Last week, I nearly passed out on the upper deck of my parking garage.
It was fun, really. Well not fun. More like enlightening. I always thought people who passed out were being dramatic. I thought they were faking it.
Turns out it’s a real thing.
Why do humans have to make things fit in patterns?
Why, in a world where college is rapidly devaluing and the employee is paid less than ever and freelance work for anyone who has a skill is three clicks away, are we still explaining to high school kids higher education is the only answer?
Are we so determined to find a one-size-fits-all solution that we water down the message for everyone?
I read a statistic recently that said 78% of people hate their jobs. Why? Is it because those people have a job they don’t like? Or is it because they have a life they don’t like?
Is it because they bought the idea a college degree would make everything fine?
The system isn’t fine.
We’re faking it.
Why can’t we move the machine forward?
1. We Want Simplicity
It is easy to say “everyone should go to college.”
It’s also wrong.
You see, the problem with taking broad general statements and applying them to a large body is that people get left out. It’s the same as “nobody should go to college,” which isn’t true either.
And you know what’s sad? People who were always going to work on cars, who were always going to join their father’s business, who were always going to cashier at the shell station down the road still end up doing that.
Except now they’re trying to shake tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
Humans hate to be wrong. To admit the system of formal education as we know it ( memorizing facts, massive textbooks, repetition of a task over and over and over ) no longer applies to the world we live in is a bitter pill to swallow.
After all, smarmy blogger with your coffee and your Mac and your precious ideals, do you have a better plan?
Nope. I don’t. Not a comprehensive one.
I have a few ideas. And other people have a few ideas.
Continuous improvement is the key. We don’t have to fix everything right now, but we can fix one thing.
All it would take is a dose of humilty.
3. (Lack of) Talent
One day I might write a post about why all education should be privatized, but for now, consider this example:
When President Barack Obama rolled out a website for free health care in 2013 I imagine it was a high point for his life. After all the campaigning and bickering and fighting at last he’d succeeded. The launch was ready.
Except the website was garbage.
“But Todd, that was three years ago. Surely the government knows what they’re doing now.”
A couple weeks ago, Tennessee attempted to roll out online standardized testing for elementary schools. It was a great idea. Everyone would have the same tests which would be graded immediately. The children would be testing on the same kind of technology they’d be using for the rest of their lives.
Except the test crashed.
And then it got delayed.
And then everyone panicked, deciding it was “safer” to assign the test on pencil and paper.
PENCIL AND PAPER.
In a world where I can send a naked picture halfway across the world, transfer funds into my 401K, and write half of this article without leaving my toilet, kids are using a piece of yellow, lead-filled bark which they will likely never pick up again after they graduate.
I’m not saying government employees are incompetent.
I’m saying capitalistic ones are better.
4. Fear (of the unknown)
What does come next, then? If we can’t get our students lining up from 8–3 (and it must be 8–3), what will we do instead? How will the children learn??
Maybe like they’ve always learned — through practical education. Through being addressed with a problem and given the keys to solve it. Through watching someone who’s been there before and doing it with them.
“You can’t sail West!” they said.
“There’s no land past that big river.” they said.
“The black man has no soul” they said.
Fear of the unknown always loses.
College is big business! Of course it is! Why pay $1,000 to attend a semester of community college and live at home when you could pay $32,000 for the same length of time? Because it’s the American Dream! People died so you could have the right to sink yourself into a new car’s worth of NON-BANKRUPTABLE debt before you’re old enough to drink.
That’s what this country is all about. </sarcasm>
Reminder: a name is rarely worth $32,000. Even if they do have a better mascot.
Why did I tell you that’s story about me nearly passing out? (Other than the fact that, yes, I wanted to get your attention).
Because it turned out I had the flu, and was ignoring all the symptoms. I told everyone I was fine.
But I was faking it.
The American school system isn’t fine.
We’re faking it.