“The reason so many people grow up to look for a job is that the economy has needed people who would grow up to look for a job. Jobs were invented before workers were invented.”
I was 23, done with schooling, when I started to take interest in writing again. Because I chose to, I learned despite school. As many people today use online platforms to turn interests into passion, it is far more beneficial for an economy that seeks people who can innovate, far more valuable than people waiting for a job match.
So if there’s already a system which can persuade us to learn because we want to, then it must be real learning, right?
What then is the traditional school for? We just don’t ask this enough as Seth Godin writes in his manifesto “Stop Stealing Dreams.”
Schooling was introduced to make the industrial age flourish. People were schooled to be obedient factory workers, maximize production of goods and become compliant consumers. It is no accident we wear uniforms, made productive and efficient cogs.
Since then, the industrial age has churned out countless students from mass, homogenized schooling. We identify with the product: a good student who’s obedient, polite, and punctual. Fit to work.
While there’s no denying that work is inevitable in one’s economy and culture, to merely think about claiming a job slot after school is crippling. If schools are here only to cram information into our heads, make us take exams, and secure us a job, do these translate to competence and passion later? And if what the world values today are insight and creativity—the very things school tend to stifle—what is school for?
Compulsory education, despite productivity that now races to the bottom, has resulted in too much obedience, wasted time and money, unquestioning attitude, anxiety towards hierarchy, and fading dreams. It seeps through the system.
Despite these drawbacks, we comply because there are consequences if we don’t. Fear is built in place. And for most, grades mean a lot even if we’re cognizant of the real metrics of learning—the desire to figure things out. Real life experiences that go beyond test scores. Does school emphasize these?
For some, school made people want to learn. But learning for most is forced upon them, when it should be something we decide to do because we care and we want to go further. Do we really want to spend years teaching advanced Math to a grade schooler who just wants to draw?
Now that online learning is replacing the traditional school system, it’s our turn to ask: What must school be for?
Ultimately, it boils down to whether or not school has broadened our minds. If this means school laying the foundation to building one’s dreams—not destroying it—and arming each person the right tools to amplify it and contribute to the world, then it has broadened our minds.
It’s ironic, though, that as we become adults, we’re expected to have magically found our passion. But passion is neither some pre-existent treasure we’re supposed to hunt nor something we force to happen. We cultivate it. And isn’t it best to cultivate it while we’re young?
What would it mean for the world if nourishing potential started when there’s ample of time and enthusiasm to make interesting discoveries? Isn’t it the best time to know the strengths of each child and explore how best to cultivate those gifts? If that freedom is fortified through early maturity, then we would be responsible, motivated workers by then—achievers in less time than is necessary.
If there were more teachers and parents great at recognizing and pushing potential, regardless of background or genes, then more students may not have given up on their dreams and settled for what was expected of them. When teachers care and expend honest emotional labor, students become engaged. They grow and that compassion creates ripples.
If stretching one’s mind means encouraging us not to suppress but be our authentic selves, and if we were celebrated rather than ridiculed for being different, then we could carry that spirit and dare to do things differently—an attitude our world needs to thrive.
By bringing our true selves, we stretch beyond defined jobs and build our dream jobs. We’ll grow because we don’t pretend to be anyone. Instead, we bring generosity to the work we love. And everybody wins. By creating this culture, more people will have the courage to put their work out there, create global competition, sustainability, and space for continuous improvement.
When we are given the space to not only aspire towards grandiose dreams but to know how to get there in a stepwise direction, then we can take pride on what we accomplish every day. We’d learn to love the craft. And aware that anything worthwhile takes patience and unfazed commitment, we’d never rely on being picked, but show skills that are rare and priceless.
If we were not just handed a map to follow, but taught how to lead our own lives, then we can choose to fire up our pace and explore possibilities with less fear. We know it’s not a crime but a favor to commit to something larger than one’s self, because only then we can challenge our fears and assumptions.
By not only broadening but strengthening our perspectives, schools can mold us to embrace failures, learn from them, and bend our reality—useful things that school can teach when it moves past obedience and ramming up facts.
Access to information is no longer scarce. What we need are deeper understanding, connection, and creativity. To do things that matter in a changing world. To redefine what it means to be educated.
I believe that what can make our dreams a reality is a kind of learning that’s up to us. A malleable, personalized education available to all that will foster freedom and love for lifelong learning.
Because when learning is in our hands, we take responsibility to excel. We see not the given path but the possibilities of our own choices. If this is what a broadened mind is, then school has really won.