I’ve been sitting on this for two weeks or so. I have notes and some confusion as to what exactly I am going to do with them. What I can say for now is that this post in particular is not going to be the same sort of long-winded rant I usually give. Instead of trying to dig through my notes and create something that is both coherent and concise, which I will admit upfront is nigh impossible, I am going to instead attack myself a little bit for your general amusement.
I Am A Hypocrite.
I understand, very clearly, that someone who did not use the system to its fullest is perhaps the last person that should be showing anyone how to use it properly. The problem arose early on in my high school career when I realized just how awful the system was and had no way to combat it. It was a case of being absolutely stuck in the assembly line and being forced to either ride it through to the end and meet whatever fate was there or simply jumping off the line and being well worse off in the eyes of the world than I would otherwise. This is not to say I am pro-dropouts. In fact it is fairly obvious to see that I am as far in the opposite camp as I probably can be. I want people to succeed at knowledge-infusion, but I also want to do it in a way that other people might not exactly agree with – and that is by ripping down and rebuilding everything.
Actually, scratch that. It isn’t that I want to destroy everything. I’ve been out of the system long enough that there could be good things happening that I’m not aware of. Sure, I might have my doubts that is the case, but when I look over my notes I have moved farther away from my issues with the system and closer to issues with the student population itself. Hence the title of my little project. Students don’t always know how to be students, either to get the best outcome from the system or to get the best outcome from themselves.
Yes, I do have problems with what I experienced as a teenager. But I also know I did myself no favors in utterly ignoring it. Again, a little hypocrisy, as I doubt my own stubbornness and disappointment would have allowed me to do anything other than what I did, which is why I feel somewhat indebted to trying to fix the problem. I most definitely hit a wall of simply wanting to pass and escape rather than do any semblance of learning, which is entirely the wrong way to go about one of the most important things you do in your life (especially up to that age) and is something I have talked about here before.
Hypocrisy be damned, though, and I will continue on down the path of figuring out just how to be a better student. My goal, which will no doubt come off as incredibly mission statement-y, is to teach kids not just how to be the best student they can be but also how to get the most out of not only the system (or any learning situation) but also themselves. There really is no reason to be considered “apparently smart” when you are able to prove it consciously, fully, and repeatedly that there is nothing apparent about your abilities. I do not have that luxury, nor may I ever, but that is not going to stop me from trying. For now…
Everyone is well aware that the primary goal of a commercial business is to profit. They do this by being efficient, planning ahead, and using bits and pieces of their current profits to build toward more and more profits in the future. It is just this kind of thinking that could be applied to the mentality of the student and their education. By thinking of yourself more as a corporation and knowledge as profit as your goal, one can begin to craft a model of living that is best suited toward maximizing your brainy profits.
Every company had to start somewhere, and so does every student. Companies choose what sort of industry they wish to be in, what kind of materials to start with, and go from there, adding and subtracting along the way as they find what does and does not work for their needs and driving corporate vision. Putting together a vision of your future self and building a pathway toward it is a wonderful first step in the process, but always (always always) remember that this path and finish line can and probably will change. Being prepared for these changes, or at least anticipating where they might come from, can help ease into them as seamlessly as possible. For instance, young high school students enjoy thinking about what sort of college or university they want to attend. They see them on sporting events and in all sorts of other regions of popular culture. They feature in films, TV shows, books, etc and long before the words “tuition”, “financial aid”, and “student loan” are even of interest to them they are drawn to these powerhouses of learning.
Reality soon hits, as it almost always does, and those that don’t find themselves seated at the perfect spot on that educational bell curve and thrust into whatever school they can find that meets their needs, both in terms of the actual learning context and what they are able to afford. Still, hope is not lost, especially if you had known that this potential disaster could strike. Research colleges (and even potential majors of study) the way companies research product markets – find where you are best suited for yourself as a student and as a future employee out in the real world. You might be fantastic at all things basket-weaving , but outside of a shop on Etsy it might not be the best career choice one could make…and it also may be severely undervaluing your own personal worth.
It is hard not knowing that you are good at something. It is that old paradox of possibly being the greatest violinist ever but you don’t know that because you’ve never even held a violin let alone tried to play it. I tend to usually fall into the mindset of schools featuring almost too many classes that don’t do enough as far as teaching the subject the way someone interested in it would want to have it taught, but I know that without taking a class like Chemistry I would never have known how much I should not be left around chemicals without very direct supervision. On the other hand, I found myself interested in classes like Psychology and Philosophy in college (or the ways they are taught at least) that I probably would have had no inclination to sign up for if it was not a requirement of, oh, almost every student that attended that university.
I walk this tight rope every single day, and I did not even have this kind of advice available to me fifteen years ago. I hate being forced to “learn” something I don’t wish to, but sometimes am shocked to find myself wrapped up in a thing I’ve never heard of until five minutes before that moment. It is always very possible that I could have created a deeper filter for that kind of thing if I would have been more aware of it earlier (or even at the time) but alas I am well past being able to make those kinds of choices and time travel/age regression technologies are nowhere near where they should be for me to pull off such a feat.
