Sunday, May 1, 2011

Making the "success" formula compulsory

In recent times I had been reading news items which made certain extra curricular activities compulsory for children/students. There was a Sri Lankan minister who claimed that he wished to make cadet training compulsory for university entrants, another wanted to make Sunday school compulsory and banned all tuition classes on Sundays and last week I read that Armenia made chess compulsory for all the children in that country.

Underlying assumption that these decision makers seems to have is, I am what I am today because, I did a certain thing. So I want to make it compulsory for everyone to do that so that they too become like me! If the ministers are assuming that what they are today because they attended Sunday school, I guess Sunday school should not be made compulsory instead it should be banned. ;) Jokes apart, I don't think this sort of decisions should be left in the hands of politicians who rely on popularity to impose such rules on children.

For example the Armenian example is classic, its a nation with 3.5M people and a top power house in chess, they had made chess compulsory at school. I honestly believe playing chess is a good thing and at any given time I will encourage a kid to learn to play the game, but making it compulsory. I doubt it. On this matter I am speaking out of "experience", for about 4 years I used to coach chess for kids at my alma mater. The school suddenly introduced a rule which said students should take part in at least one extra curricular activities. As soon as the rule was imposed, I saw a surge in the numbers. But then the quality completely deteriorated, the set who turned up due to the rule were not really interested, they had turned up since they considered that this was the easiest place to kill some time and get a tick for one extra curricular activity. This was impacting the other students who came there out of genuine interest.

Another reason is that there are enough and more people who have brilliant analytical skill without having touched a single pawn in their entire life, in the same way there are people who live a more spiritual life than those who had gone to Sunday school right through out. So I do not think that there should be imposed regulations on this. The trick here is that people should remember that success in life cannot be put into a generalized formula, different people became successful doing and getting exposure to different things. Let these decision be made at individual level and each person to have a variety to choose from and flourish in their own way.

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