I have been tasked (by myself) to write 500 words on education, as an attempt to break the hiatus on this blog that has been in gloomy disuse for the past three months.

There is an evergreen cliché that education is the stroke of brush that lands on the blank canvas which is the untainted mind.

It implies that someone is holding that brush, whether the owner of the canvas herself, or another person who may or may not have the right to hold the brush. The holder of the brush then gets immense power to dictate what lands on the canvas. Will it be mathematical equations? Will it be good moral values? Will it be how to pick a lock within 30 seconds?

Chances are, it will be all (or at least, many) of them. And chances are, there will not be only one person holding that brush, which is what makes things interesting.

When we talk about “the education system” it seems like this giant brush-holder who ultimately makes the destiny of the canvas. But in reality, there are many brush-holders, whether within the education system or not, that will have their chance in molding the picture on the canvas. And while many people think that the picture is formed after the 12-15 years of formal education, I’d like to think that the picture is never finished until one breathes ones’ last breath.

Because the process of painting never ends. Some people take it upon themselves to hold the brush and actively paint on their own canvas, even if the canvas looks over-crowded with scruffy doodles accumulated over the years. Others think that their canvas is already full and never really take note of some little marks that appear inconspicuously here and there, by painters who are invisible to them. When you are eighty years old and trying to learn how to operate the space elevator, the guy designing the three-step instruction will be the guy who is holding the brush to your well-worn, wrinkled canvas.

The brush-and-canvas metaphor implies intention from the part of the brush-holder to influence the changes that happen on the canvas. One educates another, or themselves. It is often a conscious process. It might not be called “education”. It might be called “propaganda”, or “public service announcements”. It could be a marketer trying to tell you why your wrinkled canvas sucks and how you can buy the newest technology to make it bright and shiny again. It could be your exasperated teenager trying to explain how society works nowadays and why you are embarrassing her by telling dad jokes.

Liquid information, in all sorts of colours and textures, drip onto the canvas that is your mind and memory, making you see things that were previously unseen (and will never be unseen again).

But we seem to have forgotten to address the notion that our canvas is a living canvas. It does not sit there, passive, at the mercy of the brush. It has its own agency, moving pictures around, adding captions and summoning its own brush to better itself. It is a living, learning canvas.

In this day and age of so many brushes, and so many types of media, perhaps it would be wise to stop for a moment, let the canvas breathe and settle itself, and then continue painting, as to make a better picture.

That was 534 words. I should do this more often.