Businesses can indeed fail miserably because they too do not have the technology to undo their past mistakes. However, there also exist companies that were able to take their mistakes, learn from them, and use them to build to a brighter future before they could be swallowed by their own lapse of competence. If you set out for a goal, be it a potential career or even just a first step like “I have always wanted to learn about __insert subject here__”, prepare yourself for possible letdown (though hopefully this happens closer to the latter than the former). At the age of 14 or 15 (or sometimes even 18 or 19) a person is not all that well equipped to be a good judge of themselves as a 9-to-5 adult. Granted, I honestly and truly want to help people equip themselves, but nobody is perfect. By creating a map of where you wish to go, it is easier to spot the potential forks and maybe even build out from them and see what wonderful places they go. You may be someone that wanted to be a rock star but found out through one or two music classes too many that you are horrible at playing any sort of instrument — but hey, you understand music and you have found yourself doing incredibly well on the composition side and there are classes and careers just for that! Amazing! You never even thought of all the hours and days you would have to spend actually writing music before picking up that guitar or those drumsticks, and once you did you were quickly asked by the police never to do so again, but the actual music was darn good! That’s a profit you never expected in a market you were barely paying attention to and now it is where you are digging in your heels for the long haul. You forked for from your plan and still came to a place you enjoy. Really that is all one can ever hope to do in business, education, or otherwise.
I guess I do need to wrap this thing up. I want to go back to that original question and once again ask if school really matters to you. For all the malaise most students imbue when faced with it, it seems almost silly to hear those same people as adults chastising the system, even if just for financial reasons. Everyone wants to give money to education. They want to make what garbage they were given better. Everyone is always screaming about improvements, even if they have no real idea what exactly could be done to improve anything. Just giving teachers more pay is not the answer (although it is still undoubtedly deserved in most cases) and simply screaming about test scores has about as much the same effect as screaming at a tree to get it to move out of your way.
It bears repeating – school matters. Underline that in your brain at least twice. People actually do understand how important it is and how most of it is probably wasted just playing babysitter for a generation of people so that the previous generation is able to do all the other work that needs to be done in the world. We are given a finite amount of time to shape ourselves into whatever it is we (or our parents/guardians/teachers) wish. We have a defined starting point (well, two if you count something like preschool) and endpoints based on whatever we decide our goals are (dropout to ‘i may never stop going to school’). Those without goals, or with goals that are not clearly defined, tend to float along to whatever seems appropriate, and this is how one ends up being two years into college with “Unknown” as a major on all of his or her records. Two years away from the real world is not when you decide where to slot yourself. Yes, it might work out that you get everything perfect even at that point, but more than likely you will find yourself coming home at night from some other random job to a diploma you might never be out of debt from.
Start early. Start as early as you possibly can. Even if you give yourself a “top five” and work from those, that’s fine, just do something before the eleventh hour tolls on your oh-so-important education. I can not scream that from my soapbox enough. The resources exist to show you exactly what you need to succeed. Use them. Don’t end up with an education you’ll never use and a life you never wanted. You do not want to be five or ten years removed from school and look back on those two questions with “No, because I didn’t let itmatter” as your final answer.
Once more with feeling…
Let School Matter.
Now, I’m not trying to create a whole bunch of stress here in either direction. I promise. Worrying too much that you are wasting time in some classes while not doing enough in the classes you care about is not where I want your focus to be. Even if everything went my way, there would still be time out of your day spent doing those things you might not exactly enjoy. I’m not trying to be some kind of torturous whip-loving headmaster and I am definitely not trying to be hypocritical although it may be coming across that way. It is just that there is an entire universe that is absolutely meant to be discovered and experienced and if you want to get as much of that sponged into your brain as possible you might have to look in directions you never would have though of before. You have nine months a year for twelve months of your life, at least, to be a captive audience toward a hardcore, non-stop information stream. It’s amazing to think about. Maybe you love things like Star Wars but never thought that a physics class could show you how much technology has advanced to make the possibilities of laser weaponry or even interstellar travel much more of a possibility than the grandiose boosts of science fiction could drown you with. The best thing about that, though, is that there are people out there doing that kind of thing for a living.
The problem with this information stream comes in multiple layers and flavors, but they all are mostly just distractions. You know, all of that social high-school drama stuff that clogs up your maximum brain time. I can’t tell you to turn that off. Trust me, I tried quite a few times in my younger days to ignore those kinds of things and it just did not work nor will probably ever work. Life doesn’t work that way. The only thing I can say for sure, and I’m sure most of you have heard it before, is that you are not the first nor the last that will survive those issues and, suffice to say, they almost never matter as much as you think they do when trapped in that moment.
It truly amazes me just how much time a teenager will spend worrying about a big date, a bad hair day, or a dropped text message conversation while paying relatively little attention to their own (hopefully) bright future. I know, I know, school is an every day thing no matter what but that dance is once in a year, if you not once in a lifetime! Everything has to be perfect! I can admit that one harsh grade among dozens of high scores is nothing to fret over, at least not on the level of a zit on the forehead or a bad first date… … …Sarcasm aside, that low grade might not matter, but I use it to create a mental picture of just how much students care about the stuff that may never affect them again, but staying out of focus from the wonderful world of knowledge can hurt over time and you may not even realize it until it is way too late.
