I need to level with you, kids. The large majority of the stuff that you learn in K-12 will never apply to your life. You won’t need it. It’s rubbish. There, I said it.
Heck, the reason why I’ve “never been much of a reader” was due to school. In school, we read uninteresting, sleep-inducing drivel. Yes, Mr. Shakespeare, that includes you. I have no interest in reading your tales of romance or emotional decay. Deciphering your words isn’t fun. In fact, it’s work. I appreciated Cliff Notes more during our Shakespearean torture lessons than perhaps any other time during school. Yet, we were forced to read this man anyway, against many of our wills.
And school taught me that reading wasn’t fun; that it was a chore. Reading is an assignment, not something to be done for pleasure or enjoyment. Reading includes book reports and presentations, letter grades and tests. Just like virtually every other subject.
No adult remembers the quadratic formula unless they happen to use that specialized knowledge on a daily basis. We all know textbooks are biased. Teachers, too. Worse, teachers know their schools get funding based largely on exam scores from completely arbitrary standardized tests that all kids must conform too, adding another level of excruciating pain to the process of K-12.
Half of the “history” that you learn in school will be “re-learned” as you grow up. Textbooks do not teach the realities of life. Those lessons are learned by experience. Can anyone honestly tell me that they remember Charlemagne?
Yeah, me either.
School vs. reality
I know that school is your reality right now, but soon it won’t be. Soon, reality will be your reality. In a world that doesn’t give trophies for coming in 4th, it might be a big shock. Life isn’t fair. Sometimes, you don’t get what you deserve. Other times, you get more than you deserve. It happens. Revel in the good times, kids!
At the moment, if you do well on a test, you get an A. But out here, you can do everything right but still not get ahead. You may struggle, and that is okay. It may seem like everything and everyone is against you. But don’t worry, because school has supposedly prepared you for real life.
But in reality, it hasn’t.
The controlled structure of education is missing in the real world. Memorization of facts no longer propels you through life like it once had. Did you read my commencement address? If not, read. I promise it’s better than anything Shakespeare ever dreamed up.
By now, you may be wondering what the point of this article is. Simple.
Learning is questioning
The educational process does not teach us to question. Quite the opposite, it teaches us to accept what is taught to us. We read a chapter in a history textbook, memorize facts and figures, then regurgitate those figures on a test. Boom, done – now on to the next lesson. But, here’s a remarkable loophole in the reality of education: You’re required to recite approved answers for letter grades, but that doesn’t mean that you must accept them.
If you are a naturally curious person, then you are one step ahead of the game. Like water, life often follows the path of least resistance. Momentum builds and societies emerge. Strong forces of momentum begin to form standard operating procedures that pull society into itself and people begin to fall right in line. Like a snowball, it grows into a giant. A self-propelled ball of fire.
Naturally, it is easier to follow the lead of those before you than to create your own path.
But to those who do trudge through the thicket and blaze a new trail are often rewarded with tremendous advantages. Even if that new trail leads to nowhere, lessons can be applied to another attempt. A shortcut to success, perhaps. Or, maybe a path that leads in the opposite direction of the one built by societal momentum.
Very few famous or accomplished individuals followed society’s path. They tried something else, and they kept at it. Through ceaseless waves of negativity, they continued to push. They might fail, but failure is a springboard on which to try again. Only next time, you’re plowing a new trail with the knowledge gained from before. You’re smarter. You’re more experienced.
And, you’re better prepared.
School teaches us about life
Wait, what? I spent almost 700 words attacking the educational process, and now I argue that school teaches us about life?
School teaches us about the process of doing things, especially things that we may not enjoy. Lamenting to my dad the classes I had to take in college that were required (aka: completely irrelevant to my degree), he said, “Those classes prove that you can get through it”.
He didn’t say, “Now son, you’ll need that information some day. You might not understand that now, but you will later”. Hell, I was a college student, not a second grader. His honesty shocked me.
My dad was right. Those classes taught me how to do things that I didn’t want to do. Quite frankly, much of life is like that, especially if you’re stuck in an office for 40 or more years of your life. Taxes. Grocery shopping. Sitting for hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles for something that you wish could be done online.
Just, natural “life stuff”. School proves that you can get through it.
And standardized testing proves that the more you question, the more you learn. And learning is the spice of life. It really is.
Question whatever you think you know.
For example, if you don’t read, try it. I recently took up reading fiction at night – something that I would never be caught doing as a kid – and I now thoroughly enjoy it. I enjoy it because I found an author that I like. He writes by using regular English. His books are written on topics that I enjoy.
Who knew that I liked reading after all? I had no idea by reading Shakespeare.
The key was to find something that I connected with. Real life gives us options. We can choose to pursue virtually any career path, read any book…believe any political philosophy.
Letter grades do not exist in real life. Take advantage of that!