July 17, 2009

The Wasted Brain Space - By Helene Sairany

~ There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.~Sophia Loren

~ We are missing something. Our youth today is empty. No longer do the children dream and believe they can change the world. Apathy has destroyed the beautiful idealism of our youth. The intricate illusions and fearless aspirations. The gleam in a child's eye. All hope is truly lost. ~Kate Miller

We, as Kurdish youth, have a serious problem. Our problem is that we do not take the time to pause and think about what is going on around us. Kurdish youth think that “thinking” is a tiresome process that leads to no destination. Every youth relies on the other to implement the thinking process for him or her. We, as youth, believe that thinking is ONLY for grown-ups.

Lack of thinking or ideas is what leads to lack of production and change in leadership; hence, history keeps repeating itself with Kurds. What is the last product that we, as Kurds, have presented to humanity? No one in the Kurdish community thinks of producing something to benefit humanity or Kurdistan. Where do all the ideas for the construction that is currently taking place in Kurdistan come from? All from the West! How about our art skills, our video clips and music programs? We take them all, as they are, from the West. This is how we live; we live from the product of other people’s thinking. Others invent and we consume. We are nothing but consumers, because we don’t consider thinking.

When we talk about education in Kurdistan, we realize that learning is based on memory, bookkeeping and stuffing brains with information. This way, the mind becomes a storage closet, with no place for innovation. In the West, however, this is not how learning is implemented. As a graduate student, I am expected to think and reason. Through my studies, I have learned that I can change whatever I don’t like, as long as I maintain a respect for other opinions. I have learned that if I fail in changing what I dislike, I can find alternatives, and if I fail in finding any alternative, I have to convince myself to change my perception through my education. The more informed I become the more choices I see myself come up with.

In graduate school, my professors propose a subject or a research question for discussion, and suggest where and how we can research it. Based on our research, we then build up our opinions and ideas. There can be up to 10 points of view for the same topic. The mind gets used to dealing with alternatives. Becoming accustomed to respecting other points of view, our youth become accustomed to the idea of valuing tolerance and peace and condemning discrimination. The result of the education system in Kurdistan is that the student sees a topic from a very narrow point of view. If he comes across a different point of view, he is unable to understand it or find alternatives, and the brain stops. This concept of education is what leads to the creation of discrimination, narrow-mindedness, and many idealistic points of view among our youth.

In a scientific article, I came across the following statement, “Scientists found that brain cells, of which there are 140 billion in the brain, each develop connections around themselves that help to do more thinking. They increase in number when you think, and they die if they are unused.” Of course, the thinking that this scientist was talking about is not only purposed for day-to-day thinking, but the right kind of thinking that is needed to help solve a nation’s problem as a whole.

Another fact I learned about students from Kurdistan is that the average Kurdish student studies much more than those in the West, nevertheless, with inferior results.

Lack of trust by the Kurdish Regional Government in the mentality of our youth is another factor that leads to poor future leadership. Youth is a period of flowing energy, strength and flourish, which occurs between the weakness of childhood and that of old age. We see that Kurdistan is progressing by the hands of youth from other nations. How about Kurdish youth and the mentality of Kurdish youth? What have Kurdish leaders done to invest in and utilize the energy and hard work of Kurdish youth, if we see everything constructed through utilizing the energy and mentality of youth abroad? And we talk about lack of employment in Kurdistan?!

Thousands of youth graduate from universities in Kurdistan every year and we invite and welcome foreigners to run businesses and construct and rebuild the nation? If you build malls, hotels, institutions by others and present them in the “ready form” to the youth in Kurdistan, how do you expect the youth to attain loyalty/appreciation to their nation? Let me give an example about the economic projects taking place currently in Kurdistan that have all been set by the West. The Kurdish government and the West did not intend to make them so as to benefit the ordinary Kurdish citizens. They construct projects to be suitable for their own way of life and their guests from abroad that visit Kurdistan; from the meter, to the kilometer, to the malls, to the number of star-rated hotels, to the airports and the number of planes. If you want to build a luxurious five star hotel for tourists, as a Kurd, you will not be able to build one, nor will you succeed in finding any support if you refuse to have one of the local leader’s share in the process.

How about the Kurds who are here, living in the Diaspora?  From my interaction with my own people for over 13 years, I came to the conclusion that Kurds can be divided into two categories. The first category of Kurds are those who have chosen a confined life- style. By confined, I mean that they chose to stay confined in dealing with their children. Raising a child and constructing a successful personality within the child should not end with instilling Kurdiati. I agree that my child has to master the Kurdish language and should have an awareness of his/her cultural practices, but success is a matter of constructing a complete personality. The child should be taught to actively cooperate with people from all nations, as long as that cooperation does not lead to loss of true self or Kurdish identity. Raising a child to be a leader should be based on leading any nation through all of its domains and aspects of life, full of unknowns and new matters that join ancient and modern. This way, the child will be able to overcome obstacles and handle issues pertaining to cultural and generational gaps later in life.

As a parent, what is needed from me to raise a leader or a role model? Raising a role model cannot be left to circumstances, without planning. It is a tiring and long procedure that starts from early childhood, to enrich the talents, explore the skills and increase the powers in chronological procedures.

Children, by nature, are “recipients”, which means that they will accept whatever you, as a parent, have to say or offer. Yet, with a confined manner, you are causing the child to become a “slave” of your mentality. You have failed in your ultimate role as a parent by persuading the child to embrace Kurdiati without establishing the reasoning behind the cultural practices. With a confined life style, I mean that the child has to obey and implement without grasping the ultimate reason behind your actions.  We hardly see parents initiate an open discussion with their children in our communities. And if they choose to converse, we see them controlling the conversation.

Needless to say, children’s magnitude of understanding and intelligence in our culture is almost always underestimated. A child should always be encouraged to ask questions and his questions should always be answered.

As a parent, how can I improve the cognitive thinking of my child? The cognitively of the child flourishes with the type of toys they play with. I recently heard that European countries have cancelled all taxes on toys because they think that toys nourish and feed the child’s mind. You might ask,”What type of a toy I should get for my child?” Choose toys that help to develop your children’s minds.

It is, no doubt, a challenge to change one’s habits. I have learned that challenges can be divided into three kinds: there is an easy challenge that does not encourage the person to progress and move forward, an impossible challenge that leads one to depression and a challenge that flourishes one’s potential and powers. We are facing a challenge that unleashes all potential, and most importantly, the potential of our youth. As Kurds, we have faced enough challenges in our lives: hunger, prosecution, death, deportation, imprisonment, poverty, etc. Therefore, there is no reason for us youth not to flourish!


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