Am I implying here that you should live without emotions or personal connections? Nope. Personalities are built on that stage, looking out into an audience of your peers for approval. Just remember to keep it all in perspective. You would be surprised how much insanely important drama you forget over the years. I feel like I’m being hypocritical again, or maybe just confusing. It is just not enough to proclaim “BALANCE” as an answer when everything should be swayed more to the side of just, well, figuring out your life. Yes, you do have a while to get that all squared away, but this is a pretty good warning that time ticks faster than you think. Eight years I have been out of school and I feel like I could do it all over again tomorrow. I am more a student now than I ever was when I was supposed to be, and I am dismayed that no second chances exist so that I can pay more attention to what I missed the first time. It may be just a matter of hindsight as 20/20 now but the reason people like me talk like this is to clue you in on what we see from here in your future that you can not or will not see from your present. There is quite a bit of haze wafting out in the front of you on the walk of life, no question about that, and it takes a lot of guts and hard work to fight through it and come out at the right place on the other side…
Part three coming soon. Class dismissed.
Two quick notes:
1. What follows is part one of what will at least be a two part piece. I have not as of yet completely worked my way through it but should have it complete in the coming days unless it really gets out of control. The genesis of it was wondering what exactly I would say to my 9th grade self about the school years ahead, and this is what was born out of it.
2. If you enjoy what follows, or anything I have posted on this site in the past few months, it would be amazing if you gave me a little word-of-mouth advertising to all of your various social networks or anyone else who might get a kick out of reading my rants and opinions. There are various ways to share content, all done through buttons at the bottom of each post. I am definitely not at any kind of level where paid advertising would do me any good, but maybe in a few months or a year I will find myself there. I would just appreciate some kind of readership base. That may be asking way too much of the people that do visit this place at my insistence, but I am also aware that many people find this site through Google and other search platforms. I love all of that and do not want it to stop, but I would love to see this grow. The more I see that people care, the harder it will push me to create. Thanks in advance.
I begin with little more than a question –
“Does school matter to you?”
Oh, and another question — “Why?”
The way a person answers that question says a lot about them, especially if they are still in school. As I am no longer in school, I can admit that school only mattered to me because I was told it was supposed to matter. “Graduate, go to college, get a job” they all said as though this apparent assembly line process was so streamlined that failure was a complete impossibility. The sad truth is that I really did want an education. It just so happened that what I was being offered did not always mesh with with my expectations. I spent numerous hours in and out of classrooms learning, studying, and being tested on information that I knew would have absolutely no bearing on my existence. And guess what? All of that information is gone, or at least is so buried in my subconscious so as to never be recalled even with a gun to my head. I can not even give examples; that is just how far gone it all is. It simply did not matter.
That right there changes the question though. It is not about the school itself, right? It is about what is actually being taught that does or does not matter. How many people care about all those niche sciences, carpentry, metal work, and brain draining high-end mathematics? Are you still taking a least some of those classes? Of course, because you are told to – you have almost no choice. Your fates were determined long ago that in order to move forward in life you had to complete those classes no matter what – by any means necessary.
It is about now where you might look at me and notice a little bit of bitterness. Yes, that might be true. Even when I was a student I felt like what I was doing was not worth my time or effort. I was a disenfranchised with a system that labeled me as smart and then chastised me for not “applying myself” when all I did was pass what they told me to. I was not happy, and I realized that “C or better” got me to the end just as much as 110% did. Looking back on that, I see how awful a choice that was. Still, I would make it today just the same if I was thrown back into that situation. The problem is that I would still be completely, utterly wrong. A little bit of conscious effort could have given me the education I dreamed of, or close to it, without sacrificing years of my time to all of those undesired pursuits.
First, I should have looked at what I was interested in. That’s a pretty good starting point for using any time and energy that you consider important. Then I should have looked at what exactly I was good at, and prayed there was some sort of overlap between those two categories. From that overlap, or at least those two separate categories, I could have gotten a much better snapshot of my potential future. In fairness, I loved computers in high school, but one college level programming class left me with a giant wound in my heart after I realized just how unfit I was for that profession. It took me way too long to look at writing and more abstract creativity as I think I could maybe possibly kind of do, and I’m still paying for that now. Things could be very different if I would have noticed that in the ninth grade instead of the fourteenth.
That is why school really does matter. I may not like the system but it served as a great laboratory of all sorts of subjects that I may never have come across otherwise. It also, for better or worse, can give you plenty of time to realize what you may be darn good at and might want to look into as to what type of life you could make for yourself with your cache of newly discovered skills.
Let’s face it, I’m in no way trained to be a teacher, but that is what I would teach if I could – how to engineer the brightest possible future. I do not want my students to see their entire childhood as a raging gauntlet of information bent on destruction. Yes, there is a never-ending supply of information ready to be swam through, but the right navigational tools can turn that great, wide open ocean into a picturesque river of success…
That’s a pretty lovely piece of writing that I will end this section on. Part two of some as of yet unidentified number will be up in the near future, probably within 48 hours. I hope you come back and check it out. Until then…