I had an interesting conversation with a friend some years ago. We were reminiscing about our school days; the mistakes we had done, and how differently we would have done some things had we been able to turn back the clock. And then something he said struck me as quite profound—"The best way to learn in life is by making mistakes."
Let me explain that sentence.
All of us make mistakes in life, of course. And most of us learn from those mistakes. When we encounter the same situations again, we are better able to make the correct choice(s) in the hope of getting a better outcome(s).
Nevertheless, some people have the habit of repeating their mistakes over and over again. What's more, after failing a few times, they still don't know what's hitting them! Such was my friend's case. He had to get married because he accidentally made a girl pregnant. He said it was never really about love. It was a rocky start from the beginning. He reckoned that he'd make the best of it and hoped that he'd fall in love with the girl after a while. I know all of this sounds like something from the movies, but believe it or not, it happens in real life too! Unfortunately, he failed to fall in love with his wife. But instead of ending the misery for both parties, they had another child—also accidentally...
Many of us will not learn from our first mistake, but thankfully, we will learn after repeating them a few times.
My daughter, JJ, repeated her mistake in her recent English exam. A few months ago, I posted an article about an English exam, of which she made wrong past-tense sentences without including the word "yesterday".
In her recent English exam, a similar situation arose. The instruction in the paper was for the pupil to "use all the words below to make one correct sentence." And the given words were "walked" and "school".
So JJ wrote:
He walked to school.
That sentence, to me, albeit very simple, is correct. After all, JJ did use both the given words in one sentence, as per the instruction. But actually, it was marked as wrong because, of course, there was no "yesterday" at the end of the sentence. I'm guessing that the "yesterday", which was supposed to have been included in the sentence, was meant to "prove" that the pupil understood the significance of the tenses, i.e. the "ed" in "walked".
As you can see, there is here a pattern in the teaching of English in school. JJ got it wrong in the last exam because of that forsaken "yesterday". And now she is again wrong because of that "yesterday"; or rather because of its omission. It makes me wonder what would have happened if she wrote "today" instead of "yesterday". I won't be surprised if "today" would have been rejected too! And if indeed rejected, it would be solely because that answer does not conform to the taught-and-supposedly-memorised "yesterday".
What I see in the education system these days is mechanical thinking—solutions to problems are restricted to only some acceptable ones which are the norm. Anything other than those are discouraged. Original ideas or creative thinking will soon become rare phenomena.
In time to come, we will see many of these kids entering the job market, full of knowledge which they had memorised from school. They will be equipped with "mechanical brains". We will not have many inventors, if any at all.
When in due course some of them end up becoming English teachers, they, too, will insist that past tense sentences must end with—and only with—the word "yesterday".