The Problem with Me and Education


I’ve been having a problem lately, and I know I’m not alone. You see, recently I’ve decided to leverage my soul (read: take out an exorbitant amount of student loans) to go back to school and receive a subpar education from a commercial monster. Just so I can be more explicit, I’m talking about taking out huge loans to finally complete a baccalaureate degree at University of Phoenix. I’ve said this before, but not everyone who reads my blog pays attention to every post I make; I’ll reiterate just for the sake of clarity. I’m not a stupid person, at age 13 I was capable of doing college freshmen level reading, writing, and mathematics. I’ve taken several IQ tests and depending on the one I take, my IQ is somewhere between 120 and 144. Supposedly, high IQs are supposed to indicate academic success, but I’m here to tell you an IQ score doesn’t mean shit in real life. When I’m about to share of myself with all of you, I’ve attempted to share with various friends and family members throughout my life, and no one seems to truly grasp what I’m saying. Let me start this off by saying plainly what this post is going to be about: I didn’t learn anything worth learning after eighth grade through the public education system. That continues to be the case, most classes that I’ve taken over the years have simply been amalgams of things that I could’ve surmised on my own, and often did; bite sized, spoonfed pieces of information that I had already come to through my own thinking.

As I often tell people, I believe that college is nothing more than a sustained exercise in reading and thinking. Very little emphasis, if any is put on the production of anything worthwhile. Unless you count the paper mill that colleges are known to be, as being worthwhile. I’m very familiar with the commonly stated goals of the traditional education: to gain access to a body of knowledge, to form a community of learners, to build potential contacts for the future, to broaden your horizons and make you a more well-rounded person, and last but most certainly not least, to learn critical thinking skills. All of these goals are very admirable, but no one has ever answered this question sufficiently for me: why must all of these things be achieved in lecture halls and in classrooms? As I’m sure many of you know, the education system here (in the United States) was structured so as to train people for the demands of a postindustrial revolution lifestyle; mass education in an assembly line manner similar to that of a factory.

I’m going to throw some rough estimates out there. These estimates are based on the Carnegie unit; two hours of self-directed study for every hour spent in class on a given subject. On average a student in this country stands 35 hours a week in the classroom. In a nine-month academic school year that’s about 1260 hours. Lecture time alone in the K-12 system amounts to roughly 15,120 hours of classroom time. That’s not including homework. From grades 7 through 12, including homework students are asked to spend almost 23,000 hours of their lives on academic pursuits. These figures are the result of a mentality that boils down to: “while you’re in school, school is your job.” But let me ask a question, if a high school education was designed to prepare people for a life of structured work, a living wage, and if one so chose, a pathway to college… Then my question is this: where in that amount of time are we truly asking students to produce something that either makes them employable, or adequately demonstrates their readiness for entrance into the University system? What used to be considered a four-year degree in many cases is taking six years to complete, either because students are not adequately prepared and are required to remediate, or they simply don’t know what the hell they want to do with their lives. I am a product of those circumstances. I’m told that if I go to college and get a degree, my life will get better. Guess what? I got one. It didn’t. In those 23,000 hours of post primary education, I did not produce a single thing that would make the employable upon my graduation. So I got an Associate degree. Big mistake. It did absolutely nothing for me. Now the bachelors degrees the rough equivalent of what a high school diploma was 50 to 60 years ago, this concept is what is known as academic inflation.

I was a good boy, I graduated with a 3.6 GPA, Associates degree in hand, and hardly broke a sweat. And now, here I am getting ready to submit myself to the same torture that I sought to escape as quickly and painlessly as humanly possible. I’m one of those people, who firmly believes that the method used to educate young people in this country today is depriving it of its most valuable resource, creativity

. I am one of those people who believes that the best kind of learning happens outside the classroom. I’m also one of those people who believes that an education is more than a degree, it is a way of seeing the world as a result of both experience, and accumulated knowledge. And because of this, I am also unfortunately one of those people who cannot stand to sit in a lecture hall and be told how to think, how to spend my time, and what to think about. I know I am not alone. But as of right now, I feel isolated. It is as though everyone hears me, but no one is listening. They take in what I’m saying, yet no one understands. When I say I am leveraging my soul for a subpar education, it means that I am getting ready to take out nearly $30,000 in loans to complete a bachelor’s degree, and overpriced high school diploma. And, if that truly is my only avenue then I will resign myself to it. But let me be clear… Community is not something that is the sole domain of the University, in fact it is highly unlikely that any given University graduate will keep in touch with any more than 10 people from their graduating class, even in the same field. A body of knowledge can be gotten, through hard-won self-directed self-paced learning. Networks can be created at coffee shops and community events, and critical thinking skills come with experience which many students are lacking.

