Time is required for learning anything and for anything there is a time to learn. Obvious consequences await a 90 year old trying to learn karate and a 10 year old attempting to fly a jet. Learning should be a continuous process in life and at each phase one should attempt only those which are appropriate for that age. It is part of a natural process and anyone who attempts to bypass the system end up with failures and disappointments. Learning the correct skills at the correct time in life is often the success factor for most of the leaders in our society. Those who have chosen not to learn the required skills at the right time fail exactly like those who choose to attempt the right skills, but at the wrong time in their lives.
Prodigies and Geniuses
Presenting their children as prodigies is becoming a fashion among the middle class everywhere. Some are genuinely so but more often the poor child is forcibly inflated with information to appear so. Unable to sustain the extreme pressure to perform in unnatural ways, most of such 'fake' prodigies end up as early burnouts in life. Prodigies & geniuses are rare natural phenomena and cannot be manufactured at the whims & fancies of human beings. The more we pressurize an ordinary child to perform like a highly talented one, the greater and faster will be his/her degeneration. The problem lies in surging aspirations of the child itself and the failure of his/her own performance to meet them. Egged on by over ambitious parents to perform much beyond their capabilities and talents, tragedies await them in learning and real life.
Another feature common among the (Indian) middle class is to present their children as achievers without being strugglers. Many times I have heard parents (mostly middle class economically and socially) talking boastfully about their children doing extremely well in exams without taking any extra efforts in doing so. The point they want to make is that the results would have been much better had there been a little more effort. In most cases there is a conscious collective effort to cover up the real time spend by the child in getting what he/she has got and thus capture the appreciation for doing so well with so little efforts. In the process, the child ends up reaching the faulty conclusion that achieving results without working hard is the most appreciated feat. Implications of extending this wrong notion to all areas of life can be disastrous for the individual and the society at large. Children should be taught that hard work alone will bring results and there is no escape from it whether one is extremely intelligent or not. Success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration or luck. Absolutely, there is no substitute for hard work.
There is another set of people who spent their entire lifetime learning the right things at the wrong time. Some struggle with driving in their fifties and some others attempt swimming when they are already in forties. But the most ridiculous I have come across is a set of thirty year olds trying to be public speakers. Driven by the false notion that a career in politics is plausible only with the ability to mesmerize the audience, there are several late starters who fall easy prey to the institutes that claim to teach public speaking. Those who run such fraudulent outfits suppress the fact they are only trying to teach the science of organizing a speech and never the fine art of public speaking which comes naturally. Public speaking and facing the camera come naturally to a few, and those who attempt to do it out of desire will always stand out as misfits.
If there is one faculty of our brain that is very little susceptible to development after youth, it is the ability to speak. Some children start speaking early and some others a bit late. It may sound simple, but speaking is much more than making sounds. A lot of coordination and effort are required in the brain and face to make even simple sounds. A list of activities that facilitate a coherent and logical public speech for one hour will itself run into numerous pages. Our ordinary politicians may look unimpressive in looks but their abilities to speak make them extra ordinary. Public speaking is a gift of nature to a select few and those who aspire to acquire it with a few days of training are not being realistic. Personality development and writing poems are some of the other areas where the teaching predators make money out of an ambitious few.
It is equally important to identify what to learn at every phase in life as how to learn it. The role of parents is of great importance in this regard. They should take that extra effort in getting their children properly trained in their fields of flair and not in the fields of parents' desire. Proven scientific methods of training to get over stage fright and personality development can work wonders in children. In fact this should be part of the normal curriculum in all schools. Unfortunately this is not so and most of us suffer for this shortcoming in our education system for the rest of our lives. Attempts by a few to acquire such skills at 'untimely' phases in their lives are understandable when viewed in this context.
In this age of visual media, most Indian children suffer the disadvantage of being uncomfortable in front of the camera and lacking in communication skills. It is time we seriously thought about 'wasting' time of our children in learning arithmetic tables when calculators are commonplace and outdated socio-economic concepts in history and social sciences. Instead the time could be utilized well for imparting tips for looking good and talking well. There are many more skills that can be easily taught as a child and as an adolescent. When India becomes a superpower by 2020, our youth would be the cynosure of world media and for that we have to start preparing our children now. Unlike us they should be learning the right skills in a right way at the right time.