15 Minutes

Financial, Relationship and Spiritual Growth. Personal Development. Leadership.


Lessons To Unlearn From School, part III


“Education is the key to success”

Most of us were taught from an early age that to succeed in life you need to go to school, get good grades, so you can get into a good college and get a good job.

According to one study, the average college graduate over the course of their entire life will earn roughly one million dollars more than the average high school graduate. In another study, it was reported that if the high school graduate set aside the amount of money they would have spent on tuition and invested it at a modest return, they would end up earning roughly an extra million dollars at the end of their life.

In other words, college has zero influence on how much income you will make. Is this true? It has to be, Grissom from CSI said so.

There are of course exceptions. Some high-paying fields with specific education requirements like doctors and lawyers earn much higher salaries than average. But I also happen to know high school graduates (barely) that make millions in businesses of their own or in professional sales.

Higher education is big business. It is a multi-trillion dollar industry like coal, and oil, and automobiles and all those other industries that they teach you to hate in public schools. Like all other businesses, they sell a product. To increase sales, they create the false premise that in order to succeed in life you require their product. They created such a huge demand for their product, that the cost of it skyrocketed well beyond the pace of inflation. Thank God the government stepped in to ensure that it’s easy to get a student loan. The net result? Hundreds of thousands of young people with a college degree, $30,000 to $50,000 worth of debt, and entering the workforce four years behind the kids that decided not to pursue a degree.

Let’s pretend you are a business owner. Who would you rather hire, a young man with four years of work experience or one fresh out of college with a four-year degree in Sociology? It seems to me that most people would prefer the high school grad to the college boy who probably expects to be paid more because he has that degree. There is such an abundance of degree-carrying young men and women today, that a four year degree doesn’t even begin to distinguish you out of a crowd anymore.

The next time you stop at Starbucks, ask your barista what his degree is in. (I had a BA in Art while working at Starbucks).

Of course, the answer if you ask those multiple-billion dollar education factories is simple: Go back to school and get your masters degree.

Question: Are you working in the field that you received your degree in?

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Lessons to Unlearn from School, part II


Think inside the box

Remember what I said in part 1 about the goal of public schools? Reminder: It’s to create complacent followers not independent thinkers. To teach students what to think, rather than how to think.

Recollecting your school days, have you ever tried to push a project or assignment beyond the parameters of the lesson plan? And been punished for it? More often than not, it’s because the teacher is not qualified to teach outside of their box. They are certainly not incentivized by their government bureaucrat bosses to explore lessons outside that box. And besides, most teachers are the ones that memorized the contents of that box better than everyone else (“A” students wind up teaching…). Their job is to teach the box.

Back in one of my jobs as a barista, I worked with a lot of college students. One of them (attending public university) was showing me a list of available topics for her final paper. Along with each topic was: the thesis of the paper, a list of all the points that must be included to support the thesis, and the conclusion she must end with (I only wish I were making this up). In other words, these students were not being required to come up with their own thesis, analyze data and come to their own conclusions. They were being required to parrot back their professor’s opinions in order to get an “A.”

When I asked her “what if you disagree with your professor’s conclusion?” she didn’t really have an answer. To be honest, when I was her age I wouldn’t have had an answer to that either.

In public schools, conformity assures passing grades. Thinking outside the box will almost assuredly damage your academic record (unless your teacher is Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society). In the real world, conformity destroys individual initiative. And initiative is infinitely more valuable in the real world than conformity.


Lessons to Unlearn from School, part I

I constantly rip on the public education system in this country, but it is not without valid reasons. For those who think that it is a good thing that our children are required by law to attend 13 years of government school, can you answer this simple question: What is the purpose of government schools?

In case you didn’t know, our school system was modeled after the Prussian education system designed under Otto von Bismarck. The purpose of the Prussian education system was to provide a population of soldiers and laborers; an entire caste of people that follow orders rather than think for themselves. Congratulations, if you got straight A’s through school you are a perfect candidate to be an unthinking soldier or laborer.


