The industrial age. Factories full of assembly lines. Assembly lines full of average people, doing average work, creating average products for the average consumer. If the industrial age taught us anything it’s that “good” jobs are in limited quantities.
Big companies, the ones you’re trained to want to work for, have limited budgets. There’s only one CEO. There’s only one manager. There’s only one “head of department”.
Of course, the problem with this thinking starts far earlier.
As we’ve seen, ranking starts unfairly early with standardized testing in elementary school. If you don’t get into the 4th grade advanced reading class, you won’t get into it in 5th grade. If you don’t get in in 5th grade, you certainly won’t in middle school. Come high school you’ll be so far behind you shouldn’t even bother. Then the fear starts.
The industrialized system of education doesn’t allow for the slow-starter to grow and find their passion. Instead, it’s easier to tell them they aren’t good at something. It’s easier to raise kids to meet a lowered average than it is to raise the average. In this system it’s far too easy for natural gifts to go unnoticed by those who aren’t focused on finding and amplifying them.
In my eyes, teachers are approaching their craft like this:
- Get kids to behave
- Fill them full of information
It’s almost as if a teacher can get them to behave, be obedient, walk in single file lines, raise their hand before speaking — then fill them full of information — suddenly passion for a topic will come bursting through the soil!
Unfortunately, that just isn’t how it works. Rarely does a student — a young one at that — say, “I really love this topic! Is there a text book I can read?”
Seriously, who really cares how long the Nile river is, or who was the first to discover cheese? How is memorizing that ever going to help anyone? Instead, we need to give kids projects that allow them to exercise their minds and discover things for themselves.
I believe passion comes from success. Solve a difficult problem, get praise, and maybe you’ll want to do it again. Do something better than your friends and you might get hooked on that feeling.
Things I want my sons to know while they fight through the industrial system of education:
- Grades are an illusion
- Your passions are reality
- Your work is worth more than trying to match an answer key
- Persistence in the face of opposition is powerful
- Fitting in is a short-term strategy
- Standing out pays off in the long run
- If you care deeply enough about something to be criticized for it, your work is done for the day. Go home.
What I want the teachers “teaching” my sons to know:
- Teach my sons how to lead
Leadership is the most important skill in the modern revolution. In this revolution, nothing happens until you step up and simply begin.
2. Help them learn how to solve interesting problems
As the world changes faster than ever before, people who solve problems with yesterdays instructions will be rewarded far less. The value is in the individual who can draw a new map, who can solve a problem that didn’t exist yesterday.
Last but not least, if you ever send my sons home with a report card that reads, “Lacks determination and interest.” I’m not going to talk to my sons about it. I’m going to talk to you. Because who’s fault is that? Who’s fault is it that they’re not interested in your teaching? It doesn’t matter if the student is 6 or 16.
If the teacher has a job to do, isn’t addressing this problem part of it? Isn’t it all of it?