There have been a few moments while in Ecuador where my immediate thought in response to something someone has said was, “that’s wrong.” Most of these thoughts have occurred at my apprenticeship. I work as a co-teacher to English teachers, but, sometimes I end up simply observing in a classroom during another subject. A few examples of what has caused these, “that’s wrong” thoughts include: the first grade teacher showing a video that tells the students there are elephants and giraffes in the amazon, a map skewed in a way that the United States couldn’t ever share the same time zone with Ecuador, spelling the indigenous language as “Kichwa” rather than “Quechua” like I had learned and been told by people in Quito, and finally that the smoke from a fire creates clouds which will then cause rain.
Now if you’re anything like me you may have scoffed at these ideas as well, but, why? I was taught that elephants and giraffes live in Africa and in zoos but not South America. However, I’ve never been to Africa and I have yet to be to the amazon despite currently residing in Ecuador. Shouldn’t I trust the people living in a country with the amazon about what kinds of animals live in the amazon? I have only seen maps that align a large part of the United States directly above South America, but, I’ve never explored the world to prove this to be true. My Spanish textbook told me that Quechua is spoken in Ecuador while Kichwa is spoken in Peru. Certainly, I should believe the indigenous population that speaks this language on the matter of how their language is spelled. Finally, why can’t smoke turn into clouds, is it possible that I’ve just never been taught this?
Really what I have discovered is that education relies on blind faith. There is no way to have a well-rounded education without students having blind faith that their education is correct. Despite textbooks being updated almost yearly with new information and correcting the errors in what we once thought was right, we still believe that what we are learning is true. I completely understand why there are people who don’t believe in the moon-landing. Think about it. To say that a 50-ton metal tube was created, able to be shot into outer space with three men, make it to the moon, allow two men to walk onto the moon, and then return all three back to earth safely sounds bonkers, and, in the 60’s no less when the majority of American households still had a black and white television set! To believe in the credibility of Apollo 11 is to have blind faith in the American government and American education system. I do believe in the moon-landing because I do have blind faith in my government and in my education system.
The issue with blind faith is that it leads to a lack of intellectual vitality and creates an “us vs. them” mindset when it comes to other educational systems. I assumed that the history in my world cultures textbook was retold accurately and without bias and when analyzing potato cells under a microscope in biology classes I never questioned if what I was seeing was actually a living cell rather than possibly just a smudge on the slide. While I have always been an engaged student and asked further clarifying questions I have also almost been passive through blindly believing the answers given to me. The blind faith I have in my education has instilled in me a sense that my education is the correct one and has caused me to doubt other educational systems.
Through my time in Ecuador I have been able to identify the blind faith that I carry in my education and I am now capable of identifying when that blind faith is affecting the way I interact with my environment. I will still have faith in my education, but, I will not allow this faith to be blind. I will ask more questions, do more independent research, and I will try to find holes in the ideas I believe to be sound. I will also no longer consider my education to be the “right” education. I will acknowledge and listen to beliefs different than my own and I will not discount someone else’s truth.
After my time in Ecuador there will not be any more, “that’s wrong” thoughts.