3. Deviant Competences

The easier the system, the easier it is to manage it, and institutions in the society are no exception (actually, a good example if you think of how bureaucracy strives for equal treatment of people and often ruins their lives when following the logic of procedure in complicated cases). Providing young specialists is easier and more efficient when made in batches with unified test results (hello formal education), treating mental ill-health is easier with a unified set of pills (hello medical addictions and pharmaceutical industry) and acknowledgement of relations is easier with a unified set of rituals (welcome to matrimonial rush and in extreme case, homophobia). When there comes once in a while a deviation strong enough not to adjust to the simple system, it is seen as a threading factor, a glitch on the highway that may be dangerous for other vehicles swishing by. Like a speed bump would be improper due to it’s simply dangerous effect, so does the unusual talent demonstrated by a young person can disturb and endanger the established relations and routines of learning and interacting in local environment. 

In a rougher environment this person gets abused physically or mentally, in a more developed civil society he/she is taken care of and helped to be a part of the society, not to feel outside. But here is a tricky part. When we meet a deviation and want to ”help the person to be a part of the society again” we mean that we want him/her to return back to the Normality. We neither want nor propose to discover where this alternative road may lead to. We claim it to be a ”dead end”, a temporary parking on the side where nobody of fast drivers would want to stop unless they absolutely have to. With all love and attention to the stranded person in her journey, we only offer a hand leading back to the only highway we know. Because it IS the only way we know. What if we were familiar with the others? Here in ”our normal”, this person will never be able to compete with the others. He will never pick up the pace or enjoy the ride. How would you feel if you were forced to take a road which you didn’t choose, didn’t like and where you didn’t understand the stops and destinations either? 

Imagine get stuck on a bus in an unknown city, it is dark outside, the bus is going god knows where and you are among strangers; you are not sure about your own destination either but no other busses are available anyway. The only choices available for you are either to keep silent and wait for the end of the journey, or to get off it and step into darkness. For some people it means break the band with the family and change profession, for some a more definite and desperate, decision to take own life.  Does this choice have to be so frustrating, sad and painful? 

What if we just change the accent a bit. In stead of deviation, we call something that we sense is different, a deviant competence. The difference is whether to see the person’s way of communicating with the universe, learning and acting as a dead end, an exception, e.i. something that has to be corrected or at least brought closer to the norm; or an example, a reference from a different paradigm. Next thing to assume is that there is an unknown path with unknown variables and discoveries that this person’s competence represents. As a competence it can be developed and have a good purpose for the mankind’s best, but as a plain deviation it can be a subject for a diagnosis and a case study at most.

If we take school, going after a recognition of only a limited set of achieved competences with a set of limited specified tests, will provide society with a limited group of people who can align with these predefined requirements, and a limit itself. The rest of the students are sorted away as deviations and less valuable human resource. Their competences perish unrecognized, therefore not provided with possibilities of development and research, and further development. If we allow the principle of deviant competences to exist, not only we push the limits of what a school education can achieve, but also create incentives for formulation of new areas of science that just might have solutions for solving modern complex challenges of social development. Instead of telling pupils what they have to learn and be able to do, narrowing their focus to a specific future job or interest, we could tell them to show what they have and build learning around self-awareness, developing their interest for the world and knowledge in it through the lense of their own unique competence and talent. Sure it would require different kind of facilitation and relocation of funds, investments in restructuring and evaluation. But with greater effort for our future, comes greater outcomes and return on investments. Just because it is easier to grow ruccola, doesn’t mean we don’t invest in growing all the rest, even very demanding, kinds of greens and veggies, even developing new sorts every year; why wouldn’t it be a similar self-understood value of supporting diversity of competences of our children, recognizing their nature, not function in the society? Imagine if the amount of subjects at school would be equal to amount of exact kinds of food you are served every day, during as many years as your kid gets formal education. Same 1.Paprika. 2.Egg. 3.White bread. 4. Cucumber 5. Sausage or same 1. Cheese 2. Parsil 3. Butter. 4. Potato. 5. Snails. Every day with no exception. How proud will you feel when after 9 years of this forced diet, one will call you ”a parsil specialist” because you proved you can eat those 500kg of parsil. Makes sense huh. But it is logic, efficient and easy for evaluate. 

Do we want to help the system operate efficient and simplified eating our tons of parsil, or can we help people design their diets for a long healthy life, and get them to reach their potential and pull us higher in the development of civilization? The choice is not that simple since the first means play safe, provided and appreciated, and latter is a step into the unknown. The first means that the system that made modern Western shoot up in space in its development including industrialization and competition for markets, is supporting its reproduction. The latter means we might develop other economic and social systems with different organisation of labor and profit. How and whether it will work out, we don’t know, and that’s scary. Our life is too short to evaluate the whole turn of history… or, is it? Think about how your childhood looked like, and compare with today’s children. Development jumps in pace we no longer can cope with, neither with the consequences of our development not with our own opinion about it. What’s there besides and behind the statistics of growth?