Ep #10: The Problems with Traditional Education

If you worked really hard to set up a bright future for yourself by getting good grades, going to college and getting a “well-respected” job to then find yourself absolutely miserable , then I encourage you to sit back and soak in the information I’m about to share. This long-awaited series of videos will highlight some of the very big problems within the walls of our schools today and most importantly it’ll answer the very big question: How did I end up in this mess?

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • WHY we feel so lost and confused after graduation!
  • The price that’s being paid by students in traditional classrooms
  • The major reasons students are feeling tired, bored and stressed in school (the top 3 feelings according to a recent survey)
  • Why knowledge is no longer power in the 21st Century
  • How schools set us up for the one thing they claim to save us from– FAILURE!
  • The flawed definition of success that’s embedded in us

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TRANSCRIPT

Welcome back everybody. Thanks so much for being here as always. Happy New Year to you. I’m super excited to get underway and start off the new year with a series that I’ve been working on really since last summer, if you can believe that. I started to put my ideas and thoughts onto paper months ago. I did some research I guess you could say…attending screenings, visiting high schools…all to create a series of shows highlighting some of the very big problems within the walls of our schools.

I’m sure you probably know people who get fired up about politics or equal rights, gun laws or even things like sports, right?

Well I’m that way with education. It’s a topic that I feel very passionate about.

Now before you run away from this episode (or the series altogether), if you’re listening and you’re in your twenties or thirties and you’re tangled in some sort of career web– you don’t like your job, you’re not sure what else to do, you’re confused about your direction…this is an important series for you.

Because it’ll answer the question of HOW? How did I end up here!? Especially if you’re anything like me ten years ago.

If you listened to episode #1, you’ll probably recall my personal story of being a rule-follower…how I was a straight-A student, I did everything “right”, everything I was told to do to be successful…college, then the work force.

So I was (and I hate the word “victim”), but I was a victim of the propaganda– as I refer to it.

Now luckily, in my early twenties, I woke up…and I saw the truth of what was happening in schools and this post-college epidemic that it was causing…so I decided: A.) not be a part of the charade anymore and secondly B.) be the change that I know needs to happen to raise actually happy, successful kids.

So if you’re anything like me and you worked really hard to set up a bright future for yourself by getting good grades, and graduating and getting a “well-respected” job to see it all blow up in your face, then I encourage you to sit back and soak in the information I’m about to share because I believe (and further more I can confidently say that I know) it’s the root of the quarter life crisis epidemic that we’re seeing today.

But before we dive in, just to give you a general oversight of what I’ll be discussing throughout the series.

Today, in Part 1 of 4, I want to discuss the price that’s being paid by students in traditional classrooms.

In Part 2, I’ll cover the unspoken truths about College and also Misinformed Parents who play a very critical role in the misdirection of their child’s future. Part 3, I will discuss post-grads in the workplace and the very common quarter life crisis that we are seeing and lastly in Part 4, I’ll talk about the CHANGE that needs to happen on all levels- parents, administration/ faculty and students.

So with that being said, let’s jump in.

First, just to paint you a picture of what’s going on in schools…because maybe you graduated 2 years ago, or maybe you graduated 10 or 20 years ago, whatever…it can feel like a distant memory.

There was a study done a few years ago that USA Today published– a study that surveyed 22,000 high school students around the nation.

The students were asked just one question. And the question was this: How do you feel during the school day? With 3 blank spaces to respond, the top 3 answers were: tired, bored and stressed.

Tired, bored and stressed.

Why is this?

The curriculum that we are teaching, the environment for which we are teaching it and the quantity of what we’re teaching is leaving kids completely uninspired, disengaged, and overworked.

We are still pumping out information, information, facts, and more facts that are unimportant and not relevant.

Now I don’t know about you, but this brings up so many memories and rings so true to me. I remember lecture style classes being boring (so I would daydream to keep myself entertained and not pay much attention to what was being taught).

I remember memorizing fact after fact on my handy dandy index cards for a test to later forget the information because next class, we’d have to memorize a new set of facts.

So just the reality that our classrooms are operating the same way they did when I was in school is pretty outrageous. Back when I was in high school, gosh 15 years ago, transformation should’ve been happening then. And here we are, 2018, 15 years later and it’s like time has stood still and nothing has changed. And that’s a problem.

Because this is the 21st Century where knowledge is no longer power. Memorizing the FACT that King Henry the IV died in 1413 has absolutely zero purpose because I and you and everybody else can instantly access that information on our phones if/ when we need it, which is most likely never. Modern technology has changed the landscape of education, yet education still sits on the same landscape that it did 100 years ago.

The world has changed, yet the way in which we educate has not.

