School is rubbish, but it also prepares us for real life

31 thoughts on “School is rubbish, but it also prepares us for real life”

  1. Even though I was always good at school, a lot of it seemed pointless. Like you said, real learning happens through questioning, digging into a subject of interest, and trial and error experiences.

    The funny thing is I may be getting hired on to teach part time at a university soon. I’ve been thinking about ways to make the material relevant and not just rote memorization. It’ll be an interesting balance.

    I’ve also recently rediscovered reading and it has been awesome!

    1. Thanks DTG for your comment. Wow, interesting turn of events! Yeah, making the information relatable to real life is definitely something that appreciated as a youngster. It was easy to tell what teachers tried to do that…and which ones did not (aka: Mrs. Warren’s 7th grade history class).

  2. I can’t say I always enjoyed school, and at times you could have found me complaining that it was pointless and useless, but looking back I see how foundational it was. I always tried to do my best at school (at my parents urging) and what I found out was that having a positive and optimistic attitude and a good work ethic were habits that have carried through to real life and helped me be as successful as I have been.

    1. Amen to the positive and optimistic attitude, Green Swan! I found that a little bit later in life, but I agree – it makes a world of difference.

  3. I 100 percent agree. In general I view college as a test. It’s not a test of relevant information as most of it is not. As you said part of it is teaching you to do something you don’t enjoy. The other part shows you can do what is asked without someone standing over you as they would in high school. These are truly the things employers most value, everything else can be taught. The disservice of such a training is so many come out with an idealized view of the world. You’ll fix all wrongs, make the perfect system, and attack every task at work. In a few years as Steve mentions you will learn that’s not how things work. Politics and practicality drive everything and success is 50 percent of the right solution. I leave one final thought, the two most useful college classes I had were theory classes. Not because they taught me a subject applicable to work, but because they taught me how to learn the topics at work easier. Focus on the skillsets that allow you to learn new things rapidly. You’ll need it.

    1. That’s a good point, Full Time Finance, about learning how to…well, learn. I’m sure that the skills we picked up studying for all those tests, in many ways, has influenced how we tackle new subjects today. Naturally, it won’t be the exact same process, but the way we try to retain information probably has a lot to do with school in our younger years.

  4. School’s kind of like oxygen. Pretty boring stuff but life without it might not work as well as we would like. I’m in the middle of understanding this on a very personal basis since I just found out my 6th grade daughter basically blew off the first month of math class (ie stopped doing homework after the first couple weeks; failed first test).

    I’d say understanding exponents and solving basic expressions and equations is pretty important if you’re ever going to develop a FIRE spreadsheet worth a damn! 😉 But seriously, I explained to my daughter that what she skipped is kind of the foundation for the next dozen years of her academic life if she ends up in a STEM course of study and career (aka “where the money is”).

    I tend to agree that a lot of other stuff in school is mostly fluff. If my kids get a B or C in reading it’s no big deal – they can still read well enough.

    1. Hey Justin – agreed, the basics of math, science, problem solving, reading…those basic life skills are something that our nation’s youngsters need to know. Although, I would say that homeschooling can be equally as effective, the kids still need to learn somehow.

  5. Haha I just graduated college so this basically sums up what I thought most of the time in college. It really is more about just getting the job done than what you learn because quite frankly I do not remember half the things I learnt. Luckily I was always good at school and I always tried to question why we are learning certain things that seem pointless. Sometimes teachers gave a good answer sometimes they were honest and said you will never need it, just part of the course. The mentality to always give my best and question is what will carry me through life not the information.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Stefan. Sounds like you have the right attitude about all of this and know what the true lessons of school *should* be. 🙂

  6. Really good point about how school teaches you the process of doing things that you might not necessarily want to do. It’s not necessarily the specifics of what you learned that matter.

    One thing school does teach us pretty well is how to be an “employee.” We sit in assigned seats (like our cubicles), have a “boss” (our teacher) and take orders from the boss (our teacher). Whether or not that’s necessarily a good thing is another story I suppose. But, we’re not all meant to be entrepreneurs either.

  7. I completely agree. As a kid, school was my life. As an adult I learned that real life doesn’t revolve around book reports and math equations! No one cares that you got a medal in the science fair, as long as you get your work done on time.

    I do think it’s important to test your boundaries in school (ie. reading horrible Shakespeare against your will), but overall I question the basic model that our educational system is using. And don’t get me started on our colleges! I feel like there’s something in institutional education that squashes children’s natural enthusiasm for learning, and that is so sad.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Mrs. Picky Pincher. I think you’re right about squashing natural enthusiasm, and that’s probably due to the “one size fits all” approach that I suppose our schools need to take. 🙁

  8. This is part of the reason employers and colleges are increasingly seeking home-schooled young adults – they tend to not only have better work ethics but also have practical knowledge and problem solving skills. I would recommend the book (either hard copy or audio) “Lies My Teacher Told Me.” It really does show how our society is comprised of sheeple. It is questioned why the lead from HS to prison is so strong, yet school lessons are actually scripted – really, teacher says:ABC, children respond:XYZ. I worked in the school system for about 12 years and am glad to be out. I love teaching and working with children, but that’s not what is happening in our schools today. It’s now about behavior rather than education.
    Note: I know there are some good teachers, but the system prevents them from being as effective as they could be. Likewise, I know of many teachers who obtained their position due to connections and should not be influencing children.
    I mean no offence, but if I had it to do over again, my children would not partake in the public school system.
    Also, I’m glad you found what you enjoy reading. Everybody has a reading niche; it’s just difficult to identify sometimes. Great post.

