The recent video I made concerning self-acceptance, where I've also mentioned parents trying to make their kids get good grades in every subject, provoked a small discussion on whether good grades in school and college education are essential for success.
It's a little uncomfortable debating things in youtube comments, to say the least. So I decided to explain my views in this post.
I knew college degrees didn't provide much security any more in Ukraine. But I decided to check elsewhere. So here are some quotes:
"There are currently a record number of unemployed college graduates seeking work. So many, in fact, that they outnumber high school dropouts on the job hunt." CNN Money 2008
"Last month's increase in unemployment was especially discouraging for the well-educated.
The jobless rate for Americans with at least a bachelor's degree rose to 5.1%, the highest since 1970 when records were first kept, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics." USA Today 2010
"Graduates are now more likely to work in low-skilled jobs as postal workers, hotel porters and cleaners compared to over a decade ago, official figures show.
The number of degree students ending up in low to lower-skilled jobs has grown from 9pc to 17pc over the past 18 years, a fresh analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed." The Telegraph 2011
I'm not sure how common the trend is elsewhere, but in Ukraine, the market is overflooded with college graduates while actually lacking workers in middle-skill jobs.
Still lots of young people, encouraged by their parents and teachers, keep viewing a college degree as the one-and-only path to career success.
People like to maintain college education provides a great deal of security. So even if you don't feel like you're particularly interested in studying anything for 4-5 years, it's still better to get a degree in something, just because it will provide more possibilities for you, open some more doors.
It used to be sort of true. Things change though. But popular opinions change a lot slower.
If everyone is encouraged to become a highly-skilled professional, who is going to be creating work places for them? In SU it was the government. Now in free market it has to be entrepreneurs: small and big business.
As one of the commentators to the Telegraph article put it: 'This was always going to happen, for the simple reason that putting half the population through University does not magically make half the jobs awaiting them suitable for graduates.'
Also, there has to be a demand for that many professionals by the consumers of their services.
Yes, perhaps if you have a bachelor's or a higher degree you will still have better odds at finding a job during crisis. You're supposed to have a wider choice: from the jobs of your field to some middle or lower-skilled jobs (where you'll win a competition easily over someone with no college). Although, some employers may see higher education as a threat that once you find a job to suit your qualification, you'll quit. So college drop-outs and high school grads may be safer bets for lower and middle skilled jobs after all.
So am I arguing against colege education?
Not at all. I'm objecting to wasting years of life torturing kids and young people, forcing and encouraging them to swallow the knowledge they are not interested in when it does not even guarantee them material and/or psychological success in future. The scheme is supposed to be working like this: "you be miserable now - enjoy the fruits later". But what fruits? If even getting the diploma itself does not guarantee you even employement, not to mention the position you would like. To waste lots of money, few years of life and plenty of nerve cells on college degree to end up working as a taxi-driver, or a secretary? How ironic is that?
And sometimes the scheme works out and the person actually gets the well-deserved position. Only to realize that now, possibly for the rest of their lives, the bigger part of their day will be spent on work they don't really enjoy doing. Because if you hated the subject while studying it in college, you probably will not fall in love with your job either. So it's like a never-ending rape of one's individuality. And since many people engage in this, it is considered normal. A wide-spread madness isn't a madness, right?
There's a good saying that illustrates this state of affairs: "Hate your job? Join the club. It's called everybody! We meet at the bar."
Something you do for 5 to 8 hours a day should not only pay the bills, but be interesting and fulfilling, unless you willingly choose to become a working half-robot.
An occupation is like a marriage. Normally, people spend most of their lives 'with their jobs'. Why would you want to marry someone you don't really like? Would you marry just for money? Well, some people do...)))
Of course, I'm not talking about the cases where someone wants to study smth they are interested in. That's a no-brainer. You love it - go for it! You're much more likely to excell in this field than someone who is only pursuing the same education for any other reason.
I only see a problem in pushing every kid into university just because a degree is viewed as a panacea and the absence of one - as a recipe for disaster.
Remembering George Carlin's stand up about education:
"Here's another pack of low-grade morons who ought to be locked in the portable toilet and set on fire: These people with bumper-stickers that says 'We are the proud parents of an honored student at Franklin School',or whatever innocent sounding name's been assigned to the indoctrination center where their child's been sent to be striped of his individuality and turned into an obedient soul-dead conformist member of the American consumer culture."
First - 'security', then - creativity.
