I graduated from senior high school almost eight years ago. At that time (assuming nothing’s changed much), senior high schools in Indonesia were given two pathways by their second year: social sciences (IPS) path and natural sciences (IPA) one. Social sciences students could only study social students at university level. The same applied to natural sciences students, right? Nope.
After high school, IPA students could choose any disciplines they wanted. They were always higher on the formal strata than their social sciences counterparts. The former were always seen as rugged intellectuals who love and were capable of learning everything. The latter were always seen as imbeciles with non-existent ability and love of learning. People had their academic standing degradingly died down and choices unjustly limited, all because what they preferred to study in senior high.
Never mind the pro-caste mentality. This tendency also reinforces falsehood among ourselves. There is no evidence that formally studying natural sciences instantly make us smarter. If truth be told, I have encountered many IPA graduates who are nothing but imbeciles who suffer from severe cases of scientific illiteracy.
There is no shortage of cases where those geniuses make horrendous fallacies. They are proud of their intellectual defect; the zealous protection of beliefs and traditions is worth the annihilation of reason and rejection of knowledge. Biology, physics and chemistry could not save them from such idiocy.
Oh, and they are not even scholarly in the disciplines they always brag about! Instead of being scientifically profound, they wholeheartedly embrace long-disproven pseudosciences. They also think natural sciences are absolutely precise with its wisdom, stagnant and ever-conclusive. The more I properly study them, the more I realise that they can be very intricate and even grey at times. They are not something to be taught solely through soundbites.
I should also tell you that I am an IPS graduate. I chose this path solely because I used to hate natural sciences… or so I thought. Years after graduating, I realised I hated the educational system, not the disciplines. I am an internet addict and a large chunk of my time online is spent on reading online articles and watching documentaries about natural sciences. I study them because I want to learn. Some people study because they want to be ‘smarter’.
Of course, when they think about being ‘smart’, they think of obtainment of high grades, memorisation of formulas and extremely categorical information and absolute obedience of authority figures, including teachers. Never mind lateral thinking. Even the more ‘traditional’ critical thinking is not seen as essential for intelligence. This is what you get when your education is all about rote learning and worshipping the establishment. But, not everyone has the desire to be smarter. Some only fancy the appearance of it.
For them, image is everything and substance is nothing. Any efforts to gain pristine image are halal, no matter how dishonest they are. In this case, that effort is choosing the IPA pathway. Add that with high grades, the most gullible creatures would never know about your true anti-intellectual selves. A splendid persona is worth the deceit. This is what you get when your education is all about embracing undeserved prestige.
Admittedly, I am a horrible student. Even saying that I am average is an overstatement. Laziness, low grades, constant clashes with teachers (even when they were right) and the fact that it took me eight years to get a bachelor’s degree. Only idiots think I am worthy of a scholarship.
But, at the same time, I also love ‘learning’. Not to be confused with ‘studying’, though. The latter is what one does in formal education while the former can be done everywhere at any time. For me, both are mutually exclusive and are not related to each other in any way.
In spite of my hatred of studying, I still find myself morbidly curious. Not only I constantly ponder about how life works, I also read a lot about it; I even read papers published by actual peer-reviewed journals (assuming I can get hold of them without draining my pocket). Then, not satisfied with rote learning alone, I also make my own half-baked conclusions using the knowledge I have.
They are half-baked because, with the arrival of more knowledge, they will be replaced with better ones. I encourage myself to be open to the prospect of being proven wrong, no matter how ‘hurtful’ it can be. I have experienced that many times in the past and I will certainly experience it again in the future.
When it comes my interests, they are quite extensive. Primarily, I am into languages, foods, culture, arts, politics, history and media. In spite of their mostly intangible nature, we owe ourselves to them. Alongside their practical benefits, they are also affirmers of our identities as human beings. Our relationships with them show our human essence, both on individual and societal levels. But, as luring as they get, I am not drawn only to the intangible.
Even though they are not as strong, my interests also extend to natural sciences, particularly evolutionary biology, geography and astronomy, and applied sciences like medicine (can’t explain this). I am intrigued by the workings of our tangible world, how it can be utilised for our survival as a species and how our understanding of it affects the way we see ourselves as earthlings. With the right outlooks, one can gain wisdom from the tangible and the intangible.
As you can read from my writing, I am still heavily flawed. I am pretentious, self-righteous and I also cannot help myself from rushing to conclusions. But, every time I encounter any of those Indonesians who ‘love’ natural sciences for shamelessly superficial reasons, I always feel better about myself. At least I am actually learning. At least my sense of wonder is sincere.
No, I am not saying there are no intelligent IPA graduates with heartfelt inquisitiveness. They do exist. But, they find learning more appealing than boasting. Boasting is a sign of insecurity, not self-assurance. Besides, how can you learn anything if you spend too much embracing vanity?
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