    1. Very interesting! I hadn’t heard of that book but will look it up. I’m sure that you’ve seen enough over your 12 years of working with kids to recognize the problems that we’re facing from an educational standpoint. In fact, I’m sure you could probably write a fairly complete blog post on the subject! 😉

  9. There’s a lot of things we learn in school that we absolutely DO use all the time…like reading, and mathematics, basic computer skills, certain science concepts.

    It’s not all a waste of time. But yes, a lot of it is just memorization of facts that we quickly forget.

    I’ve always said that school gives you the basics, but the real learning you have to do on your own.

    1. Yup, there is no question that our kids need to learn how to read, math, science, etc. Though, I would argue that our schools aren’t even doing THAT very well. Some areas of the country are better than others, of course, but it’s *amazing* how many young people graduate from college with incredibly low reading comprehension abilities.

  10. The modern school setting can be ineffective for many kids, both the high achievers and the struggling ones. Personally, I hated just about every day of school after 5th grade or so (until university, where I enjoyed having a lot more control of what I studied). I excelled at school, but I definitely didn’t want to be there. In that way, you’re right that it teaches a lot about real life and persevering through things we don’t want to do!

    As the other commenters have pointed out, the basics of history, math, science, and language are important foundations for kids to learn — but that’s not to say that a motivated parent can’t do at least as good a job as a school. I used to be skeptical of home-schooling, but the past few years reading about families with ER-style lifestyles (long-term travel with kids, especially) changed my perspective. Travel is full of new learning experiences, from cultural exposure to history. Not sure if I’ll ever have kids, but I would definitely consider that option, at least for some period of time.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Matt. Like you, I really hated school. Although I excelled when I hit college, I still didn’t care much for the whole educational process. It just felt like I was going through the motions to get some degree so I can actually begin doing what I *thought* I wanted to do.

      And as I look back at my experience, that’s exactly what it was…going through the motions. Ugh! 🙂

  11. There’s a quote that Robert Herjavec from the shark tank that I remember from reading this post. In business, you don’t get a bad grade if you do something wrong, you lose money. School gave me the impression that putting in the hours gave me the results that I wanted but now I’m realizing more that smart work is what matters. Working hard to learn and understand the concept is step one, step 2 is figuring out how to do it more efficiently!

    I also agree with reading Shakespeare.. They weren’t even speaking the same language (ok same language, different grammar structure) as us and the teachers expected us to analyze it the text?! I didn’t realize that I love learning until college came and I found out I could read stuff that I want to read about outside of my classes. I see the world a lot differently now because I found that out, ha!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Finance Solver. And yup, SMART work definitely trumps hard work, especially as you get older. I don’t care how hard to work…if that work isn’t benefiting your life in a significant way, it may not be smart. 🙂

  12. Way to bring the heat, Steve! Kids in school do need to hear that. Independent thinking is certainly beat out of them before they graduate from high school. Curiosity for it’s own sake is nice but not required in school.

    I love reading Joseph Campbell who talked about each of us going on a hero’s journey (FIRE is kind of like that). But what he said was where there is path already, it is someone else’s path. We have to go into the forest at the darkest point where no one has gone before.

    Social norms do not teach that kind of independence. But it is as necessary for a fully functioning, fully alive human being as math and science. As a parent I’m not giving up on the STEM education. My kids certainly need it. But I am more concerned about the things you talked about Steve – curiosity, independence, character, drive, grit, and emotional intelligence. Those will serve them in any situation in life.

    Thanks for the morning challenge!

    1. Thanks Chad! I think you hit the nail on your head with your concise explanation of TRUE learning, “curiosity, independence, character, drive, grit, and emotional intelligence”. Appreciate the read!

  13. Had parent teacher conference for our first grader today, and it was interesting. The things the teacher talked about our daughter doing were related to her ability to do group work, problem solve, navigating her peer relationships, mediating disagreements, etc. There was a tiny bit on the act of getting her ideas down on paper and creating narratives, but most of the conference was about her social skills, and not in the “it’s a problem” kind of way.

    Now it’s first grade. They aren’t learning tons of useless facts yet. They’re still doing the basic building blocks of reading, writing and arithmetic with some good citizenship training thrown in. I’m hopefully optimistic for this year, but understand that as she goes through school there may be more of “You have to learn it because you have to prove you can get through it.”

    1. Hi Emily! I do think that education early on in the developmental years can (and should) be far more effective than education later in our schooling careers. Like you said, navigating relationships and working well with others, along with figuring out simple problems and generally just acting like a functional person are very important concepts to learn as well as grow into.

  14. The transition from academics to real life can often be hard because you go from running a race to running in a field. Gone are the rules, the lines, and the predetermined goals… but I found that school, especially college, taught me two very important skills: perseverance and confidence I’d succeed.

    The actual coursework… not as important. 🙂

    1. Hey Jim – fair enough, I can definitely accept those two qualities as something that we all learn going through college. Especially the first one for me. 🙂

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  16. Loved this post. 😀 “Letter grades do not exist in real life” really resonates with me.

    The hardest thing I learned when entering the workforce (and in general when making difficult life decisions) is that there is no answer key, and you almost never have all the information – but you have to figure out a solution anyway. It might not be the best solution, but you just have to soldier on.

    1. Thanks Felicity, appreciate the comment. It’s true, there is no answer key. Things aren’t nearly as simple and cut-and-dry as they might be in school, no doubt about it!

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