Make sense? Or should I say…doesn’t make sense! Right?

When there’s no PURPOSE behind what we’re learning (when a teacher can’t explain to us why we need to know something, why it’s important to us and how to apply it in our life– aside from getting a good grade on a test)– the disengagement is immediate.

Instantly it turns to, I don’t care about what I’m learning, just tell me what’s going to be on the test so that I can memorize it, get a good grade, forget about it and then let’s do it again.

Lecture. Memorize. Take test. Get grade. Forget. Rinse and repeat.

This was me. I was like a hamster on its wheel. And this cycle is still very much alive in schools. I have a long standing history of working with kids– 10 plus years, all ages. So I know that kids are still very much caught up in this rat race– and actually I’m convinced it’s worse than ever before.

We aren’t raising people, we are creating robots. And the last thing we need is to be producing robots. Modern technology has got that handled. What we need are innovators, creative thinkers, problem-solvers– skills that machines can’t generate, but we don’t give children the opportunity in the classroom to develop these skills and step into their true potential and who they can become.

And isn’t that the point of education? To learn– to explore, to engage, to process information and make mistakes along the way.

Because failure is a part of life. In order to achieve goals that really matter to us, in order to bring an idea to life, failure is part of the process. It is inevitable. But here we are teaching kids that failing is bad.

It’s the reason that graduates are terrified to take risks. We have this heightened fear of failure. We’re scared to try something new or pursue a passion, break the mold, disobey the rules, because we’re afraid of what other people will think if we do something different and fail even once.

The fear of failure has been embedded (successfully so) into our subconscious minds and it prevents us from getting out of our comfort zones and actually growing and evolving (what we as humans are designed to do) and doing the things that we really want to do.

Teaching kids that failing is bad, is the reason that cheating is rampant in school. When we don’t care about what we’re learning, when we’re encouraged to just give the right answer and not apply it, of course we’re going to cheat. We just care about the final answer, because that’s all our teachers care about.

And this is not to blame the teacher persae as most teachers are under this umbrella– teaching required material distributed by the state or whatever. And I’ll get more into that later.

But caring about the end goal and the end goal only…that too translates into adulthood. It’s the reason we want to shortcut our way to success. My clients come to me desperate and impatient for the answers.

They want to know yesterday what to do and what their goals are and how to achieve them tomorrow.

They want me to give them the answers. Tell me what to do and I’ll just do it. Right?

Guess what? It doesn’t work like that.

But that’s what we are used to.

So you can imagine their disappointment, when I tell them, “NO. I’m not going to tell you what to do! I don’t know what you’re supposed to do with your life. How could I possibly know what’s best for you.” Listening to other people is what got you into this mess in the first place. What I can do is guide you in seeking your own answers and solutions. But guess what? It’s not overnight. You can’t just take a career test and BOOM!

It doesn’t work like that.

But that’s what kids are taught. I just gotta memorize these facts, take a test the day after and BAM, I achieved the goal, an A. And then I get a high five from my mom and dad.

Guys, this is a big reason why young adults today are not willing to invest the time and energy into achieving a goal that matters to them. Because it’s not instant. Because we might make mistakes along the way. Because it doesn’t always come with that external validation.

Instead post-grads perpetuate the cycle– of instant gratification, external rewards and validation. Yet this time, instead of 9-3 at school, it’s 9-5 at a job. Instead of getting a letter grade at the end of the day, it’s a pay check. And we’re still getting a high five from our parents for having a job title they approve of.

When we were 5 years old, we use to say to our parents, “Look what I made. Look what I took the time to create. Look at this Lego structure I built. It fell over a few times, I put the wrong pieces in the wrong places a hundred times, but I kept with it because I really wanted to bring this Batman tower to life.”

By the time we’re in middle school, the only question we’re asking is, “Is this right?”

In school, we are sending the message to kids that failure is unacceptable– you either memorize the information and get a good grade or you don’t– and if you don’t, you’re a failure.

And that’s a harsh label to put on a child. Which is the exact reason that most children work extra hard to conform and fit that mold so that they aren’t outsiders and adopt the “shame” that comes along with being seen as a failure.

But what schools are failing to recognize (no pun intended) is that SMART has a lot of different meanings. In some countries, “smart” means making good decisions. Which in my opinion is a much more beautiful definition of smart.

In our school system (and I’m referring to the United States here), it’s become this narrow-minded definition. We are made to believe that students who don’t want to conform and ultimately get worse grades are not smart. In fact, they’re labeled bad students.

And that is really sad. Because as quickly as those students are labeled bad students, they’re just as quickly disregarded in the classroom.

