200 Days ’til 40: Are We Destroying Our Teens’ Education & Dreams?

05 Aug

We have sold ourselves into a fast food model of education, and it’s impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies. ~ Sir Ken Robinson

The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions. ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement. And it’s the one thing that I believe we are systematically jeopardizing in the way we educate our children and ourselves. ~ Sir Ken Robinson

My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status. ~ Sir Ken Robinson

I have always found the words of Sir Ken Robinson to be fascinating. I must admit, it is easy to be fascinated when I agree with what he is saying. I find myself asking similar questions and drawing similar conclusions….. education is NOT working for our children. It is working for some of our children, but as a whole, education as we do it today – the model we use – is broken, it is not working. I may even argue it is in disrepair. There are times when you try to fix your car when it breaks down. Often it can be more economical to fix your car. However, when your car gets really old and continues to break down on a regular basis, there are times when it actually becomes more economical to retire your car and start over with a brand new machine. I think the time has come for us to be bold and brave enough to do this with our educational system.

As a parent and educator I find myself increasingly more disturbed that the basis of the high school experience has evolved into a race and pressure to develop the most impressive application possible for collegiate study. In essence, our institutions of higher education are running and driving our high schools, as they set the standards that we pressure our students to meet.

I am not always popular when I tell parents and colleagues that I wonder if their entire educational philosophy is wrong. I am not always popular when I tell parents and colleagues that I am not in agreement with pushing college for every child. Not every graduate needs to go to college, and they certainly do not need to go immediately after high school when they are often not ready to pursue their studies diligently and ultimately have no clue who they are or where they are heading career-wise. Imagine how much more productive university years would be if students participated in community service or other alternative programs for 2-4 years prior to entering university? The maturity that occurs during that time, as well as the ability to explore and clarify goals, would ultimately change the college experience for the better.

It is also very important to note that if the definition of life success is the ability to create a successful career for oneself then we must acknowledge that there are many skilled professions that require technical training, but not a college education. In these cases, students need to be educated about their options…. nursing school, truck driver training, computer programming, etc.

Furthermore, why is it that our society has evolved to a space where collegiate education is considered a critical element necessary for future success? Is this REALLY the case? Look at how many individuals who “made it big” never graduated from college – yet, society still holds firm to the fact that college is necessary for success…. the sad truth is, it is not. Granted, there are some professions that necessitate a university education, yet it is important to know the balance and find a way for our children to gain admittance into top quality institutions without having to fall victim to the immense pressure to perform a certain way and check their thinking freedom at the door.

Two years ago our oldest told us she wanted to be a hair dresser when she grows up. Needless to say, my partner and I are cerebral snobs and we were not pleased with this announcement. Yet, as we spoke, I realized my own biases towards collegiate education and a hierarchy of professional prestige (completely in my head) was in full swing. In the end, I realized that my daughter is very smart – and is looking at a great profession. I am assuming that people will always have hair (at least non-balding men and women). Therefore, my daughter is wanting a profession with a shown pattern of customers throughout the years. People always need haircuts. While this may not be what I would envision for her, this is her dream and it would open a career path for her that would enable me to not worry about her ability to provide for herself. It pays well and there is always a demand…. I learned a valuable lesson.

Today, 200 days ’til 40. I continue to question the way we structure education as a whole, and particularly high school education. I hope that you are brave enough to question it as well – together we can help to change the system for the sake of our children.



Tags: , , , , ,

44 responses to “200 Days ’til 40: Are We Destroying Our Teens’ Education & Dreams?

  1. Whitney Rains

    August 5, 2012 at 01:36

    As someone who works with college freshman, I completely agree with you. Most are not emotionally ready for the stresses of college and being on their own. Most are also not prepared by their high school education. When I’m grading exams, it hurts my heart a little to see students not even try to finish their test and others who can barely put a coherent sentence together. Most of them write the same way they talk and text and every year it gets worse.

    I was lucky with most of my high school experience because I was challenged by two of my teachers to work harder and achieve more. However, when it came to math and science, I did not feel prepared for college. As a high school senior, I decided to go into music instead of studying Astronomy because I didn’t think I could do the math. How sad is that? I have been doing astronomy on my own since I was 11 and when I thought about my four years of high school math, all I saw were teachers getting irritated and even yelling at our class if we didn’t immediately understand something. I only had one teacher who would go that extra mile to help students really learn math. Our system is so driven towards perfect grades and in my state, a stupid test that prevents teachers from really being able to teach.

    I’m glad you posted something like this! It’s important for parents to understand that something is wrong with the education system and the people in charge. People also need to understand that college isn’t for everyone. A lot of students are simply enrolling in college for the financial aid benefits and end up dropping out. My University’s retention rate is terrible right now because of this. I applaud your courage to speak your mind, even if people don’t agree. It will ultimately be educators like you that get the system to change.

