Day 15: Education Is Going Down The Drain

Education is going down the drain, and into the ocean…. the ocean of the great internet abyss.

Being a student for almost 15 out of 20 years of my life, I’ve seen the methods in educations change right before my eyes. In Grade 1, they told us we needed to know cursive handwriting for high school. Then in Grade 3 they said we’d still be using long division in high school. Grade 4, they said if we didn’t know how to use the library, we wouldn’t be able to research anything… and then in Grade 5 they started us on a typing course to accelerate our typing speed. In Grade 6, they showed us how to use an online search engine. In Grade 7, the typing course was debunked as its uses were minimally beneficial in the increasingly technology-savvy students. So then in Grade 8, when everyone in my english class asked the teacher “when are we going to use our cursive handwriting that we learned in Grade 1?” there was, of course, no easy answer.

Things change. And yet people talk as though it wasn’t happening right now. I wish I was there when they released the Apple 1, they might say, or, I wish I’d been around for the first cellphone, the first car, the first rocket ship… You can go on and on, talking about all the things you’ve missed, while sitting here watching the newest and greatest thing pass right before your eyes. Education is one of these changing things. I believe this will change the world…. so why are you looking away?

It’s Just Too Easy

I was recently reading about the marketing campaign of an american high school. Their billboard read something like “100% post-secondary admission for our students.” Hmmm.

I walked into my bank the other day and saw a sign that said “anyone can qualify for a student loan – ask us how”. Hmmm.

How strange, seeing that a couple of years ago my cousin was unable to attend post-secondary school for programming because his senior math course grades were below standard to meet the stingy A+ requirement. Now he works for one of the greatest Canadian companies as a programming lead, all without the education that was ‘unavailable’ to him at the time. C+ is now the new qualifier for most programming degrees.

The truth is, lowering the grade requirement hurts the education system, more than the stingy A+ requirement. Sure, my cousin probably would have loved to get into that A+ program, but he also was able to overcome the adversity, which still moved him into a great direction. When you have the grade requirement so low, the adversity goes away, for both the person who needs to get the higher grades to be accepted into the program, and the one who might not have them, but chooses to move on with their plan anyway. The hardship dwindles. The lack of reverence for quality education, and a please-everyone environment increases. That’s been the trend happening over the past 20 years: it’s just too easy to get into university, and it’s demotivating to those who might otherwise start something truly new from ever acting. New things always come through the refining fire of adversity… and it’s just not there anymore.

University Wasn’t Made For Everyone

Don’t get me wrong. I am a strong fighter for globally accessible education, but in the future, it won’t be the universities who will be giving it out. When you’re in school talking about scholarly works with your professor, the desire to be a free, open-minded thinker, or trying to add to the dialogue of your given discipline… you might not realize that not everyone went to University 30-40 years ago; mainly because it wasn’t for everyone. The idea that a white collar job is the best and most successful kind of job has duped this generation into doing something that they were never meant to do: go to university.

Quality vs. Quantity

It was the idea that University was too expensive, too hard to get into, time-consuming, and stretching, that attracted the ‘right candidates’ to the university themselves. We see Universities compromising themselves to increase bottom lines, while giving off the impression that they’re helping the world receive a more accessible education. But it’s not the universities job to provide education for everyone. It was their job to maintain high quality education for those who sought it out: the fair, open-minded thinker.

I browse craigslist.com every now and then for audio/video freelancing jobs, and I see the new buzz words pop up every now and then for companies and human resource recruiters in the job qualifications dialogue. “Looking for someone with a BA in … or willing to assess the right candidate with experiential skills“. Sometimes I just see higher up white collar jobs, even ignoring the BA requirement all together, and asking directly for candidates with experiential skills.

So what are experiential skills, anyway? Well, It’s pretty much like saying, “if you know what you know, and can prove it, we’ll hire you.” Can you believe that? I mean it’s awesome for those with solid experience and no formal education, but it’s also sad.

Companies are now having to do the jobs that the Universities were supposed to be doing. The truth is, companies don’t care about what degree you have, where you got it from, and whether you were on the honour roll. What they want are innovators, critical thinkers and real skills. Remember when I talked about people wishing to have been there when the Apple 1 was built? Companies want people like those… the people who create. People who can start a search engine company in their garage and change the way we interact with the world. And it looks like Universities just aren’t cutting it anymore. There’s a dilution of knowledge, and saturation of mediocrity filling the seats of these once-prestigious temples of academia.

What Does This Mean For The Future?

I mentioned the futility of learning cursive writing in Grade 1, and then never needing to use it high school. I would say that the way we access useful education is in a similar situation right now.

The internet is allowing us to learn new skills, pursue knowledge and access workspaces that people would have never dreamed about in prior years. We’re talking about things like how to shoot HD video on a camera, learning a programming language, how to record a song in a professional studio. And these are things people used to learn by going door-to-door, and looking for a mentor, or someone they could apprentice. The only difference is, we’re not going door-to-door anymore. We’re going from website-to-website. That’s why I believe places like Lynda.com are the future of where people will get these “experiential skills” that companies are looking for. That’s also why I think you should consider dropping something in your life to make room for a new style of learning.

Now if you’re going to university, this post isn’t meant to make you drop out. But it’s meant to make you think about why you’re going. Where is it that you plan to go? Is University going to help you get there? I agree that there are skills that have yet to bridge the gap between the internet, higher education, and self-starting, like, if you want to be a brain surgeon, I’m sorry, but you just can’t learn that on Lynda.com, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be one. However, some of these more modern and expanding online educational tools could be a great supplement to your higher-learning education.

Larry Page, co-founder of Google, showed this video at his most recent TED Talk. Check it out.

 

What does education mean for your future?

Feel free to email me at sean@fromnetflixtolynda.com I’d love to hear about your own personal journeys and discoveries in education and the like.

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