Education and Capitalism: A Fateful Love Story

Areeba Sarwar

‘And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.’ – Robin Williams, dead poets society. We heard these iconic lines, were inspired, were awed, were transfixed, and when the movie was over, we went back to our lives and eventually forgot about it. The zeal that we felt when we heard this dialogue tends to resurface when we see the quote or maybe watch a clip from said movie. The outcome, however, fails to change. The sudden burst of enthusiasm is doomed to be put out and the ashes buried deep within our hearts. 

Life has always been assumed to be a list of things put together, meant to be checked off at the correct times. In a fast-paced, competitive world, we tend to be so overwhelmed by the paths we take or should take, that we lose sight of the goals that we wish to achieve. It is said that the journey is more important than the destination, but is that still true if the journey becomes so overwhelming that our visions become clouded? 

Hypothetically, capitalism is a system built for the greater good of people –private individuals and companies compete to produce the best products, people buy at competitive prices – all of it seems like an ideal situation. However, at an individual level, it hasn’t had an effect as ideal. We have been forced to think that all aspects of our lives must be exemplary because to survive in a capitalist world, anything short of brilliance is lacking. Much like the idea of capitalism, the idea of making all areas of our lives extraordinary also seems hypothetically possible, but what happens when reality sinks in? What happens when we need a break from the tedious and tiresome lives that we’ve been forced to build? That is when we feel as if we have failed. We think we see other people get ahead as we have been forced to stop and breathe because we were too weak to handle the pressure. The very principle of capitalism is customer satisfaction. But aren’t we the customers? 

Education is supposed to be fundamental, yet too often it seems like a privilege. When I think of education, I wish to see inspiration. But what I see is a burden. I see an invisible force pushing us forward, caring more about whether we do the best instead of whether we do our best. In my opinion, education and capitalism are intertwined to an unhealthy extent. More people are concerned about how to do better and how to be the best when the very purpose of education is learning. Getting into the best institutions, doing the best has become a race with no tangible reward. It is a process that leads us into a capitalist world governed by similar rules, except in the latter case, schools become corporations and grades become salaries.

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