    • 400daystil40

      August 5, 2012 at 11:29

      Yes, it is so true – most really are not ready for college. I also agree with you that, sadly, our high school education does not prepare many of our students for collegiate academics. I will often supervise master’s level interns and I have them write case reports for me. I am very often appalled by their inability to use correct grammar, let alone write a strong sentence or create a coherent argument. This is also one of the problems with us believing that all students should go to college. As a result, the system is now absorbing individuals that may would have been better served by finding their passions in other areas.

      I did not realize that students were enrolling in college for the financial assistance – that is crazy! Particularly because they will be left with the bills when all is said and done – and that debt is worse than never enrolling and working at a minimum wage job.

      I hope that parents start waking up – as they genuinely believe they are helping their children, but, sadly, they are not. I hope we are able to change the system!

  2. Whitney Rains

    August 5, 2012 at 01:37

    Reblogged this on A Serendipitous Happenstance and commented:
    Great post on education. Read it!

  3. saymber

    August 5, 2012 at 02:39

    By December my husband will have completed welding certification training and will be able to get a job anywhere he chooses…I’m so glad he didn’t stick with computers. I agree the “system” is broken and now we’ve got a bunch of college graduates who are flipping burgers, living at home and unable to support themselves because so many are choosing careers that were suppose to equate to big bucks but in reality have equated to big debt and not enough jobs.

    • 400daystil40

      August 5, 2012 at 11:22

      Wow, how wise of him to make the switch – I am sure it will pay off for you. What you mention is so very true – there are tons of college graduates out there who believed they would have lucrative careers and are now finding themselves with a bachelors degree, $40,000 + of debt, and delivering pizza (something they could have done without the degree, and without the debt)…… when will we learn?????

  4. craftythriftydecoratingwifemom

    August 5, 2012 at 04:49

    Who would fix our cars, be in the construction business (not as architects but as tradespeople), clean the office buildings the college grads work in, serve us in stores, restaurants, etc. if everyone went to college right from high school? My son with autism will probably never attend college, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful member of society? Do you consider culinary arts schools college? Not your bachelor of _____ degree but we depend on them for making times special,. It’s broke, let’s fix it!

    • 400daystil40

      August 5, 2012 at 11:18

      Yes, we really do need to fix the system. I agree with you completely. I will often tell parents of children with different abilities or special needs that I absolutely do not buy into the ridiculous belief that only college graduates can be productive members of society – if we look around us we see that this is a false belief. I am sure your son will be a productive member of society and you will help him to find his niche.

  5. walkwiththerabbi

    August 5, 2012 at 05:09

    It simply doesn’t make sense that we should encourage a system that is geared toward getting better at our weaknesses. Getting better ay our “Unique Abilities” is the key to success on all levels. I’ve had great success in my profession for 45 years, yet didn’t finish grade 10. After leaving school, I acquired 6 professional designations by getting up early to study over a 15 year period – when I was ready for the challenge and not before. You are right on point my sister.

    • 400daystil40

      August 5, 2012 at 11:16

      Yes, it is very true. Wow, you are a perfect example of this reality. And I am CERTAIN that you are more successful in your profession than many people with bachelors, masters and even PhD degrees – yes, our education system is really not working.

  6. vanetua

    August 5, 2012 at 06:59

    What a very moving post. Although I hold a college degree and am working toward another, it took me years to understand that college is not designed for everyone.

    • 400daystil40

      August 5, 2012 at 11:15

      It took me even longer to truly understand this.

  7. viveka

    August 5, 2012 at 09:45

    This with hairdressers …. is really amazing – there is hairdressers in every corner and they always look empty, but when I need a haircut – they are always fully booked. ??????? And they can charge what ever they want … some take up to €80 without being a big salon or name. Daily rubbery *laughter – think its with hairdressers as … with undertakers – they will never be without a job. Good luck to your daughter. Because as a hairdresser … long days … chemical that can damage her hands … and her back have to be strong.

    • 400daystil40

      August 5, 2012 at 11:14

      Very true! I am not sure she has thought about these things yet….

  8. The World Is My Cuttlefish

    August 5, 2012 at 10:03

    Being comfortable with our children choosing careers that do not make use of the talents and skills we value can take a bit of self-reflection, I’ve found.

  9. Lucianus Mauricius

    August 5, 2012 at 11:27

    Years ago I applied and was accepted for a teller job at CitiBank with just a high school diploma. Now, try and do the same thing today and see if you can get through? It has become almost impossible to find a good paying job without a college education, even if you have years of diverse work experience, most companies value more a piece of paper than real hands-on experience. I’ve had so many diverse jobs in my life, and yet it seems today my work history means nothing and some 20 something year old gets the job just cose he/she jut got outta college and of course has connections.