I remember being in school and those “bad students” were seen as a joke or a disappointment in the eyes of both the teacher and the students (because now as students we’ve adopted this narrow minded definition of smart).

We look around and chalk it up to, “Well there are motivated students and there are unmotivated students. That’s just the way it is.” But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are all motivated, but we must find the thing that intrinsically motivates us on an intimate level. Not what our teachers are telling us is important. That doesn’t make you or me a star student, it makes us a rule-follower and a people pleaser.

AMEN!

That kind of dependency on authority figures leads us down a very dark road, wondering where the hell we are and guess what? not knowing how to get out because we were never taught how to become problem solvers and think for ourselves.

And like I said, I know because I’ve been down that very dark road. And it took me a lot of unlearning what I had been taught and a lot of self-discovery to figure out what actually intrinsically motivated me to get to the other side– to finally go from confusion to clarity.

Unfortunately, we enter adulthood at such a disadvantage.

Instead of helping students uncover what intrinsically motivates them– individually– schools rely on extrinsic motivation. Because it’s easy and it’s cheap (i.e. standardized testing). It’s easy and cheap to create one computerized test. It’s easy and cheap to teach the same material to each student. It’s easy and cheap to lump everybody together.

But it’s such a faulty system. Because whenever we use external rewards– standardized test scores, grades, money from our parents for getting good grades, verbal validation from our teachers, it’s short-lived.

As human beings we are driven by passion and purpose. In order to be successful and truly happy and lead a fulfilling life, we must love what we do and unfortunately, we do not teach kids how to find their unique source of joy.

Instead we kill their creativity, tell them to sit down, listen and do as your told.

And again such a huge problem because we live in a world of abundance and more than ever we need that creativity and artistry in the world. Those right brain capabilities are so important in the 21st Century– where we’ve already figured out the functionality of things.

We already know how to make a car that runs. Now, consumers are buying what’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye. We want the coolest design, unique features, products with an inspiring story/ cause behind it.

And if you really want to familiarize yourself with how our world works and why people who are taking these unconventional paths and breaking the mold are the people who are thriving, Daniel’s Pink A Whole New Mind is one of my all-time favorite books. If you are on the brink of escaping cultural norms, this book will support your yearnings and ease that heightened fear of failure that you might be feeling.

But just to kinda illustrate my point on why right brain capabilities are so vital in today’s world…

Just the other day I was scrolling through Instagram, and if you don’t know, I am a reality TV junkie, and Kristin Cavalarri who founded the Uncommon James lifestyle product line was talking about these measuring cups that she sells– ya know just regular measuring cups you use in the kitchen to cook and bake with.

Now, measuring cups were invented in the 1800’s ok? Since then, no new technology has come out to reinvent the functionality of a measuring cup. A measuring cup is a measuring cup. A ½ cup is the same size in diameter that it was 100 years ago. A teaspoon is a teaspoon. A tablespoon is a tablespoon.

But these measuring cups were copper dipped in white enamel measuring cups. And not only were they pretty, but Uncommon James partners with another company with a mission to promote female artisans and ensure they’re paid living wages and are in safe work environments. And if that weren’t enough, the gift boxes are even handmade and made from recycled goods.

So you’ve got the aesthetic component that consumers are looking for when shopping and then you’ve got that story and purpose behind the pretty product itself that hits the heart strings of the consumer. All of which cannot be produced by robots

We need innovators and artists and people that think big and creatively. We need storytellers and people who have connected to a cause bigger than themselves to be in service of something greater than themselves. These are the people that thrive in the 21st century, not robots. Education is missing that point.

We place these highly unique students in these classrooms, and on the first day of school, we pretty much say: Listen! I don’t care about who you are, where you come from, what you believe, what you like or don’t like. I don’t care what you’re interested in or what makes you different or what unique value you can offer the world.” In here, we are all the same.

And at some point along the educational trajectory, things got even worse. A child’s free time after school was taken away. The hours to play and run and explore and actually learn and grow, were robbed as well. School started to dictate what happened in a child’s life after the bell rang at 3:00. And what a shame! Because there is much more to life than school and what’s in a text book.

Play is so important to a growing mind– even in high school. In fact, play is so important at any age, even as adults. When my clients come to me in a state of confusion, having no clue what their life’s calling is, one of the very first “homework” assignments that I give to them is to play– is to tune into their inner child and become a curious creature. Because being curious and exploring our curiosities is the way in which we uncover and unleash our unique potential. Which is why it’s so critical that children are given the opportunity to do this, but schools have taken that away in the classroom and outside the classroom.

Now, kids are required to do hours of homework (which by the way, there is very little correlation between the amount of homework and achievement in school), but that’s a whole other issue.

