I considered high school to be a complete utter waste of time – not to mention it was a mind-numbingly futile experience. I thought most of the curriculum was nonsensical. Essentially, I went to school because I had nothing better to do and I was heavily conditioned into believing that going to school five days a week was the “right” thing to do at the time. I had been led to believe (like most of you) that school was preparation for life. It was not. If you are interested in true education, I want to encourage you to pursue other alternatives, namely learning about things that interest you. (ie: self education based on a curriculum you devise) Because that’s infinitely more important than spending four years in a classroom in exchange for worthless letter grades. Most of us have been misled by society (and parents) into believing that the only foundation for long term success lies in an institutionalized education. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s not an accident that – prominent thinkers like Seth Godin and Sir Ken Robinson promote being cautious about betting your success on something as archaic as school. Pursuing the path of self-education is one of the most effective ways one can gain insight into how the world truly operates. Paying big dollars for the illusion of education and a piece of paper is clearly not a smart choice. This is what being an autodidact is all about – understanding of yourself.
1.) School is the modern day ponzi-scheme
True learning takes place when you perceive a need – when you have a void that needs to be filled, when you become curious about something. In the absence of a felt need, it is human nature to perceive any new information to be irrelevant or arbitrarily forced upon us, in which case we subliminally categorize it as useless and mentally throw it away. Recall how much information you’ve learned in class that’s actually relevant to what you do today. Do you really use even 5% of what you learned in school TODAY?
2.) School will gradually erode you of your natural abilities and leave you worse off.
All of us are born into this world with the capacity for unconditional love, compassion and a sense of never ending curiosity. All of these natural qualities will eventually get eroded by the insidious indoctrination process by which school operates. It is not uncommon to find people uninterested in learning after they have gone through the traditional educational system.
3.) It is a business filled with bureaucrats
Ever visited a government agency (ie: the DMV) to get something done? There’s hundreds of forms to fill out, dozens of departments and even more clueless bureaucrats to deal with (which includes admissions officers at universities) before you get permission to begin to start learning. Not to mention, the sheer size of schools these days forces the teachers to follow “one size fits all” curricula.
4.) It is a colossal waste of time and money
The average person lives about 25,000 days and 8300 days of that is spent sleeping, which leaves us with roughly 16,700 days to work with. You shouldn’t waste this precious (and UN-recoverable) time on something as absurd as institutionalized education. Going to school these days is the equivalent of forcing yourself to sit through a mind-numbingly boring 4-year long movie that you would ordinarily turn off in a blink of an eye. As an added benefit, you are likely to graduate with a massive amount of debt.
5.) The Myth of the “A” student
It is actually very easy to be a “A” student in your career as a student, you just have to focus your time on pleasing the authority figure in the classroom and convince them that you are more interested in the subject material than you really are. This is typically known as “people skills” in the corporate world. Which is merely an adaptive attribute developed by smart students in order to achieve a specific result, in our case: get an “A”. You’ll be surprised how many “A”s I have pulled off following this simple methodology. Also, remember that being smart can also mean that you are less likely to succeed. Acing tests are also a variation of simply memorizing information and vomiting them on a piece of paper on exam day. Like many students, I have learned more ways to “beat the system” and get “A”’s in round-a-bout ways than actually learning – simply because the final grade is how our worth is assessed in school. Even if this is not your intention – the pressure of getting good grades will often force you to put actual learning on hold.
6.) Teachers are often clueless
In high school, I remember EVERY teacher and guidance counselor telling us about how it is absolutely imperative that we go to college upon graduation and without it, the chances of being “successful” was almost zero. After experiencing the “real world” for a few years, I realized that I was fed with a daily dose of poppycock by the very people I respected. Like millions of others, I was just a pawn in the school of conformity and obedience. Never make the mistake of accepting everything teachers say based on the fact that they have a PhD or everyone else puts them on a pedestal because the majority classifies them as “experts” in any given field. These “experts” are among the most confused and often closed minded folks out there. They are often isolated from the rest of the world and believe that they are superior to the rest of the populace. Note that, there ARE some unbelievable educators out there who truly care about the student in a very deeply meaningful way – but these people are a rarity.
“In traditional education we learn about everything but ourselves. Since educators cannot be absolutely sure of the human elements of self discovery, they ignore them entirely. The logical approach should be just the opposite: that which we do not know for sure should maintain our attention. We spend hundreds of hours in school studying material of questionable utility, and virtually no time in attempting to understand the human needs, drives, motives, and emotions that we live with every day. We leave these to experts, who have differing opinions, who do not understand themselves because they also were not empowered with the tools for self-discovery early enough to make them an integral part of their personality”
7.) Don’t believe the hype
“A college graduate will earn an average of more than a million dollars within his/her lifetime” Really? These figures never factor in the massive amounts of debt you have to get just to pay for a piece of paper that you likely won’t use anyway. I remember seeing this poster in high school and wondered “Wow! That sounds great! I am definitely going to college” Boy, was I wrong. Also remember that once you get a student loan – you are forced to get a job upon graduation, which generally gets you riding the 9-5 work train for a lifetime. Granted , if your parents are gullible enough to pay for your school or you got some sort of a “fully paid” scholarship, college is a fine idea. I mean who doesn’t like free money?
If you want to be educated, going to school can be one way to do it. (it’s obviously not the only way) Figure out exactly what makes you happy and devise a plan to reach your dreams. This is a lot easier said than done – another reason why you should avoid school altogether and spend more time exploring the unknown. Remember that the majority of people go from cradle to grave working at jobs which are unsuitable for them just to get a paycheck. Assuming full responsibility for oneself and devising a way out of the skinner box is no easy task – otherwise everyone would successfully execute such thing. If you are in school, fine. Just be aware of the fact that correlating success with school or a university degree can be a mistake. Also, despite my advice – if you are still planning on attending college (or currently a student) – nothing wrong with that, just be sure to thoroughly read Steve’s tips for college students as soon as humanly possible.
1. Michael Ellsberg on the end of institutionalized education (Video)
2. Self-University by Charles D. Hayes
3. Vinod Kohsla on Education (@ 07:30 Mark)