Unlearn the Rules of Education

Ah, here’s the catch with learning: the way we do it in the U.S. (and lots of other places) doesn’t really set you up to be a high-functioning professional. I spent nearly two decades in school, like many people, being told that my individuality is basically all that matters… my homework, my test scores, my admissions essay, etc. But the real world is vastly more complicated than how many questions I got right on a test. It’s harsher, far less forgiving of error, and thus requires collaboration and partnership… ways of working most teachers would classify as cheating. The nature of test taking and homework — which couldn’t be less a part of adult life — implies that if you don’t know the answer, just fill in your best guess and hope you get lucky. In grownup world, that sounds like a terrific way to get fired. But no one ever really talks about this in school, or at home. We’re pretty much expected to learn all that on our own, or hope that it comes naturally.

I don’t mean to say being smart and educated doesn’t matter. It does. But the world is full of underpaid, overeducated employees that expect their bosses to give a shit about their GPA. Meanwhile, that boss’ biggest issue with their cocky employee is probably over something really simple, like not knowing when to just shut up and listen.

Plus, getting ahead in adult life is largely about your reputation (see #19), being kind, and networking, none of which are found in most high school or college curricula. I also wish that more schools would offer some kind of Adult Money 101 course, where one might learn things like how to invest savings or pick the right mortgage. Look, I have no beef with trigonometry, but it is completely worthless to at least 80% of Americans. Yet we all take it in high school instead of a class that explains interest rates and the principles of budgeting. Crazy.

Anyway, most schools teach you to be smart, but not how to be a good, stable person. Maybe take some time to learn about that, too.

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© 2012, Ian Mathias