Updated: Sep 6, 2020
You were taught to be just like everyone else.
If, like most of us, you were subjected to classroom schooling for 13 of the first 18 years of your life, you know more about how to please the system than about how to do what’s best for you. And that was just the beginning if you then went on to college.
In his quirky but insightful article, “Embrace the Suck,” entrepreneurial writer Ayodeji Awosika points out that school is “a system that discourages growth through failure.” Which means it’s a system that discourages growth.
Getting It Wrong to Get It Right
The awkward truth is that we learn a great deal through what we do wrong. That’s why the timeless adage, “experience is the best teacher,” is true. In gaining experience, we are bound to fail—so that we can do better next time.
But what does this have to do with Different?
Mainly, your attitude. Most of us from the educational track are scared to death of failing—of getting a bad grade. Failing a class is shameful in the culture of school when growing up and expensive later when paying unreasonable sums of money for “higher education.”
Just to be clear: I’m not saying this as sour grapes because I was a loser in school. Quite the contrary, I was a great student, and most of my teachers really liked me. And after my K-12 years, I went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and two masters.
It was more than enough to expose me to what’s wrong with systematized education. In fact, I believe I’m still in recovery 40 years later. I’m still working hard to unlearn the emotional and mental patterns that 20+ years in the educational system taught me.
I've also seen the issues with my children. My oldest son went to college because he wanted to be an engineer, and that was the only path to his goal. I marveled, though, as he struggled to prove himself worthy of the degree.
The least real-life-like elements of his education were weighted the most important by the institution—test taking was his nemesis. On the other hand, the components most like what he would encounter in the engineering world—projects and homework—mattered the least to school and were the areas in which he excelled (and in which he continues to excel years later).
An organization called the 1517 Fund was formed in 2015 by business leaders in the tech world specifically to combat the entrepreneurial paralysis foisted on us by the current educational system.
The name comes from Martin Luther’s famous posting of 95 Theses on the Wittenberg door in 1517. This group has authored a “New 95 Theses” about the problems of education in 21st century America.
Number 73, for instance, points out that “Where one went to college should not be the most interesting thing about a 22-year-old.” Twenty-two years is a long time to have been alive only to be able to say, “I finished school.”
And numbers 38 through 42 reveal many of the world’s most significant influencers who had no college degrees, even though PhDs are now given for studying—and university buildings named after—many of them.
The list includes Plato, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, even The Beatles. Then there’s Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and The Wright Brothers.
Change Is (Real!) Good
If you’ve been to a traditional school and aspire to do Different, you’ll have to confront and get over much of how you were programmed to think and feel about what you do to get there.
And if you happen to still be in the process of raising children, there are some helpful resources and good alternative models these days:
For home-school and higher education, the modular approach of St. Athanasius Academy will be eye-opening and helpful.
A great starting point for getting over your education is to own the truth of 1517 Thesis #12:
The risk of being wrong is the price of being right.
Whatever you do to have the Different life of your dreams will include things along the way that don’t work out quite as you had hoped. But the overall result will be worth it when you’ve put together the life that’s right for you.
For more on the crucial need for freedom to homeschool your children,
check out this post:
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