I’m not saying that school is broken and we need to destroy it, but what I am saying is I’m not sure that I belong in it. And I’m not sure that it’s really benefiting society in any way other than to provide people with an illusion of progress. Certain occupations do and should continue to require a rigid educational structure. Medical professionals, teachers, scientists, mathematicians in all their various forms; if any of these things are your goal, then school is for you. If you find yourself exhilarated by the discussions in class, school is for you. If you’re getting something out of it, then school is for you. But let me ask you something, does that mean it’s right for everyone? If one chooses not to participate in higher education as it currently stands, does that make one stupid? And given that the recommendation of the Carnegie unit is a 36 hour work week, which translates into another 7000 hours of dedication, by the time you graduate what will you have produced? What will make you stand out? Why are you there? If your answer is to get a degree, or to be educated; I suggest you drop out and find something else to do. Goals in life only work if they’re specific. The more important questions to ask yourself would be more akin to defining what it means to be educated, or asking yourself why you want a degree in the first place.

Unfortunately for myself, I don’t see myself is going to school for anything other than getting a piece of paper that says I know what I already know. And I already consider myself to be an educated person, as many people who know me will attest to. As I said, I really don’t think I’m alone in this. I hope some of you will understand. I know some of you will find mistakes in my writing and wonder how the hell someone with such a high IQ can make so many mistakes, the answer to that question is I use speech recognition software, and I don’t always catch the mistakes it makes. Other people will wonder why I’m underemployed if am so intelligent? The answer to that question is what I know seems not to be as important as the piece of paper in my hand that says I know it. Thank you for listening, and have a great day.

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8 thoughts on “The Problem with Me and Education”

    1. Thank you for the kind words and encouragement! It’s good to be heard and understood. Have any thoughts or a perspective that you’d like to share? I was thinking of doing a series of four or five on this!

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  1. I ran a technology company a number of years ago and we found that we needed to train people that exited the bowels of academia completely from scratch. Once we joked with an intern by putting a sign above the toilet paper that read “Diplomas, Take one”. It was funny, sad and true “rolled” into one. A portfolio of accomplishments is fast becoming more respected in many fields than a Patience of Nobility written in academic crayon because of the lackluster skill sets churned out in that reductive myopic anesthetizing rag. Get exposure and pragmatic skills and relationships. Those fare better than gold stars, unless you are going for teaching, doctor or one of those fields that still demand it.

    This song is a good read on the proposition many face. I hope you enjoy it.

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    1. Thanks for that! Yeah I hear what you’re saying. I ran 3 (now failed) local dot com era startups here, and the academy-trained were by far the most difficult to train. I’ve left the web development field. If you don’t mind my asking what do you do now, and what skills do you find most actionable in a new hire? As I said above, I’m thinking of doing a series on this sort of thing? Your input would be awesome. Thanks for reading!

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      1. I was a quality manager, then owned a tech company, now I write and coach on what, how and where to find satisfaction. Most of my work uses biological models as the primer for how all systems and relationships either work, or break down.

        This work often means defining satisfaction, then establishing and or strengthening the processes by which satisfaction is achieved. Sometimes this means being a catalyst in a culture, an organization, a family, or individual lives.

        I have been involved in and I get to see the hiring process and the people who have a portfolio of accomplishments are far more attractive to the type of business that recognizes where their bread is buttered, Some organizations still drag traditions and have means tests that involve degrees, still others like medicine that need to do this, but more and more organizations that need dynamic people capable of participating in a learning organization recognize that degrees are not a good marker of capacity because so often schools are just mining student debts money to train them in things that don’t apply for jobs that don’t exist at to work at a pace that is untenable from a business perspective, In fact the people that come out of school have a difficult time spinning up because many were bathed in a culture out of line with how business really works.

        The most actionable skills I seek depend on the job. If I need someone to run a saw I probably want an introvert. If I need someone to manage on small scales I want them capable of seeing how the segment under their charge fits in the system and the people skills to cultivate everyone n the team to their fullest potential within the opportunity matrix of the organization. If I need an exec, I want someone capable of seeing that the organizations strength comes from the primary producers and not the top of the food chain, so a leaders job is to make sure they have the resources to carry out that task, They need a solid recognition of the value proposition the organization has to offer, and they need to make sure that value is clearly known by the customer. I want them able see from a win-win perspective and to be able to translate that perspective into an understandable vision that is known and resonated throughout the organization in both word and deed, and is visible to the customer in their experience at every level of relationship contact.

        Bottom line, I want a good fit. I hope this helps.

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