Formal Education — The Big Lie

In grade school, I spent more time in detention than in class.

By high school I figured out the game.

With friends in the attendance office, I could cut classes and go to the beach with impunity.

To to this day, there were zero consequences for my missed class time. In fact, it help me find success.

With the confidence of youth, I thought I knew it all. But I wasn’t completely wrong back then with my pessimistic view of school.

I got in trouble in school because I was boredI was board out of my mind.

I was one of those defiant brats that teachers dread. Today, I wish I could go back and apologize to each of my teachers.

My defiance came from perhaps a bit too much freedom as a child. My mother was in and out of a mental hospital and my uninvolved father was an obsessed religious fanatic.

Not the easiest path to grow up on, but there was a giant benefit. I learned to question “authority.”

I learned to question everything

Why do we have to learn this?”

Occasionally, the good teachers offered reasonable explanations, but usually I was told to shut up and do my work. 

I did not respond well to the latter, which usually landed me in the principal’s office.

Now my perspective is different. Probably because I have my own children and teach at a college. I wish my attitude had been better, but my complaints were valid. 

It’s crazy to cram every kid into the same mold. And the children who do not fit are medicated or labeled a failure.

Our education system is failing, not necessarily the kids.

Schools Create Robots

From grade school through the doctorate level, schools program robots to follow orders to put round pegs in round holes. 

Schools create factory workers, but factories are dead in the U.S.

Everyone is expected to fit the same mold, which discourages entrepreneurial thinkingThis is one reason for the ridiculous focus on rote memorization and multiple choice standardized testing.  

There is no sense in excess time spent in classrooms memorizing facts that will immediately be forgotten after the exam.

To this day I do not see the point in memorizing the names, locations and capitals of all fifty states when I can just look at a map.

Memorizing facts does not teach you how to think.

Why should students waste time memorizing things that are quickly found in Google? Several years of study could be eliminated and then put to more productive use.

Our schools are designed to program students to enter similarly structured bureaucratic environments in corporations or government.  They teach conformity more than anything else.

Just like school, success in government and corporate jobs has more to do with your ability to conform than in results.

Office — make your boss’s job easy, play the political game, and keep occupied with busy work..

School — make your teacher’s job easy, play the game, and keep yourself busy memorizing crap you’ll never use.

Artistic and entrepreneurial minded students are either beat into submission or pushed out.

Now think about the vastly different world of the small business owner.  He has to find the shortest and most efficient way to get results — or he goes out of business.

An entrepreneur would never waste time memorizing states if he can quickly find the answer on the map. Instead he focuses on the most efficient way to find and satisfy customers.

The Big Lie

We’re taught if we do well in school we will get a good job and success and happiness will follow.  

That’s bullshit. The teachers and parents that preach this know it’s a lie. 

In The Millionaire Mind, Dr. Thomas Stanley described the common traits among millionaires.

Doing well in school and standardized exams was not one of the factors.

In fact, one of the common trait among millionaires was lower than average grades and SAT scores. He proved this with empirical evidence.

Success and happiness is hard to measure. After working with a lot of clients, I’ve found that almost everyone wants the same things:

  • To be healthy
  • To be loved
  • To be around people they care about
  • Time to do what they care about
  • Money to do what they want
  • And careers where their contribution matters

Do they teach any of the that in school?

How many parents and teachers who preach the “work hard in school and get good grades” mantra, have achieved success?

Very few, if they’re honest.

What School Really Provides

If hard work in school and good grades does not directly lead to success, what does school provide?

School creates a ranking system, but unfortunately the ranking is a poor measure of success—no matter how you chose to measure it.

Schools indoctrinate students to become slaves to corporations or government, but here are the real benefits you get from school:

  • A certificate that is often a necessary, but poor measure of employability
  • An experience. Sometimes enjoyable, but oftentimes not
  • Exposure to different people and ideas
  • Fundamental skills through 6th grade—reading, writing and basic math
  • Practice at social skill building
  • A test of stamina

Some of these benefits are helpful, but not necessary skills for “success.”

