what’s wrong with our education system today

School is a big part of our lives. Growing up, it’s where we meet most of our friends, it’s where we learn how to deal with our peers and it’s also how we pick up a lot of different skills.

For 12 years we are submitted to cruel and unusual punishment (at least that’s what some kids call it) in the form of education.

For 12 years we are supposedly taught all that we need to build a foundation upon which we can major in once we enter college.

In essence, we are taught the fundamentals of learning.

In the classroom we learn about history. We learn the classics.

We learn math. We learn foreign languages.

Then there are the sciences.

In biology, we learn about our body and the world around us. In physics we learn about mathematical formulas that govern our world. In chemistry we learn about the elements.

And yet, despite all that we learn the subject matter is not the most valuable thing we take with us after 12 years.

No, the two most valuable things we learn in school are

  1. How to read
  2. How to interact with others

Over the course of our school life we are asked to read more and more books on a variety of subjects. And for what? So we can forget nearly everything once we graduate.

In my IB English class (the European version of the AP program) I studied Beckett, Shakespeare, Puig, Camus and a few others.

Classics perhaps. But choices of a scholar, not a student.

One of the secrets of a magician is to never think like a magician in creating a trick, but like that of a person in the audience for it is them that we are putting the show on for.

What is missing in our education system today is the practicality of it all.

Why not choose a selection of books written by some of the most successful people of history. Lincoln for one. Churchill, another. Ford, Einstein, Kroc (McDonald’s founder), Robbins (self-help industry standard), Drucker (management specialist), and many more.

These people shaped our world and most took the time to capture their ideas on paper.

16 hours after 9/11 took place the then mayor of New York City, Robert Giuliani, picked up the latest biography of Winston Churchill to get an idea on how he dealt with the carpet bombing of London in World War II.

That was real. We can all relate to a certain extent simply because it happened.

Much of what I did study I zoned out.

I could have cared less about what this author thought and how to calculate where two lines intersect (even though I was good at it). Just because we can teach something in school doesn’t mean we should.

I’m of the belief that our schools should help prepare us for dealing with life.

They do need to give us a basic understanding of the main subject areas of which elementary school does do a good job. Junior high school continues with this and pushes us to think more deeply about those concepts.

High school is where I feel things go awry. Many kids these days in high school are more concerned with getting into a good university than with actually learning.

I say that because I have known some kids that were smart. They got straight A’s and got into some of the most prestigious universities.

But something was missing.

They lacked balance. School was their entire life. They forgot to be a high schooler.

In high school kids are well into their rebellious years. They no longer accept a parent’s authority or that of a teacher. They challenge hypocrisy. Part of that growth is self-growth.

Learning how to deal with others in both friendships and in love is part of life.

Life is about three areas

  • Learning
  • Relationships
  • Enjoyment

Having talked to many students over the years and having been one myself, I believe that most schools fill the first area – learning. Relationships are what are developed on our own during break time, lunch and after school, but I believe that if we offered kids some more guidance on how to deal with others they would be better prepared for what they will encounter once they graduate.

Tony Robbins is famous for saying that we are no longer in the Information Age but are now in the Entertainment Age, I tend to agree with him. Schools miss this point entirely. Learning can be fun, and it’s what schools need to do a better job of in order to appeal to students today that are inundated with knowledge from everywhere.

Facebook, chatrooms, blogs are commonplace for a teenager.

To reach kids today we need to be doing more and integrating more practical and entertaining material.

It can be done.

A few simple changes would make a huge difference.

The syllabus is the first place to start. Textbooks next.

The world continues to change at an exponential rate and yet our school system uses the same books year after year. Just like we need to update our iPhone from time to time with a new OS, maybe our school system could use a new OS and a reboot.

Sure would freshen things up.

I’m lucky because I’m a freelancer of sorts. With my clients I create a custom education program for their needs. I keep the following areas in the back of my mind when I design my plan:

  • Self-development
  • Time management
  • Marketing
  • Leadership
  • Business
  • Marketing
  • Self-esteem
  • Relationships
Then I weave the materials that will be most beneficial to them at their particular stage of learning.

Schools can do this, too – with some guidance, as they are dealing with a large group of students. It takes a little tweaking anything is possible.

With my son being three I am already wondering how best to educate him.

I think that I’ll have to resign myself to the fact that the schools do do a lot of good and that the rest is up to me.

So from the minute he enters elementary school, he will begin two forms of education – that of his school and that of my choosing.

We can’t expect our schools to do everything, now can we?!

Each parent should take a deep interest in their own children’s education because after love it’s the best thing we can give them to deal with this topsy-turvy world.

Adrian Shepherd


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