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May 25, 2022

Synthesis – a forgotten lesson

One of the contradictions of the present world is between the enormous amplification of information and the individual human capacity of rapidly using it. And if in the sector of business, for instance, the solution to this acute crisis is represented by computer and internet, these two fundamental tools prove to be a two-edged sword when it comes to school, to education. They can expand the perception of the world, while also narrowing it with a unilateral character. This is why the optimal solution in overcoming this “growth crisis” of human knowledge is rather provided by a natural trait, inherited, but also largely cultivated: the very capacity of connection and synthesis, characteristic to each youth.
From this perspective, the Romanian education system has still much ground to regain. Not because our school has trouble forming youths with a real capacity of synthesis and creation, or because they abusively use the computer. Not at all!

The recent award granted by NASA to students of the ‘Traian’ high-school of Turnu Severin is yet another proof of the creative capacity of our young generations. A great specialist in education wondered in a press conference: “Do you know why in international Olympiads Romania always vies at a top position? Because there is always a subject that cannot be solved using a computer!” But achievements similar to that of the students from Turnu Severin unfortunately are exceptions, rather than expressions of a general rule. And this contradiction largely results from the fact that the ratio between the amount of information taught in class and the formative result of this information is still much to the detriment of the latter. Not more than in other countries, truth is. But, with this respect, the optimum term of comparison cannot be found abroad, but rather in the creation potential of Romanian education.
In order to close the aforementioned gap, actions are taken in multiple directions. Among these there are the school Olympiads, which should be conceived as inter-disciplinary competitions that include all students, without exception, precisely in order to cultivate a stronger capacity of synthesis. In general, participants in the initial phases of these contests are selected without subjecting all students to a test. Same goes with the regular school contests which have the same purpose of cultivating the students’ spirit of synthesis, although the specific modalities are much different from one contest to another. Alas, many of these initiatives are flawed by a restrictive optic that diminishes the whole array of virtual creativeness. It is the trend, increasingly present in schools, of reducing Olympiads, from their very initial phases, to the participation of the best students. This is why, in some cases, the phase of school contest is omitted and the best students are designated to participate in the upper phases, at county or national scale.
On most occasions, these nominations are correctly made and do not pose a great educational problem. The bad effect is that this simplification of the selection is detrimental to the other youths who do not have brilliant school results and will probably not have them in the future too, but whose participation in such events could cultivate their spirit of competition, implicitly their synthesis capacity absolutely necessary for any profession they will choose in the future. As things are now, they restrain the selection basis of the future peaks, attenuate the capacity of surpassing one’s own achievements, while such discrimination undermines the spirit of solidarity and the complementariness of efforts so necessary to each class and promotion of students, as well as to each national entity.
The counter-argument brought in the disputes over this issue is that the other students left outside the school-level selection for Olympiads have the possibility of showing what they know every day, at classes. If they did not do it on regular basis, why should they act differently in school competitions? The answer is: because these contests are also seen as an alternative to regular lessons. Thus, the participation of all students in the selection phase of school Olympiads would be equivalent to the possibility of learning the information that some teachers omitted to present in the classroom. This would allow them to demonstrated that, they too, can be “others” than what their school results show about them. By such non-restrictive integral participations, students want to show, to demonstrate that they have personality and can give an original interpretation, different from that of regular classes, to a fact of life, science, culture.
Aren’t these characteristics mirrored by the present simulations of the exams taken at the end of secondary school or high school? What matters here are not only the results, which are even ignored in the individual file of each student. Much more positive than the score obtained here are the competition experience, even the “personal interpretations” given by students, different from the classic things learned from books, which are a reason for each student to boast about after taking the simulation exam.
This is the starting point of the “taste” of self-improvement, the original and strictly personal vision and interpretation which, even if subsequently proved as mistaken, still stimulates the wish for surpassing oneself.
Without this competition with oneself and everybody else, the youth risks remaining a prisoner of the present, without that necessary impulse of affirming himself thinking and acting on his own, that – even if imperfect – still remains a germ of personal creativeness potential. On the other hand, the student caught in an eternal present owes this foresight precisely to the lack of competition with those around him, hence the excessive use of the internet. Those who keep browsing the internet are frequently attracted by many behavioural traps, which stimulate violence and juvenile delinquency. Until the next school year (2014-2015), when the rational use of the internet and computer will make the subject of a school discipline, let’s not forget that the development of creative personality begins from a tender age precisely by cultivating personal thinking as prerequisite to the capacity of synthesis!

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