I have a problem with the cram mentality. I know what it is to be a crammer: to succeed, to live, to be praised for having crammed and to have a life driven by the praise for having stuffed facts into my head and dutifully reproduced them to get good grades.
The cram mentality got me to the best schools and the best jobs. But my problem with it is that it is profoundly violent against the vitality inside of you. All it does is make you adapt to the desires of the outside, programming you according to narrow-minded notions of efficiency and achievement, and as a result, making you lose touch with the creativity within you.
The cram system was rewarding on the outside. But on the inside, it created a frustration. I constantly felt that there was something special about my individuality in there, but it was something I could never reach, and therefore, something I could never appreciate.
I am particularly interested in teenage-hood and young adulthood because is a time where the tension between the quest for individuality and the need for external rewards grows stronger. It is during this time that “being a good student” or “being the cool kid in school” became part of my identity. But it is also the time where I started hiding from my friends that my dad was a farmer, for example. In sum, it is the time where I developed the fear of being myself, and fear of being rejected for who I was. This fear choked my creativity.
In the past two years, I discovered the possibility of a different learning environment through an initiative that my friends and I called Art/Earth/Tech. Art/Earth/Tech is a space where some of the most brilliant people I have met in my life come together. But it is also a space where we consider that the intellect is a tool that only guides us well when intimately connected with human emotions and feelings. It is a place where we all cooperate to feel in contact with life even while giving talks on abstract societal issues.
Bringing people together in their humanity is very simple but also difficult to put into words because it cannot be crammed – it can only be experienced. I want to bring these human experiences to others. Beyond that, I want an education system that considers education as a human experience above all.
With the LEAP, I want to imagine a different environment for teenagers and young adults: a refuge where they are not driven by external standards or pushed to produce the “correct” behaviour required for approval. Instead, the LEAP is a space for them to be driven by what is within, and for the expression that results to be heard, discovered and trusted – creating a unity and no conflict between themselves and others’ perceptions.
But all this would be incomplete without mentioning my love for Taiwan. Obviously, the cram mentality is very persistent in large parts of Asia, but the reason why I’ve made The LEAP my vocation is because I am concerned that it gets the Taiwanese youth out of touch with the precious thing they can offer. Taiwan has something very special and unique to express – and although I don’t have any words for it, I saw it in our students. Thus, I don’t want The LEAP to be some self-expression program aimed at helping Taiwanese student “catch up” with external standards set by the West. Instead, I want it to be about young Taiwanese people knowing who they are, trusting their inner voices, and knowing that they exist no matter what the world says.