Jan 102012
 

Blog posts are funny things. The thesis usually comes to you at peculiar moments throughout the day. In the middle of class, in the shower, driving home from work…. Or In the case of this post, while writhing in pain on the living room floor @ 3am, with a nasty case of kidney stones. If I were to truly share all the thoughts I had in the wee hours of that night, this post would be rated PG13, littered with F bombs and other expletives but in between the colourful language, a blog post was sketched out.

For some bazaar reason, during my two hour battle with a 4×6 mm stone that was raking its way through my kidney, I was thinking about the school system. Don’t ask me why, you would think I would be trying to picture sandy beaches and baby bunnies but that was not the case. Instead, five questions bounced between the F bombs. Each contrary to everything we have come to accept as a society about the value of education and its place in this world.

I know what you are saying, “why can’t you be agreeable about anything?” But when you are born a contrarian, you just got to go with it. Besides it is waaaaaaaaaay more fun then being agreeable.

What follows is what I like to callThe Kidney Stone 5 – Thoughts of a delirious pedagogue, or the other working title. Questions worthy of consideration, as our policy makers sketch out what the Twenty First Century learner is going to look like…

Here goes nothin! I make no apologies.

Why does someone have to have a degree to make a living wage?

It would seem to me that sometime in the past 30 – 40 years, someone / somewhere decided that the only people who deserve to make a living wage are those who have some type of post secondary education. Simply putting in an honest days work for a living wage, just isn’t good enough any longer. In fact it is virtually unheard in the Western World. Of course there is a long list of reasons why this is the case but really, why can’t someone who doesn’t want to go to school for 4 or more years, make a living?

I can’t help but think about members of my family, who graduated from High School in the 70’s, never went to post secondary school but worked hard and made a great life for themselves. Now at the age of 55 – 60 they are looking at retirement with their house paid off, money in the bank and everything is rosy. Try that today and more than likely you will be living in subsidized housing and visiting the food bank on a regular basis?

At what point in the past 40 years did hard work become unworthy of a living income?

Why do we work so hard at warehousing young adults in the name of education?

Is education really all it is cracked up to be? Sure it has its place but why can’t people work and learn at the same time? Back in the day that was how it was done but somewhere along the line book lernin became king and real learning was out. We all know that warehousing youth in the name of education was done by design, it kept young people out of the workforce and left the jobs to the older people but does this really have a purpose any longer?

With the Baby Boomers starting to retire, perhaps we can stop warehousing our youth well into adulthood and start employing them. Perhaps going back the way things were before factory schools were established, teaching people along the way in real world situations rather than artificial learning environments that have little application.

A Good Read: The Coming Melt Down of Higher Education

Is keeping twenty somethings dependant and unproductive really good for our society?

By the time many young adults graduate from post secondary, they are in their late 20’s / early 30’s, carry immense debt and have yet to begin their productive adult lives. Many can’t even conceive having a life like their parents did. Buying a home is impossible and starting a family is laughable. They have been effectively shut out of the “real world” for a third of their lives all in the name of education. Historically this was a persons most productive years both from an economic and biological standpoint.

It begs the question, is this really good for our society, our economy and our youth to actively prevent them from actively contributing to their community?

A Good Read: The Higher Education Bubble

Perhaps every kid doesn’t need to be inspired, perhaps some just want their independence?

Anyone who reads this blog, probably graduated from high school back in the day, when grade 12 was the end of the line for many if not most. Do you remember the excitement you felt at the prospect of being FREE of school and independent of your parents. The prospect of starting your life, becoming an adult and being responsible for yourself. Now that was motivating, that was exciting.

In the past 40 years, under the mantra of education creates opportunity and choice, we have created a system of dependence and uncertainty and taken away perhaps the single most important choice of all. The choice to be an adult and get on with one’s life.

What is interesting about this thought is that things are not all that different today. I have kids on both ends of the academic spectrum who would like nothing more than to just get out of the system. On one end, I have kids who run their own businesses, are actively contributing their community and just want to get on with their well laid plans. On the other end, I have kids who just want a job, a pick-up truck and the opportunity to make a comfortable living.

Quite frankly, I struggle finding issue with either scenario.

Perhaps it isn’t our school system that is failing our youth. Maybe its the world outside the system, that sets them up for failure?

It is undeniable that the world has changed immeasurably in the past 40 years. It is also pretty hard to argue against making some changes to an education system, created for a world that no longer exists but there is a problem. Those who are calling for change refuse to recognize that the struggles our youth face in today’s world are not only caused by the education system. It would certainly be nice it were that simple but in reality, the problem has two sides.

Yes, we need to change things in our schools so kids can be better prepared for the Twenty First Century but our youth struggle in the real world because they are walking into a world that the education system can’t possibly prepare them for.

  • It is a world rejects the presence of youth in the work world.
  • It is a world where simply working hard isn’t good enough to make a living.
  • It is a world where I make more than 3 times what my father did but my home cost me 27 times more than the one he bought when he was starting out.
  • It is a world where academic inflation forces bright, skilled young people out of the workforce and into an academic warehouse, where they spend a decade of their lives preparing for work that might not pay the bills.

Sure it is convenient to point at the schools and say, “it’s their fault!” but in reality, some of the biggest problems facing our youth, have nothing to do with the school system they are a product of. Our education system may need some updating but I would say the world it delivers our kids into, is in dire need of repair.

So what does this all mean?

Well, I would hope that at some point, someone realizes that the difficulties our youth face involve more than just the education they receive. I hope that someone comes to understand that marginalizing youth in educational warehouses is not the most productive use of their time or ability. I hope that we rediscover that person’s worth can be measured by something other than the education that they have.

Finally, I hope that the move towards the Twenty First Century Learning model is more than just a new and improved way to warehouse our youth. If we are going to change the school system, lets take a big step backward and allow our youth to be contributing members of our society. Unfortunately this will require policy makers to stop pointing fingers and start to address the other reasons our youth fail to thrive in today’s world. Unlike the passage of my kidney stone, our children’s road to freedom shouldn’t be a one way street.