The Story of School

My kids (and many others) often complained about homework and education. “Why do I need to know this?” They were avoiding homework.  As a kid, I didn’t do any homework.  I had a 2.2 grade point average in high school.  I went to community college and then University of Hell, I mean Buffalo. On my resume, it does not have a great school.

When they asked about this, I told them the Story of School.

Warning: Please don’t troll me on this. Raise your own kids. Don’t correct my history or tell me I am a bad parent. I am just sharing.

The Story of School

School in its current form was designed by officials in the Bavarian empire.  They wanted to train soldiers and identify who should be officers. Soldiers should be obedient and trained and follow orders.  Officers should also be disciplined, but they should be smarter.  They created the K-12 system. (Kindergarten from German, literally ‘children’s garden.’)  It emphasized tests and fine-grained differentiation. They gave specific GRADES.  Those who were the best went to officers school for further training and differentiation.

Nowadays, kids go to college, but WHICH college matters a ton.  If you can get into one of the BEST colleges, you get to have advantage for your entire career.  It says your college on your resume forever.  It’s a major advantage and will get you more money than otherwise.

How do they figure out who goes to the best colleges and who goes to the worst?  Grades.  How do you get the best grades?  You do exactly what the teachers wants.  You follow orders like a good solider.  It’s a game.  They try to make the orders more and more complicated.  They give you math questions that are nearly impossible to solve.  They make you read books you hate by authors long since dead.  They make you memorize insignificant details. They try to make it hard to follow directions.  It’s a game.  The winner gets to put the best college on their resume for 60+ years.

Now, you can go to a crummy school and make less money and have less opportunity and fight for recognition. I didn’t go to a good school and I am doing well.  But every day, I imagine what I COULD have done if I had that advantage.  I might be a billionaire now or a senator or world leader.  I love my life and family, but I regret that no one told me about this game.  I wish I knew what school on your resume would mean.

Play the game, don’t let them break you. Do the homework early.  Read the book.  Solve the riddle.  Play the game and get A+ grades every time.  Make it a game.  Don’t say, “When will I use the quadratic equation in my life?”  The answer is never. But you will use your college degree on your resume with every single job application.

It’s hard to follow directions, especially if you are a creative soul like myself. I wish there were schools that were designed for people like me, but it wasn’t meant to be. I believe in reform of public schools.  No Child Left Behind is a bad public policy.  The Bavarian system is no longer appropriate. For an interesting take on the subject, read Practical Wisdom by Barry Schwartz.

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