June 2, 2009

What We Learn in School

Hatched by Dave Ross
“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” -- Ecclesiastes 9:11

As the time approaches for the annual rite of passage known as high school graduation, I find myself thoughtful about some of the lessons that we learn in school.

One thing I have come to appreciate over the years is that many of the things that the schools (all public schools, everywhere) attempt to instill in our children are not necessarily survival skills for the real world, and are certainly not lessons that people who hope to become good citizens should necessarily take to heart.

One thing that we have to accept is that the institution of public education is resentful of, and somewhat afraid of, the truly exceptional child. It is far more comfortable with the mediocre achiever. Public education was created in its present form at the beginning of the last century to turn out good factory workers. Not poets, inventors, dreamers, or revolutionary thinkers.

Again and again we see that many of the people who are paragons of success in today’s society, such as Bill Gates, didn’t even finish school, or at least were not considered good students when they were there. The ultimately successful in life are not always those who won the races or got the best grades, or made friends with their teachers.

Another thing is that the school’s mission of maintaining good order and discipline isn’t always in line with promoting our nation’s freedoms, such as freedom of expression. School districts get in trouble almost every year for trying to censor school publications -- the most recent that I'm aware of was Fallbrook High School District in San Diego County, California -- and trying to tell kids what messages they can or cannot express on their T-shirts.

Respect for authority, remembering who is in charge, and following instructions without question are important to maintain good order; but they don’t do a darn thing to encourage thoughtful citizens to come to their own conclusions, follow their own paths, and carve out their own versions of success.

The next Einstein or Eisenstein will be someone you have never heard of.

Hatched by Dave Ross on this day, June 2, 2009, at the time of 11:42 PM

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