Very few of the critical life skills come from formal educational, especially after grammar schoolMost of what we learn after grammar school is a waste of time. 

Countless hours dedicated to advanced math, science and other studies are quickly forgotten and rarely used by most adults.

School does provide a benefit, but it’s not for the kids. After about the 6th grade, public school is essentially State provided childcare and jobs for teachers and administrators.

The Solution

Changing the system is unlikely. The bureaucracy is deeply entrenched and the self interests maintaining the status quo are powerful.

I commend the few who challenge the status quo, but they face an uphill battle. To make a difference, you’ll need Martin Luther King Jr like endurance.  Few have that kind of commitment.

Attending through high school is required, but after is optional. The student and parents have to weigh college vs self study.

College can be a good option. I’m glad I earned my Master’s degree, but in hindsight, the time and money spent on college would be better spend undertaking a comprehensive self study program. 

Four Critical Life Skills

Self study can come in many different forms: internships, reading, attending specialized seminars or conferences and foreign travel. 

There are four areas that everyone needs to master to live happy life. Those are:

  • Personal Finance
  • Health and Fitness
  • Emotional intelligence (Social Skills)
  • A means of developing income

Mastery of these areas will lead to the greatest success and happiness. If you look at most of your problems, or those people around you, it’s likely one of these areas that need improvement.

These are areas that traditional schools ignore or teach very poorly.

A College Alternative

I value learning, but formal education and learning do not always go hand in hand. If your primary goal is to learn instead of to prepare for a career, you may be better off going it alone.” Chris Guillebeau.

Below is one of many alternatives to college.

Spend one year traveling to each of the continents of the world. 

While traveling, read 100 of the top business and marketing books written by people with experience and success creating businesses and earning money.  During the travel, volunteer extensively in poverty stricken third world locations.

After the first year, seek out four top experts in different fields of interest and offer to work at each for four to six months for free. In return the expert agrees to train the student in their trade.

This is only one example of a self‐guided education. It’s not for everyone, but it is one alternative for people who want something different than the traditional college experience.

With a little creativity, the student can come up with something that will be far more interesting and custom made to her. The result will be a more well rounded adult with life skills and earning capacity that will surpass anything a college can offer.

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8 Replies to “Formal Education — The Big Lie”

  1. I cannot adequately convey how much I agree with the sentiments expressed in this post. As a public high school teacher, it shames me that I am a part of this hideous system, but I try very hard NOT to perpetuate it. There is precious little regard for intellectual curiosity in our society and it’s depressing. I wish I knew how to change that. Suffice it to say, I will do my best to encourage others to read this. Thank you.

      1. I once had a student tell me I was the first teacher who had treated him like a human being. Hyperbole, I’m sure, but there ARE a lot of teachers who don’t quite “get” the basics of interpersonal relationships. Okay, there are a lot of PEOPLE who fit that description…

  2. Hmm it seems like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any recommendations for first‐time blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  3. Your way of explaining everything in this post is truly nice, every one be capable of easily be aware of it, Thanks a lot.

  4. Interesting that you were taught to question authority and seemingly you excelled. Just watched the movie, “The Hunger Games.” What a great movie about two people defying governmental authority and societal attitudes towards human life. Those who grew up in the hippie culture are now in control of our own government and don’t appreciate the push‐back against them. Conservative speech for instance. If a conservative does not agree with particular speech the channel is changed. A liberal, however, will attempt to ban certain speech via a law. Similarly, if a conservative does not like guns a gun simply will not be purchased. A liberal will attempt to ban everyone from gun ownership. What better way to indoctrinate children than through the public education system. Thanks for a great idea to learn a trade the old fashioned way…on the job training.

    1. Interesting point Terry about those who grew up in the hippie culture now running the show. Thanks for checking in.

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