“I don’t think we’ll get rid of schools any time soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we’re going to change what’s rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the institution “schools” very well, but it does not “educate”; that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling to be the same thing.” John Taylor Gatto
Changing the way we think about education is probably one of the most difficult feats for educational “reformers” like some we’ve read in the last posts. Primarily because we have been conditioned to FEAR.
The whole chain of education is linked with fear. We want our kids to have a “good education” but we’ve let big business define what that means. Because we don’t really mean a “good education” or we would all oppose the current system. What we really mean is “a good-paying job” and the system was created, from the top down, to function the way it does to lock us in by fear.
“…students hear again and again that a degree from a special college is such a powerful advantage in later life that the quarter-million dollar cost is fully justified…if you are one of the lucky ones who can afford it.
Skip over the morality of this contention. As a statement of fact, it’s a masterpiece of fabrication – scientifically speaking on par with the medieval theory of four humors. If it appears true, it’s a tribute to ceaseless propaganda because the employment game has been heavily rigged to make it seem so and because critics of the enchantment are marginalized as screwballs….A degree from a highly ranked school hardly matters at all in the real world; it only matters to people who believe the lie…” John Taylor Gatto, Don’t Worry About College, A Letter to My Granddaughter (I highly recommend this brilliant piece.)
To get a “good job”, a student needs a college degree (so we think). To get a college degree he needs good ACT scores. To get those, he needs good test scores in school. That’s really what the majority of parents care about.
And so the system is increasingly loyal to a test, betraying the individual student’s passion and need for learning what matters.
(And I interject, again, that those of us who homeschool have the tremendous opportunity to escape this hamster wheel, and yet all too often I see frazzled moms desperately trying to recreate the broken model at home.)
The good news is, there are new (but actually not new) possibilities on the horizon and FINALLY, employers are beginning to seek out employees with skills they don’t necessarily learn in college.
Apprenticeships are making a big comeback and this is GREAT news if you are opposed to the assembly-line education like we’ve been discussing.
A UK publication reports:
“Apprenticeships have changed. From the days of a novice learning his trade at the side of a master craftsman, they have evolved to include high-tech specialised programmes in nuclear physics and high-end training with bespoke designer fashion labels.
They should no longer be considered the poor relation of university study or the last resort for those not cut out for formal education.
Big businesses look to them as key to developing the expertise and skills needed to grow their workforce…” The Raconteur
Now we get back to the real basics of an education:
- an eager learner
- a good communicator
- critical thinker
- motivated self-learner
“Apprenticeships have gotten a new lease on life,” said Anthony Carnevale, chief economist of the American Society for Training and Development in Alexandria, Va. “They’re extending beyond white males with calluses on their hands to a variety of people and occupations. We need more highly skilled workers.” The Seattle Times
Please don’t misunderstand me. There is a place for a traditional college degree. If one of my children *needs* a college degree, we would not be opposed to that route. The aim here is to overturn the general, damaging mindset that “everyone must get a college degree”.
Besides the tremendous debt students often find themselves in, a large percentage of kids have no reason for attending college besides “my parents want me to” or “that’s what everybody does”.
I debated about doing a whole post devoted to “the problem with college” but I’ll let you investigate more on that subject if you wish. This article in the Wall Street was quite practical with lots of good examples: College is a Scam
Suffice it to say, until we destroy the myth that “college is the answer for everyone”, we will continue to let fear drive our methods, largely robbing our of a potentially better education.
An Example: My brother
There have been several excellent examples in the comment sections (on the first two parts of this series) of people whose skills won out over a missing college degree in the work force. Another such one is my brother, who is the perfect example in this discussion…
Had Chris not been squeezed into the mold, it’s hard to say where his interests and gifts would have taken him. He is an artist, but “art isn’t a very practical skill” so he wasn’t encouraged much. He got through high school, rather hating academics but enduring them like everyone else, far more concerned with his peers and weekend activities than his homework.
But Chris did have a head start, thanks to some of the early experiences we had as children, including learning to communicate well. Our Dad, who is very wise and discerning, also passed that down to my brother and made quite a critical thinker out of him. And work ethic…if there’s one thing my Dad believes is important…
Chris didn’t go to college. He did apprentice under a Civil Engineer for a while and then decided he wanted to get his pilot license. He learned all he needed for that because it interested him and he was motivated.
Later, he applied for a highly-specialized job at an aviation navigation company in CO. He trained first as a data analyst, beating dozens of applicants more “qualified” with degrees, because the employer saw skills in him that were valued above a piece of paper. Later he was promoted to supervisor in Navigation Data Extract, involving global communications and the coordinating of teams world-wide.
Now he is a top Realtor in his area, again out-performing many of his more “qualified” colleagues. He is respected by his peers, both personal and professional. He’s very entrepreneurially minded too, and often does web design work on the side. He does all this, by the way, with near-perfect humility. But I’m not biased.
We chatted about the discussion I wanted to have here on the blog. He said, “You know, it really does boil down to a few things…if you can think, if you know how to learn, and if you can communicate well and (he emphasized this one), know how to relate to people with integrity, there’s not much you can’t do that you want.”
I think he’s right.
Next post: Making it all practical: Breaking the mold of “doing school”