Throughout most of grade school, I judged and heavily criticized my peers on their inability to learn and understand concepts quickly. I'd often get frustrated whenever I tried to teach them something I thought was beyond simple. Math, science, and even language were easy for me after all, and I couldn't understand why they just didn't get it. I felt an overwhelming sense of faith in the grading system, and felt there was no higher justice, than to let their grades reflect their incompetence. I was a fool.
This semester I enrolled in a class called Foundations of Singing. As the name suggests, I am expected to sing. I've never sung (successfully) before; I can't even match notes, much less sing with any demonstrable skill. To exacerbate my faults, I have the luck of being paired with an incredibly talented class, where each one of my classmates possesses an almost virtuosic affinity for vocal methods. For the first time in my life, I felt completely incapable and worthless. We have to sing in front of the class, so I couldn't even hide it.
I was expecting ridicule and hate, much like I had doled out, but perhaps in a more reserved manner. What I received, though, was support and encouragement. It's almost as if everyone understood my struggle, and went the extra mile to help me out and support me. It's been over a month now in this singing class, and while it's been one of the most difficult things I've ever done, it has also been one of the most rewarding. While I'm still not excellent, I am much better - something I really was not sure I could achieve in the musical space. Even more unexpected, I seem to be marked not on my absolute skill, but on my ability to adapt to the material and improve. I come out of every class feeling inspired and with renewed energy - much the opposite of what I expected going in.
Part of me wonders what grade school would've been like if we adopted a similar approach. What if, instead of ridiculing and marking down children for their inability, we complimented and rewarded them for their improvements and audacity to try? I've never been able to shift away from my selfish view of performance before, but having seen the difference firsthand, I feel like we should at least try. I'm not entirely sure how it would work logistically, but as such an advanced society, perhaps education has been stagnant for way too long.