken the bold step to reform their systems to enhance creativity. This however covers just a section of the country. As a matter of fact, this cannot be far argued. Ghana has fallen behind in this plight and must take practical steps into fixing this problem. In my paper I have tried to prove that The Bollywood movie, Three Idiots, directed by Rajkumar Hirani shows how the educational system places more emphasis on rote learning as well as how schools stifle creativity, although the film is set in India, this predicament holds true in the Ghanaian society because the school systems are relics of the colonial times. This paper has firstly addressed the point that our educational models only train us for the job markets and that we students have been commoditized into products useful in the exchange market by backing the argument with the movie, Three Idiots.

Secondly, I discussed why I believe the Ghanaian system of education is a model or a relic of the colonial masters. However, there is also the opposing view that colonialism is no more in existence and could possibly have nothing to do with our present day education. This argument was countered by explaining that even though we are an independent country, the many reforms that have been made in the system do not in the least create space for creativity. Hence to conclude, popular culture is relevant to students and all actors in the educational system as argued using the “Three Idiots” movie directed by Rajkumar Hirani.

Works Cited

Amanqwaah,C.(2006) Negotiating Culture: Tradition and Modernity in Elite Ghanaian Secondary Schools. Sweden.

DiMaggio, P. (2004) Market Structure, the Creative process and Popular Culture: Toward an Organizational Reinterpretation of Mass- culture Theory. The journal Of Popular Culture,11, 436- 452.

Makamani. R .( 2007 ) television and films as popular culture. Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Open University

Southard, J.( 1995) colonial education. Los Angeles

Thiong’o, N. W(1981) Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. Portsmith.

Raghavendra, M. K (2009) Popular Culture in a Globalized India. New York

Woleman, D. C (2001) Educational Reconstruction and Post-colonial Curriculum Development: A comparative Study of African countries. International Education Journal, 2 , 27- 46.