People love to complain about how ineffectual public education is. My self included! It’s a waste of time, expensive, and lacks real-world application.
But there’s another, larger issue.
I’ve made it no secret that I never enjoyed school. I changed districts too many times, had a tough time making friends, and didn’t report grades I was proud of until college. Not only that, I always felt like I wasn’t really learning anything. I was curious and driven but could barely drag myself into a classroom. This carried on for some time.
The curriculum never really prepare us for the future. It generalizes us, asks us to commit to life altering decisions, and hardly parallels the real world.
With all of that said, much of societies approach to education after we graduate is inherently worse. People begin to accept passive education (television, doom scrolling, word-of-mouth, etc) and lose any level of intentionality. People accept the track they’re put on in early elementary and see it through the rest of their life, never exploring too much and getting too caught up in tabloids.
Maybe they pick up tidbits along the way but don’t care to learn much now that the obligation is behind. They don’t leave much space for experimentation and instead fill free time with debauchery, entertainment, and a fair bit of virtue signaling.
It’s important for everyone to realize this: Whether or not we are wrapped up in the education system, we’re gonna have to do it on our own. We will have to build our own curriculum. One that fits us snug, one that allows us to accomplish our goals, one that doesn’t have an expiration date. In college, I was at least able to supplement my curriculum. The learning would go on with or without me.
After the dust settled - it’s absent. All up to me.
It’s a two-pronged problem and I don’t think enough people feel strongly about either side. On one hand, our education system does a poor job of setting us up for the real world. The incentives are structured around success on standardized testing and staying in your lane as much as possible. It can also be quite unforgiving and cruel for some. On the other hand, many slip into some level of complacency when we invariably and solely become responsible for our own education. We defer when the world becomes heavy, we become too distracted, or even a little bit of both. We weren’t encouraged to diverge early on and so we don’t.
I like to believe we’re making reasonable step towards improvement in education. More people are tackling education reform now than ever have before. Our teachers care so much (look at how they gracefully handled the pandemic). The internet is well beyond critical mass and slowly integrating itself into the process.
It’s the second hand that scares me the most, and what I plea for more people to take with stride. No one can take charge of your education but you. And the best part? It has never been easier than before to take charge of your continued education.
I once wrote about finding your passion. In order to do so, you need to try everything you can get your hands on. Learn as much as you humanly can. Public education at least exposes you to a myriad of subjects. The real world doesn’t have to if you don’t want it to. And don’t feel compelled to learn what the world thinks you should. Accept new information without filter, experiment with your interests, and enjoy yourself.
I think what blows my mind more than anything, is that nearly any interest (even the weird ones) all have some semblance of community out there. Half of the time, it’s just a matter of linking up with the right people or being at the right place. So if you don’t like learning alone, you shouldn’t need to. Keep trying.
If you feel like your education failed you, you’re not alone. For months and months I logged on once or twice a week with my writing community. Just to talk about writing. I have no doubt that our education had failed us all in some capacity and so we started planning our own curriculum.
And maybe after reading now, you’re feeling overwhelmed or guilty. Or maybe, you’re doing enough. Or maybe you know exactly what you want to learn about, be better at, and you just haven’t acted on it yet. Either way, just get on with it!
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” ― Dr. Seuss