You hear from a lot of parents this argument that getting the degree first can't hurt, that once you got one nothing prevents you from pursuing risky endeavors. In other words, first spend a decade dilligently working on the boring things that you hate and see no point in studying, then storm off and start being this risky, creative personality! It's like believing one can become an athlete without excercising regularly.
A person spending their childhood and youth repressing their creative impulses isn't likely to just turn into creative free-thinker one day. Same goes for enrepreneur potential. If you teach your child to only worry about security, he or she will make a great employee, not a business person. Those have a totally different mindset.
People can be driven predominantly by either of the two motivations: some concentrate more on achieving success, others - on avoiding failure.
Entrepreneurs usually take risks and concentrate on achieving success, rather than trying to ensure security and avoid mistakes.
What do both schools and universities emphasize on? Providing the right answers and making as few mistakes as possible. Those institutions work to produce good employees.
We've all heard of some of the most successful (meaning rich) people who have dropped high school, not even college. Many great inventors and scientists did poorly in school. I'm not saying everyone should do the same! But the fact should make you think.
The more creative you are, the less capable you will be of concentrating on boring tasks. And vise versa. I believe forcing oneself to engage in boring activities kills creative impulses.
Our energetical potential is not limitless, and when someone's energy has been drained by the routine, don't wait for creativity to fluorish.
Nothing wrong with becoming a professional and working for a company
Everybody can't and shouldn't become freelancers, artists and entrepreneurs. Someone has to be a doctor, a teacher, a firefighter...
Every business needs responsible employees.
And as long as working for somebody else, doing the work you love satisfies you - it's a great choice! The point is being where you want to be, where you feel comfortable.
If the tendency was the other way round, with parents pushing their kids to business schools, Id be just as opposed to it.
The point is listening to your children, and trying to help them develop their potential. Some are more inclined towards creative, innovative work, others have strong interest in some particular subject, some seem like they're not particularly interested in anything at all (which can mean they do not allow themselves to pursue their real passions seeing how parents demand them being passionate about 'the right things').
The world is changing pretty rapidly in this information age. Even if you want to concentrate predominantly on security, mind that a college degree does not provide one any more. Maybe the safest bet is actually encouraging your children to find their passion, instead of following the crowd.
And finally, some interesting videos:
"Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity"
For those who are still reading. About the author.:)
Finished school with rather good grades (some skills, some work, some luck, some willingness from our teachers to not spoil kids futute by giving poor grades). Last few years hated most of the subjects.
Went to the university to study psychology in which I was interested since I was around 14. Loved studying it, loved more freedom the college allowed, and much less attention given to secondary subjects.
While in college, I got interested in website development. So I became a self-taught php programmer and started creating and promoting websites.
I got a bachelor's degree in psychology and decided that was enough for now. Someday I might or may (not sure) decide to acquire some more knowledge in psychotherapy if I feel inclined to go that road. In any case I do not regret studying psychology because it was my choice and it helped me become what I am today. I've never used my diploma though, its just lying somewhere))
So far I'm enjoying web development and promotion: the creativity, the independence, the free schedule and the ability to work from anywhere with a notebook and the internet.
The beauty of finding your passion is that you work a lot without working hard. After hours of concentrated work you may suddenly realize your body is tired and sleepy, but your mind isn't stressed. You sometimes wish there were more hours in the day just so you could devote them to your creative projects. You're not working hard, you're driven. And it feels great. Finding something you're passionate about is a bliss. It can make your everyday life so much happier.
Update 10 September 2012:
More posts from this category: Occupation of my mindOsama Bin Laden's death, US foreign policy, conspiracy theories
Right, for creative people its even more torturous to be doing smth they dislike.
I have no problem with quitting smth Im sick of either. I was supposed to get another diploma - in English, but half a year before that I refused to continue and write a year paper, so that was it. Never regretted it, saved me a lot of nerves and free time)))
Updates the video in the post (it was moved on TED, so now I found it on youtube). Highly recommended: informative and entertaining!
Working on bettering captcha but its not gonna be perfect. Hate captchas, too, but with a week one I was getting lots of spam thru this form.
Yeah, well not good when people buy diplomas or pay to pass exams. You wouldn't want such doctors treating you for example
I'm a humanities kind of guy, & no one reads, paints, draws, sculpts, or appreciates art anymore...
Yeah it's probably not the most essential thing but people do take up hobbies. Not sure if they're ready to pay to study them though, everything is freely available on the net these days.
Thanks parents, for forcing me in this mess, really appreciate it!
Yeah, that 'exciting' skydive from c*nt to grave.