Schools are a Wasteland

“When I was in high school, I felt like I was in a vacuum, biding time.  I was curious, but bored.  It was not an atmosphere conducive to learning. Once I had the means to effect change in this arena, it became my passion to do so.” –  George Lucas

WW1 battlefield 1

I am just going to come out and say it.  Most high schools and colleges are ridiculously bad.

Before you get in a huff thinking about all the good teachers you know, notice I said our schools are ridiculously bad, not that our teachers are ridiculously bad.  We can talk about bad teachers another day.

Or you may be thinking that I need to take a historical view.  If you look back in history our schools are pretty amazing.  Everybody can go to school up through high school for free.  That is actually quite remarkable. However, just because our current schools are better than not going to school does not make them good.

I started with the quote from George Lucas above because that is exactly how I felt in school most of the time – bored.  The whole point of school should be to learn things that are useful, or to make you a better person. Learning should not be boring.  Learning should be challenging, exhausting, difficult, and stressful at times, but not boring.

School Ruins History

Take history class for example.  Real history is amazing.  There are amazing stories and mind boggling connections between events that can be debated for eternity.  Instead of focusing on these aspects, we treat history as a list of facts to be memorized.

“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”

For example: What is more interesting, that WWI started on July 28th, 1914 or that the trench warfare battlefields turned into horrific moonscapes that inspired Mordor from the Lord of the Rings (See picture above)?

If you understand a little bit about how horrific the battlefields of WWI were, it makes it a lot easier to understand why the allied powers appeased Hitler for so long to avoid the Second World War. As young men, the leaders making the decisions to appease the Nazis listened to the screams of their friends as they slowly bled to death in no man’s land, or slowly drowned in mud. I might be a little hesitant to send my kids to war if I had experienced that.

Drowned in Mud

Understanding how horrific war can be can help create more informed voters and army recruits.  In contrast, does knowing that WWI started on July 28th, 1914 really help you with any big decisions?

So why do we make history class boring?  History class is both less valuable and harder to teach when it is boring.  And we all know what happens when students get bored.

History class is just one tiny example of what is wrong with our schools.  The obvious problems with how we teach history are nothing compared to the absurdity of how the system is setup.

We should be teaching history better and we could find ways to train better history teachers.  But compared to the systematic absurdities baked into our schools fixing those things is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Broken Framework

I don’t have the knowledge to design the perfect school system. However, I do hope to convince you that our school system is so radically absurd that it needs to be changed.

Over the next four posts I am going to look at how tunnel vision, infantilizing students, testing, and damaging priorities are doing a lot of harm to our current students.   Our current school system is creating of wasteland of under-performing and demoralized students piled up behind the few students who succeed.

My goal for this upcoming series is to convince you that our schools are so terribly bad that making huge improvements is a real possibility.

Do you feel your school experience did a good job of preparing you for life after school?  Did the most important lessons you learned in school have anything to do with course material?

In the next post we will look at how schools take a view that is too narrow to lead to success for most students.

Next: Part 2 “Education Tunnel Vision

[Video] Do Schools Kill Creativity?

I was going to write a post about this topic.  But try as I might I could not come up with a post that was as fraction as entertaining and insightful as this TED speech by Ken Robinson.

So instead of boring you with a long rambling post I thought I might recommend this video:

If you were going to skim down and not watch the video, don’t do it.  Take a few minutes and watch the video.  I can’t recommend it enough.

Honestly thanks to this talk I have a bit of a man crush on Sir Ken Robinson.


I am working on putting together a reference library of videos that address what is wrong with education.  If you have any videos you can recommend please comment below or shoot me an email: peter@iqlie.com

 

Re-Thinking Professional Education (Welcome)

Why am I starting a website about education?

Because I believe our current education system is doing an extremely poor job of preparing student for their careers and life after school. I felt high school was decent preparation for college, but college was poor preparation for life after school.

Do you Need College?

My college credentials helped me get my first job, but the course information that was relevant to my career could probably be boiled down to a 2 month course.

In addition to this the pace of college life looks nothing like the modern working world. Going from high school to a career would have been an easier transition. Going from lots of free time and a fairly unstructured schedule to a 7:00 to 5:30 job was a hard transition for me.

College unquestionably increases lifetime earnings for the average student (note average).   However, is college currently the best option for professional training?

Are the high incomes of doctors, engineers, and computer science majors hiding the fact that an English Literature degree is a bad financial investment?

“Due to young college graduates’ limited job opportunities, stagnating wages, and the rising cost of higher education, college is becoming an increasingly difficult investment.” – Economic Policy Institute

Unfortunately Not Going to College Isn’t Looking Like a Good Option Either

“For young high school graduates, the unemployment rate is 19.5 percent (compared with 15.9 percent in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 37.0 percent (compared with 26.8 percent in 2007).” – Economic Policy Institute

This doesn’t even take into account the almost 25% of students who don’t graduate from high school. For them the job market is even worse.

If college is becoming too expensive to justify the costs and getting a high school degree means you will be lucky if you get a full time low paying job, what should students do?

Are we just in a bad labor market where young people are destined to feel the brunt of the unemployment?

So what can we do?

It is a complicated problem but here are few things to consider:

The economy is honestly part of the big picture problem, but on an individual level I feel this is completely irrelevant. Most people are so bad at their jobs that it would be easy to replace them if you knew how to get yourself qualified and noticed.

When unemployment is high the traditional (obvious) career paths tend to get very crowded making them less effective than before. Thinking outside the box and looking for less crowded paths is becoming increasingly important.

If you don’t want you or your child to be an unemployed English Lit major with $200k in debt you may want to stop and think before signing up for college.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. The investment return of college degrees may be decreasing, but going to college will still be the best choice for many students.

What we need is a paradigm shift. Currently for career statistics we tend to break people up into categories. Those who went to college and those who did not. We are oversimplifying the problem and taking many of our best options off the table. Students who want to be successful in today’s market need to use all the resources at their disposal.

And while we are nitpicking should financial success even be the main aim of professional education? Or should more students enlist in programs that put more priority on life satisfaction and positive social impact?

Is there an Alternative Path?

Personally I believe there are lots of good alternative paths available. If we take off our blinders and look around we are currently surrounded by some of the best low cost educational opportunities ever seen.

With this site I hope to spotlight great resources, provide insight, and creates guides for how to navigate the current educational landscape.

I will be focusing the sites content towards young adults looking for their first and second careers.  However, with the rapid technological advances and creative destruction gone rampant in our current economy this content will become increasingly relevant to an increasingly older audience.

Lifelong learning is becoming increasingly important. Gone are the days when you could get a College degree and work in the same company for 30 years with only minimal re-training. In today’s America the average worker switches employers every 4 years.

My hope is that this site will in some small way help you or someone you love have a more successful career and life.

If you have any specific questions or ideas about professional education you would like me to discuss or need help with please shoot me an email at Peter@iqlie.com.