Up to eighteen years of age in the life of a typical American teenager, completing high school studies is mandated by the US government. However, this raises a crucial question. Is the education provided by schools enough to make one ready for the real world? In backward countries, where not every child has the privilege of attending schools, children usually learn from what they see happen around them. It is their surroundings and experiences that teach them what they know. For instance, even in small villages, children know that a balanced diet and daily exercise are the fundamentals for a healthy life. In reality, education is not only reading off of books, answering questions, and getting good grades in tests, rather it is a combination of that and the real-world experience one acquires. Both these aspects together justify the true meaning of education.
The documentary Surfwise is about a family that chose to make unique decisions in their lives. The head of the family, Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz gave up his successful career of practicing medicine as a physician, after graduating from Stanford, to pursue the adrenaline of huge waves as a professional surfer. Doc shared that he was not happy with the profession and even took a trip to Israel to find his true calling. After returning to the States, in a much happier state than when he had gone there, Doc married his third wife and for about twenty-five years of his marriage to Juliette, the couple with their nine children were on the road, traveling left and right the latitudes of United States. All of his children never received any formal education since Doc did not believe in the education system of the country. But, he still instilled the importance of wisdom in them. Doc told his kids that he would give them a dollar a day and they could surf all day long but they would work for him. Later, the Paskowitz family opened the “Paskowitz surf camp”, and since then he and his family have been given the title of “the First Family of Surfing”.
Throughout the lives of the Paskowitz kids, they have had nowhere close to a formal education even though their father graduated from one of the prestigious ivy leagues. Doc believed that the education system was not useful and true wisdom came from real-world experiences and meeting new people. Despite being a Stanford graduate, his views on the education system were often vastly different from others and it was under those ideologies that his nine kids had to spend their childhood. However, Doc made sure that he imbibed them with the pivotal knowledge of healthy living, comprising of a healthy mind and body. According to the eldest son, David Paskowitz, they would wake up at the crack of dawn, exercise, and be expected to practice surfing all day long, improving day by day. One of his other kids also mentioned how he advocated natural low-calorie diets, such as eating multi grains for breakfast, in addition to heavy exercise. As a result, several of the Paskowitz children became professionals at the sport and even won many contests. Doc and Juliette chose to raise their kids in an unconventional manner, but they made sure to instill the basic knowledge of healthy living in all of them. Now, almost all of them are in some part of the entertainment industry, be it a member in a band, actor, producer, director, and others.
This documentary provides us with a unique look and makes us question what true knowledge really is. Is it what we learn in school and choose never to apply, or what we experience but decide not to completely understand? I do believe that Doc and Juliette Paskowitz had fulfilled their parental responsibility to educate their children for adult life. I take from this documentary that education is not merely just going to school and being textbook ready, rather having real-world experiences too so we achieve the best of both worlds. In the documentary, Doc said, ‘education means wisdom; wisdom you get from experience living, people that you meet and an everyday kind of life and that is what my children had a lot of’ (Surfwise). Paskowitz kids were given the valuable education of commitment, dedication, discipline, and self-dependency. ‘My children may not be as wise in the ways of the man,” Doc said about the way he raised his kids. “But they are wise in the ways of Mother Nature and how the world works. It’s more important because, in the long run, education wears off” (in Haro). Navah, being the only girl amongst her eight brothers also have been taught these values. Matter of fact, “from the age of 15 and without any formal education, Navah supported herself by singing in a band with her brother Adam (now the lead singer of The Flys and Jetliner), modeling swimsuits, designing a women’s wetsuit line, and working summers at her family’s surf camp on a beach near San Clemente, Calif” (in Ghert-Zand). All nine Paskowitz children, even though they never had formal education, have grown to become professionals in their own specific fields in the entertainment industry, such as singing, producing, directing, and even modeling.
Watching the story of this family reminds me of the countless children that are never given the opportunity to study in a school in villages across India. However, they still struggle and choose to live healthy life. I often see many people walking out with big macs on a daily basis preferring to eat in an unhealthy fashion even though they are educated enough to know how bad it is for their bodies in the long run. In contrast, villagers who have no formal education, practice a healthy diet plan and choose to exercise daily to maintain a good lifestyle. This difference makes me realize that it is not just how much education or knowledge one acquires, the key is whether or not they can put that knowledge to good use. An excellent example is Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India. Modi had very humble beginnings and lacked a college education, however, he persevered and earned his degrees at a time many his age already have real estate investments. But now, Modi has broken all stereotypes, proudly standing as the fourteenth Prime Minister of India. His achievements show us that it is not gaining the education that matters, rather putting that education to use to help people around you.
Education is pivotal in our lives, but the way one receives it is not of much importance. Doc and Juliette chose not to send their kids to formal schooling because they believed that their children needed to have the vital knowledge that schools did not provide. Even then, they fulfilled their parental responsibility of educating their children by making them experience a wholesome life and teaching them the art of commitment, dedication, discipline, and self-dependency. From this assignment, I have learned to think about life as a school, where one has to pass each test by using their own wisdom and knowledge and the experiences one has gained along the way.