Looks like there is some truth to the adage: “A” students wind up teaching, and “B” students wind up working for “C” students.

The first lesson everyone should unlearn from school is this:

1. Failure is permanent

What do I mean by this lesson? Let’s say in your Freshman year of high school you get 5 A’s and a C in wood shop. Congratulations, you will never be the Valedictorian of your class. Since your grades are part of your permanent academic record, that C has ruined your chances of having a perfect 4.0 cumulative GPA. You are tarnished goods.

Just like being sick one day for an emergency appendectomy (either receiving or performing one) will ensure that you will never get an award for perfect attendance. But that’s alright, since that is a stupid thing to award to someone anyway.

Compare these two students. Student A, who breezes through Algebra easily and gets an A without trying very hard. Or Student B, who fails Algebra. But after every single failed test, Student B re-studies all the material to learn why he made the mistakes he did. He then re-takes the test even though his grade is already established, just to make sure he has a firm grasp on it. Then next year, Student B retakes Algebra and gets a solid B.

Student A didn’t lift a brain cell to pass. Student B learned a valuable lesson about persistence and discipline.

Which student received more from the course? Which student is better suited to succeed at life after school?

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Pink Floyd Was Right

(…we don’t need no education)

I’m working on a 15 to 30 minute lecture for high school kids. The idea is to teach them what they really need to succeed in the world that they have never been taught in school. Please read and give me your feedback. Also, I have a well-deserved reputation for slamming the public school system, so if anyone feels that I’m being slightly too belligerent let me know and I’ll ease off. Maybe.

Consider a poll of ten business owners: A mechanic, an architect, an engineer, a restauranteur, a bartender, a doctor, a dentist, a car dealer, a barber, and an art gallery owner. They are given the task of imagining the ideal employee for their company. Not just an average employee that shows up and gets their paycheck everyday. The absolute perfect employee, someone who is so good for business that the owner would adopt them and leave them their company when they retire. When visualizing that perfect employee, write down 5 words that describe that perfect employee.

Consider also a poll of the rest of the 95% of people who are not business owners but employees. They are given the task of imagining the ideal boss. Not just an OK boss that pays you on time and doesn’t make you work overtime. A boss so inspiring that you would volunteer to work hard, to take on extra work and to move into their house with them just to car pool with them. When visualizing that perfect boss, write down 5 words that describe that perfect boss.

Now there are three things I want to point out.

First, is that these lists will end up being mostly the same. Honest. Fair. Fun. Caring. Industrious. Capable. Loyal. Generous. Energetic. Enthusiastic. Encouraging. Respectful. Talented. Reliable. Open-Minded. Considerate. Kind. Patient. Secure. Appreciative. Adaptable. Assertive. Cooperative. Diplomatic. Determined. Ethical. Persistent. Optimistic.

The second thing, is that none of these attributes (with the possible exception of “capable”) are things that are taught to you in our schools. When have you ever been taught the value of Honesty in one of your classes? Even if you are the owner of an engineering firm, which would you rather hire, an honest man that is average at math, or a compulsive liar that is excellent at math? Have you ever taken a class or listened to a single lecture on “Loyalty 101?” Do not get me started on public schools and “Open-Minded.”

The bottom line, is that we are never taught the essential skills to succeed at life in our 13 years of compulsory education. For the most part, those of you who continue on to college will also never be taught the essential skills to succeed in your respective careers. And yes, these are skills, because these are all traits that can be learned. No baby was born honest, or fair, or especially generous (but most are born fun).

The third and final thing I’d like to point out, is that these words don’t just describe the ideal boss or the ideal employee. They also describe the ideal child, the ideal parent, the ideal spouse, the ideal pretty-much-everyone-you-would-ever-want-to-associate-with-on-a-regular-basis type person. Wouldn’t you want all the people in your life to be this list? Well, since you can’t change them, the best thing that you can do is to change yourself, and try your best to be this list.

I’ll probably close by providing a recommended reading list and offer a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People to any student that wants one. Anyone have any thoughts or recommendations?