Kids are required to do hours of homework, work with tutors when they aren’t excelling in a specific subject, prep for standardized testing, and do extra-curricular activities. Everything that is required for one reason, COLLEGE. We’re all in this rat race, sacrificing our happiness and well-being in the present for some future moment that we’re told will be worth the stress and anxiety.

Now, I dedicated most of Part 2 to COLLEGE, so I don’t want to get into that now.

But I do want to address this. Amidst “preparing” kids for the “be all end all” that college is painted as, we are teaching them that stress is normal. Not only is stress is normal, but the more stressed you are, the more successful you are. Somehow feeling stressed has been intertwined with our flawed definition of success.

I’m sure you’ve seen this in the workplace before. People will almost brag about the little sleep they got or how much overtime they put in last week as though their stress and struggle equates to being a better employee and make more money and in turn be more successful.

That is not success. But that’s how we are defining success to a younger generation.

It’s how I used to define success. I believed, work is not supposed to be fun. Success is climbing the corporate ladder. Success means doing things that I don’t like to get to where I am.

And because I believed those things, because they were engrained in my subconscious, this was the exact reality I created for myself. I was working in a corporate environment and doing tasks I did not enjoy.

Until I had my wakeup call and said NO! This is not what success looks like to me. This is not what success feels like to me. And that’s when I consciously chose for myself to create my own definition of success. Success to me, meant being happy right now. Success meant having a career I loved and goals that excite me. Success meant having the freedom to do other things that I enjoyed. That definition of success felt much better and much truer…and then I went onto to create that reality for myself.

Our schools should be helping students create their own definition of success.

A few months back, I attended a screening of Beyond Measure which is the sequel to A Race To Nowhere, a documentary that uncovers the negative effects of overscheduling, over-testing, and the pressure to fit this cookie-cutter mold of what society has deemed acceptable.

So there are conversations happening, there are online communities about the subject, Vicki Abeles with her second documentary offers guidance to schools that are ready to implement changes.

So there is transformation happening in some schools around the nation, although the change (the educational reform) is definitely not overnight.

But anyway, these documentaries shadowed kids who were getting as little as 3-4 hours of sleep a night. Kids that were being checked into stress centers and on prescription meds to get all their work done. Kids who don’t eat because they realized that not eating maintains their attention longer. Even kids who have taken their own life because the pressure was too much.

We’ve created a system that not only is ill-preparing kids for the real world, but it’s stressing them out in the meantime and making them sick.

And you have to remember, being a teenager is not easy. You’re at this stage of your life that you’re worried about what your friends think, and what you look like, and then there’s peer pressure, and acne, and fitting in socially… I mean it’s hard enough to navigate the messy terrain as a hormonal teenager, without the incredible work load and pressures that are thrown our way.

And with issues like depression, addiction, low self-esteem, anxiety, stress and lack of direction running rampant, these are the issues that should be addressed first and foremost in schools. I mean since when do academics come before emotional well-being and mental health? If we don’t have that in place, we don’t have anything in place.

We’re also teaching kids that it’s unimportant to be happy in the NOW, it’s unimportant to create happiness in the present moment and instead it’s more important to live for the future. We are teaching kids that our feelings are dependent on some future moment– on some external circumstance outside of ourselves. I just have to work really hard now and deal with the stress of it all so that I can graduate high school, then go to college, then graduate, then get a good paying job and then (finally) I can be happy and less stressed.

Gosh this couldn’t be further from the truth.

This is the complete opposite mindset and mode of operation to live an actually happy life and create a bright future

The education system is setting kids up for the one thing that they claim to be saving them from– failure.

And if we don’t wake up and do something and make the very necessary changes, we are going to lose another generation– a generation that goes through K-12 and then onto college and the workplace never knowing…who they really are, why they are doing what they are doing and what’s really important and best for them.

And I say “we” because if you were a “victim” and I again I loathe that word, but I think it’s appropriate in this context, if you were a victim of these outlandish standards and were one of the many, like myself whom were in a way  “brainwashed” to fit this cookie-cutter mold, I do think that you are here for a reason. You are here to rewrite the wrongs that were pushed on you. You are here to learn how to think for yourself once and for all. You are here to go against the grain and figure out what intrinsically motivates you. You are here to discover what makes you unique.

I’m proud to be a part of this movement in some way and strive for a revolution in education by connecting with like-minded people, like yourself, and by using my voice to share my story, my concerns and provide solutions.

That’s it for today guys. Thank you so much for listening as always. Next week, In Part 2, I’ll be discussing the big topic of COLLEGE and misinformed parents. I’ll talk to you then.

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