Educating for Success in Life Not School

What is the Difference between Education and Schooling?

If you clearly understood the difference between learning, education, and schooling, would you make different choices for yourself and your children?

Since 1852, when Massachusetts passed the first Compulsory Education Law based upon the Prussian model, learning has been taken from the realm of natural human experience and replaced by schooling. It is time to re-claim or natural birthright: learning.

When you truly learn something, you get it into your bones. You can do something that you weren’t able to do before. You can apply this new understanding to other areas of inquiry and activity.

What if we Guided Kids to Be Successful in Life not in School? 

Today’s school system is reverse engineered to get kids into college.

My 13-year old daughter reminded me of this today:

Mom, have you noticed that school is designed so that kids in elementary school are learning what they need to get into middle school? Middle school kids are learning what they need for high school. And high school kids are learning what they need to pass tests and get into college. That doesn’t make any sense. It’s all telling us that we are just preparing for a future that never quite gets here. That’s stupid.

Yes, she’s an independent learner. She has been from birth. And, yes, we talk a lot about how her path looks different from almost all the other kids she knows.

The trouble is most of the stuff that kids learn in college doesn’t prepare them for a successful life or career. And usually,  college graduates focus on getting good paying jobs to pay off their new student loans. So most college graduates cannot even follow their callings, if they were lucky enough to discover them while spending 7+ hours a day at school.

I had a double major in cultural anthropology and international relations at University of Virginia then got an MBA in finance at Carnegie Mellon. I was told that liberal arts was the way to go because it teaches you to think. College isn’t about getting a job or contributing to the economy. It’s about expanding your intellectual capacity and broaden your horizons. Hmmm…. Well, maybe in the 1980s and 1990s.

However, in 2015, I can certainly think of thousands of more affordable ways to increase in your intellectual capacity, broaden your horizons, and build concrete skills than going to college. And they can all be self-directed by each individual according to her learning style, interests, and optimal pace of learning.

As Sir Ken Robinson has pointed out, our school system is designed to produce college professors.

So, why are all the K-12 schools pointing to college as if it this is a requirement for a successful career or a fulfilling life? Why are parents fed fear-based myths about what will happen to their children if they don’t go to college?

A New Education Platform is Needed:

We need an education platform that prepares this generation for a world we cannot even imagine. Seriously, smartphones have only been around for 10 years.

  • Flexible: learn when, how and what you want to learn.
  • Directed from the Inside Out: Children do NOT need to be taught to learn. They are natural learning beings.
  • Real Work not Make Work: What work is meaningful and relevant to you? (everyone knows the difference between work that is real and work that is created only for its own sake. It’s a complete myth that repetition leads to understanding. Completely false in my case. Repetition leads to utter boredom.)
  • Internships and Apprenticeships in the real world: Let’s unleash the creativity and imaginations of young people who still approach the world with a sense of wonder and awe.
  • Assessment For, As, and Of Learning: we need to expand assessment beyond the current punitive system of assessment only of learning and pretending that testing assesses learning.

There is no time table for learning. Brent Cameron, my greatest mentor, and the founder of SelfDesign, used to say, “Schools try to glue wings onto caterpillars.”

Current Research Leads To A Much Different Model for Learning

If we built a new platform for education and work on our current understanding of brain development, human motivation, multiple intelligences, learning styles, and community building, what would it look like?

  • Makerspaces and Hacker labs
  • Re-skilling workshops (farming, food preparation, carpentry, sewing, etc.)
  • Inquiry-based workshops
  • Entrepreneurship and Lean Startup Education and Coaching for every community member
  • Apprenticeships and Internships for ages 12+
  • A Culture of Love and Support
    • Honoring the “flow” – when a youth or adult is immersed in the experience and time stops
    • Treatment of “mistakes”, “failures”, and adversity as opportunity
    • Choice-based: apprentices, makers, and mentors choose their level of participation
    • Everyone has natural gifts and abilities: No age or stage discrimination
    • Emphasis on collaboration and synergy (vs. competition and negativity)

What we need are a network of micro-learning communities where self-directed learning can truly happen. We don’t need more schools where well-meaning adults choose what kids learn and provide some freedom in how they learn it. We need educators who can observe learners for who they are, not who we want them to be, and then guide them along their path as they playfully and joyously explore the world and their place in it.

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