The American Rapper and activist, Richard Williams popularly known as Prince EA is one of the leading voices that have expressed concern about the role of the school system in this 21st century. The school, he declared in the video I sued the school systems (2023) is “turning millions of people into robots” killing the creativity of learners by making them compete for distinction in grade rather than helping them to develop the skills of critical thinking which is considered necessary for personal discovery and growth. In another video, he went further to prove that school “isn’t an environment for learning or building intellect” by recounting how he used to forget everything he was taught in school almost immediately thus making him phonematically conclude that “school is a game that one plays to get grades”.
Richard Williams, popularly known as Prince EA
What do people like Prince EA mean?
The voices of most people who, like Prince EA, think that the school system currently in operation is an anti-success-oriented dysfunctional artifact with little or no direct impact on the attainment of individual success seem to find ground for unity in the statement of Professor Robert J. Sternberg. Famous for his contributions and remarkable influence in many fields of learning such as education, psychology, and human development, Sternberg was quoted in the millionaire’s Mind by Thomas J. Stanley to have said that “I learned in elementary school that if I was going to succeed, it wasn’t going to be because of my IQ”. It is apparent that opinions such as the one buttressed by Sternberg were not made to discredit formal learning. Instead, they seek to emphasize what the social psychologist, Carol Derick opined about success (Mindset, 2017); that success has something more to do with the mindset of the pursuer than any skills or competence.
So, what do schools exist for?
School is not one of those things that means the same thing to different people. Educationists often focus on describing it as a place of learning where this or that can be learned without saying anything about the exactness of the where, when, or how that which is learned can be applied. Nevertheless, the school system has continued to pulsate through the ages, showing little or no signs of radically evolving from what it was, originally. And this seems to be fizzling the purpose of schooling in the modern age thereby blurring the essentiality of formal education and outstretching the already elasticized elusiveness of the undefined relationship between knowledge and success. The modern school and even its imperfections is a system that is metamorphosing from the oldest notion that school is a place where people derive leisure through the acquisition of skills that aid the building and improvement of their character. This notion does not have any direct affiliation with specific ambitions, or what one becomes. That which the modern materialists understand to be “success” today only exists as a secondary aim of the original idea of schooling.
When did the school system start becoming what it is today?
The idea that schools should be training grounds for people to fit into certain roles within society sprang during the reign of the widely acclaimed father of Europe, Charles the Great (800-814) who was known for his zeal and commitment to improving the skills of the clergy. Since then, this idea has been congenialized with the original concept of education. In 782 A.D., King Charles the Great made Alcuin of York the master of the palace school which was later reformed into what came to be known as cathedral schools. Basically, the school system concerned itself with reading, Arithmetic, theology, music, and Latin. Most of its students were those within the rank of the clergy. Thus, this is where the idea that schools train people to become workers and not employers, finds its’ root.
Why the school system found itself where it is today?
The concept of school as a system that trains people for some particular work garnered more momentum in the advent of slavery and colonialism. In places like Africa, Asia, and some parts of America among others that have suffered one form of slavery/colonialism or the other, the so-called conquerors used education as a tool to recruit and train indigenous agents purposely to aid the actualization of their goal. The same is applicable to religious missionaries. Thus, every school system has always been skewed toward serving the purpose of those that established it and this constitutes part of the reason why it seems as if the school system is structured to teach technical skills rather than enhance innovative thinking.
How to make the best out of the school system?
Notwithstanding, the claim by Prince EA that the school system has failed to build intellect raises the question: How can the school system be restructured to properly harness the potential of every individual? Calling to mind the fact that this system is constituted by human beings for human beings, an all-inclusive approach to changing the narrative seems to be the best thing to do; The continuous reformation of the learning environment through the adoption of learner_ centric approaches is something that the school system cannot afford to stop doing. To build intelligence is to give a sense of direction to purposiveness, therefore the mindset of the learner and the reason why such a person enrolls in school are also determining factors in the attainment of Value-based intelligence.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.
Stanley, Thomas J. (2000). The millionaire mind. Kansas City : Andrews McMeel Pub