I always liked school. I liked attending classes, learning about new things, doing well on tests, getting praised by teachers and other students, making friends, and feeling like I belonged somewhere. School was such a natural thing for me and for everybody else. It was the “right path” for people to be inside a building, grouped with other people their own age, for the most formative years of their life. That’s around 14 years of your body changing and your mind opening and your heart breaking and hardening and softening – and you’re with hundreds of students going through the same thing. But this doesn’t always become a bonding experience. Children can be nasty.
It was only during university that I fully realized that this business of schooling just isn’t working for everyone. For one thing, we’re made to believe that our paths are linear: elementary school –> high school –> post-secondary education, preferably university –> job –> career – with, of course, marriage and children. But life isn’t a straight line. It’s a series of loops and zig zags, and it’s messy. And the educational system doesn’t really reflect or teach that.
One of the things that I remember the most from The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, by Sir Ken Robinson, is his claim that the educational system has been formed to churn out work-ready adults during the Industrial Revolution. That’s why there’s a subject hierarchy, and why people believe that getting credentials from a school will directly lead to good work. Think of that what you will, but if this is an agenda that was put into place hundred years ago, then we maybe should be worried that it hasn’t changed that much when pretty much everything else in society has. Of course, this agenda isn’t followed by every school in the world, but the prevailing notion of using education through schooling as a tool or path for the working world is unchallenged.
Education is supposed to challenge. It’s supposed to be about critical thinking, thinking for yourself, appreciating different perspectives, and growing into whoever you are supposed to be. Education happens over a lifetime. And I think that this is something that we forget or take for granted, which is a shame, because there are opportunities every day for us to learn.
And I’m not just talking about those everyday lessons like, “if you hit your sister then she’ll get hurt,” or “if you’re rude to the server your drink might taste funny.” While they are valuable and teach us about basic human decency, they don’t fully encompass what I talk about when I explain the difference between schooling and education. For me, education is also about finding a subject that interests you, and taking your own time and making an effort to learn more about it in whichever way makes the most sense for you. Take writing for example. You can get a BA or MFA in technical writing, communication, creative writing, public relations, and so on. But in order to make a living or lifestyle around writing, you have to figure out how to integrate this practice into your life. And so you learn about what other writers have done and are doing, through their blogs and other written work, going to events, and engaging in conversation with them.This kind of education is like training or development, and actually makes room for the subject to become a part of you, rather than a topic that you read about, take a test on, and then neglect for the rest of your life (here’s looking at you, algebra).
So, what I’m trying to say is that education is not and should not be reduced to a method or a business. It’s a significant part of our lives, and is integral to our growth. It’s empowering, especially if we’re the ones who take it upon ourselves to continue learning about what matters to us.
I hope you take the time and care to learn something that matters to you.