One of my favourite subjects at school was English. I had a really fantastic English teacher in High School, but I must be honest I never understood why we had to learn about Shakespeare and all the stories he wrote. But when I comfort myself; I suppose it was always the moral of the stories more than anything and the moral is something that cuts across every generation.

One of the things I’m glad we were taught was comprehension. I’m sure we all remember from our English classes the comprehension exercises we often did. I recall how we would be given a short paragraph or a short essay on a particular topic. We would be asked to thoroughly read the paragraph and as my teacher would say ‘ensure you read it more than once before you are able to answer questions’. To test if you really comprehended what you read, we were given a set of questions that we were required to answer. If you consistently scored good grades on your comprehension exercises, your teacher was pleased with your comprehension skills and your overall command of the English language, as comprehension used to carry a significant weighting towards your overall English mark. If we were given a take home assessment we were often encouraged to seek other sources over and above the paragraph to assist us in answering the questions more robustly.

Comprehension simply means “The ability to understand something”.

Why I am sharing about this? It recently hit me that we were raised to believe that going to school had a one dimensional purpose (i.e. getting good grades in order to go to University and get a good job). Though that is partly true and is the common reality, but I think we don’t appreciate enough the foundation, for life, that our teachers were giving us.

I believe that we were actually being given mental tools to know how to navigate this interesting and difficult journey of life. We need to be able to comprehend situations accordingly. I say this because we are increasingly living in a period where we have allowed the media to become the predominant source by which we understand the world around us. The initial role of the media was to serve as an independent body that provided us information about what is happening around us and we would then conclude for ourselves about what is truth and what is fiction.

I spoke about the comprehension exercise earlier because I believe our teachers were in some way trying to equip us with the ability to thoroughly understand situations we face on a daily basis and not just take things at face value. They asked us questions so that from our own perspective we could engage with the information and provide our own viewpoints. They even encouraged us to seek additional sources of information so that we come to understand that there is often more than one side to every story. We were being built up so that we could concurrently be independent and collective thinkers who are able to apply the knowledge we have gathered accordingly.