Be the best that you can be

The best thing about the internet is that despite the fact that you may be here or there, nowadays you can count on your internet access to deliver any of your home comforts directly to your computer. In my case, those include Classic FM which , by the way, has a brilliant app that I forgot to mention on my “Apps I like” entries probably due to the fact that it is such a part of my life and I no longer notice it.

Going off topic here, but there is a reason… Whilst listening to Classic Fm this afternoon, I learnt that today’s news in the UK seems to be that it is official that there is a reason why children in the UK don’t want to appear to be intellectuals or even shine. A study has shown that, in fact, many stop doing what ever it is that they are good at due to fear of being bullied! As a result, many waste their talent rather than making the most of it.

I have lived in the UK since September 1998 and I very quickly spotted a strange phenomena on television programs targeting young audiences where presenters showed off their ignorance and, in fact, openly hated topics such as mathematics, science or even English grammar! Anything intelligent was mocked upon by these so called “roll models”.

I never understood this attitude / message because where I came from that would not have really made much sense… on contraire, quite the opposite. Ignorance was frowned upon.

Spain, for years, has been divided in half, as it seems to be becoming more evident. The half that worked on a trade from an early age, some of which are professional rather than traditional education, and those who seem to have a cv longer that the yellow pages.

In a nutshell, its been a while since in order to apply to any public sector job in Spain you need to have at least one degree, and now it seems to be catching up on the private sector. If you think that this is a joke, I can tell you that as soon as the recession begun to hit Spain, people joined linguistic academies , took masters degrees and retrained to widen the range of career alternatives. People invest in education even in their thirties with the hope of a better chance to succeed. A friend of mine defines this as titulitis. I.e. tittleitis: the illness that makes you compulsively acquire titles. (Degrees)

The irony of it all is, of course, that in a context where there are no jobs, there is such a thing as too much education. The other irony is that despite those qualifications, many people lack of confidence to leave the country to work.

Again, going off topic… Almost.

I am not going to pretend that there was no bulling in school, in fact I clearly remember going on to the school psychologist’s office (do not ask) as the mother of a classmate and friend had reported that I was the only girl talking to her daughter… I was eleven at the time and I recall that i was asked to explain, not why other girls did not, but why I chose to do so! (Do notice that I went to a mixed school where boys did not take part on this activities.)

The thing is that the difference with what i heard today was that in our school everyone knew that been intelligent and or knowledgeable was good. The people who got the best grades were helpfull to the others, including the bullies, who on the days before the exam, they would call home and ask for advise on the topics that could be coming up etc… They too wanted to do well.

This could be due to the fact that we had supportive parents born in the hardship of the Spanish dictatorship and grandparents who survived, at least, a civil war. Married, single or divorced, all of them wanted for us to do well and have a more comfortable life. Our school was what the Lib-Cons have now label as a “Freeschool” ( A school set up and run by a board of parents, in our case, apolitical and non religious) and it was a shared effort. It did not matter what you ended up being if you had worked your hardest to get there.

However, speaking to my teacher friends, I often feel that this is not longer the case. Nether in Spain nor in the UK. It is more like a jungle full of people who have only lived in times of plenty and are not used to earn their rights anymore. A jungle where everyone fights constantly to be crowned king of the jungle whether they are or not qualified to become so.

According to research at Stanford though, “evolutionary pressure no longer favours intellect” and as humans, our intelligence might have peaked a while back. Would this therefore be the catalyst to the current situation? Are our genes really decaying in that level of quality? Or is this simply evolution like the hair on the homo sapiens which reduced as the weather and living conditions improved? Are we becoming less intelligent because the current set up does not demand for us to stay sharp?

In my humble opinion, it is a combination of conditions. Technology allows for a different way to operate successfully in the competitive world and too many don’t feel the need to further explore new opportunities. Society has been fed with low level entertainment for as long as I can remember whilst each one of us kept busy working more and more hours. Aspirations have changed and even disappear as basic needs have been fulfilled for the majority in the developed worlds. The natural instinct of survival seems to have mutated on to a false sense of security which cannot be good.

A new form of illogical “role models” have emerged whose best portrayal can only be Roberto Benigni’s character at Woody Allen’s Roman with Love movie: Signore Pisanello. An uninspiring man with not much to say who finds himself pushed on to instant stardom (my guess on Italian’s channel five) one morning as he steps out the front door of his home.

The reporter on Classic FM said that people hoped that the Paralympics would change attitudes and they probably have, but we need to get real with this situation and as adults take responsibility for those teenager’s future. We need to inspire them, every day, and make them understand that they deserve to succeed, to feel a sense of achievement and that nobody has the right to take that away from them.

There should be mechanisms where by children in more complex environments could be nurtured to become the best they could be rather than to keep a low key to avoid bulling. The basic idea would be for adults across the board to begin showing a bit of humbleness in order to break the stereotype that someone who is good at something feels superior. The, so called, chip in the shoulder should go, and those surrounding children should understand that it is not about their failures or success but about those children’s future… Or so i think.

Photography by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

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