Reflections: Why The Educational System Is Not In Place

[Pic by atomicjeep]

I don’t like school. I don’t like going to school. I don’t like the things we do there nor the way we do them. I think that schools are fundamentally wrong in the approach to teaching students how to be successful.

There were specific reasons and needs that led to the existence of the educational systems. However, the world and so our needs have changed but the schools have not adjusted.

Internet was basically created around 1970’s. TV first was introduced in 1930’s. Radio was commercially available around the 1920’s. Now imagine life before those. The only wires that would come to your house are the electrical wires. That pretty much rules out everything we ever do these days. No computers, no video games, no television. All you can do is play soccer out with your friends, drink home-made alcohol or read books.

And indeed, if you needed any information you would have to read books. But it is not like you had encyclopedias to look up everything you wanted. You had to read many books and slowly accumulate the information you need piece by piece, book by book. Let’s say you wanted to know about Paris? Your only choice would be reading a bunch of books that maybe take place in Paris and thus overread facts here and there about this city across the ocean. But it also wasn’t like people had books in their houses like we do today. And how many libraries were there? And how easy was it to get access to them? Or even just to travel to the big city with the libraries. It’s not like everything was concentrated in few big cities 200 years ago. Also, if you were lucky, you could listen to stories of people that have been to Paris. But how many people could afford that? How long did it take them to get to Paris across the ocean on a boat? Those stories were few and probably most of them became legends.

All in all, there was huge demand for information and lack of supply. Thus simply by acquiring more information you’d be ahead of others. Simply by reading more you’d be more knowledgeable, gain more recognition, be able to get involved in business, meet influential people. You would be able to learn about the newest and greatest opportunities. Being knowledgeable at the time already gave you social status.

So in a sense, to do anything in this world, you needed to go to school where you could collect information, learn, and meet other knowledgeable people. Naturally, organized state-supported schools emerged. Their primary purpose was to disseminate knowledge across as many people as possible with fewer resources as possible. That meant then paying 1 person to teach many. That meant having books that all kids read from. But notice that the focus was just on spreading information. Thirst for information was the main driver for the formation of this monstrous educational system that is in place today. It was the most efficient way back at the time. And it worked pretty well. It worked so well actually that in few short hundred years it introduced so many changes that have not been seen in the whole history of the world. It taught people knowledge and people invented things and so came radio, television, internet…

And this is how the educational system created its biggest competitor – the internet. The internet, along with all the other improvements have made the process of finding and acquiring information at cost approaching zero so trivial that the schools now seem out of place. While in the past there was a struggle and fight for more information, and the ones that had it were the successful ones, today everybody has information. All kinds of information! And at a price so low that we could probably safely claim to be free. The world has changed and being successful today is not just knowing more – because everybody knows a lot – it’s what you do with the information you do know. It’s how you satisfy the world’s needs that get you successful. And that is exactly what the schools are very bad at teaching. Schools specialized for hundreds of years to jam you with information and create that feeling of “You just come to us and do what we say and you will come out with a great degree!” But then what is a degree? An accomplishment in knowing a lot of information in certain area? But I just mentioned how this is not enough to be successful. So now we have that crisis – all college kids graduating and having random varieties of knowledge sets and not knowing what to do with it. They take random jobs they find often not connected with their majors. They panic for not knowing what to do and even more often how to do it.

Colleges seem to be taking small steps into correcting that problem but their pace is way too slow to keep up with the world’s changes. What the hell means, “You cannot cite Wikipedia as a source for your paper”? What it means is that colleges are too concentrated on self-centered, useless (in most cases of student papers), professional research and information gathering. Instead, colleges should start teaching people how to collect the information they need. They should as a matter of fact teach people how to determine which information they need. An entrepreneur is not a person that knows everything, it’s a person that knows what to learn when he needs it. We don’t all need to be entrepreneurs, but we all need to know how to cope with life, and this is not simply gathering information anymore.

Well, you could argue that schools never claimed that you would be successful after graduation. They just claim that you would know a lot on a certain topic. For one, this is not explicitly said, but is so implicitly stated that it is hard to think of college graduation anything but a step to success. We just don’t realize how small this step is and that is often a step backwards. And for another one, what are you after – a geeky knowledgeable bum that knows everything and has got nothing, or a successful person that knows only what he needs and could learn what he decides he needs?

So there is a growing number of people that recognize that problem and that try to do things on their own outside of school. They will have no support and now encouragement until they succeed. But hey, where there is a problem, there is a opportunity.