    • 400daystil40

      August 5, 2012 at 11:32

      Yes, it is so disheartening, isn’t it? The sad thing is that many of those 20 year olds have thousands of dollars of debt and a belief that the world is theirs and they also are not getting the jobs…. and have no way to pay off the debt for their degrees….. it is a very tough world we live in right now.

      • Lucianus Mauricius

        August 5, 2012 at 11:36

        My point was, lets assume you’re a human resources manager who would hire, a person with experiences in the filed s/he is applying for or a piece of paper and all the idealist ideas that come with it through young age and unpreparedness???

        • 400daystil40

          August 5, 2012 at 11:37

          Depends on the manager – I hire all the time, I always take age and experience, but that is because I know it is what I need to run a healthy organization.

          • Lucianus Mauricius

            August 5, 2012 at 12:22

            You’re right about one thing, college is not for everyone and definitely doesn’t apply to all job markets.

  10. leftoverrecipes

    August 5, 2012 at 13:23

    I live in Israel. Here after finishing high school there is mandatory military service for 2-3 years or more. This service usually includes responsibility and managing groups of people (and just in case you’re into stereotypes, it usually doesn’t include massacring Palestinians). The result is that most 21 year old Israelis are more mature than the average 21 year old American. At this point many people go abroad or “take a break”. There is a great choice of technical schools and universities, and people tend to go where they want to go and not where they think they’re expected to, because they have the maturity and the time to think about it.
    I’m personally more worried about the elementary school structure, where up to 40 6-year-olds are stuffed in to a classroom and filled with mostly useless knowledge without thought. I’m going to struggle to nurture my son’s creativity while still teaching him how to handle people (he’s starting 1st grade in September).
    I considered homeschooling, but it isn’t for me.
    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

    • 400daystil40

      August 5, 2012 at 14:24

      You are welcome, thank you for your comments. Yes, at one point I also considered homeschooling, but it is also not for me. I do think that taking that time to mature prior to heading to university creates a better university experience for all involved and more focused students….. I hope we learn soon.

  11. Patchouli Sky

    August 5, 2012 at 14:15

    I consider myself fairly progressive, yet it took my daughter to change my mind about college. She did indeed attend college, but I was convinced she needed a business degree rather than the liberal arts degree in music that she desired. She followed her dream, now has a master’s degree, and is successfully running her own business, which is thriving. With the added benefit of absolutely loving what she does each and every day. Had she taken my advice, I fear she would have been miserable.

    Our other child would have been much better off waiting to go to college to find his path. He floundered for several years before he found his path. Now with a master’s degree, he too is successful.

    With the cost of a college education, I think it is vitally important for young people to realistically determine what degree of education they need, and as importantly, have a fairly clear vision of their path before even entering college, if they do decide to go.

    • 400daystil40

      August 5, 2012 at 14:26

      Wow, it sounds like you learned a lot from your children and their college experiences. Yes, it is so easy for us to put our demands or ideas on our children, which then do not help them because they are following our desires instead of their passion – yet their passion is what they will need to drive them to success and to be the motivation when times are tough. The balance is always a challenge. And, as you say, with the skyrocketing costs of college education, we need focused students in college – we cannot afford to pay for extra years of their floundering as they attempt to determine their path.

    • 400daystil40

      August 5, 2012 at 14:27

      I consider myself fairly progressive, yet it took my daughter to change my mind about college. She did indeed attend college, but I was convinced she needed a business degree rather than the liberal arts degree in music that she desired. She followed her dream, now has a master’s degree, and is successfully running her own business, which is thriving. With the added benefit of absolutely loving what she does each and every day. Had she taken my advice, I fear she would have been miserable.

      Our other child would have been much better off waiting to go to college to find his path. He floundered for several years before he found his path. Now with a master’s degree, he too is successful.

      With the cost of a college education, I think it is vitally important for young people to realistically determine what degree of education they need, and as importantly, have a fairly clear vision of their path before even entering college, if they do decide to go.

  12. Sid Dunnebacke

    August 5, 2012 at 15:33

    I’ve watched this very talk a number of times, trying to figure out how to apply it to our older daughter who is brilliant (no Daddy bias there) but also seems to be the daydreamer/thinker version of the wiggly little girl Robinson talks about who becomes a dancer. I’ve not come up with anything useful yet. Now about the entire system – I’m in full agreement with you, but how are we to bring about the change that is so needed? I haven’t an answer there either.

    • 400daystil40

      August 5, 2012 at 15:48

      Yes, this is my greatest frustration with his wonderful talks – he eloquently and accurately addresses all of the problems, but we are left with an understanding of all the problems with no idea of how to progress towards solutions. I hope that myself and other educators can figure this one out, hopefully before it is too late.

      • Sid Dunnebacke

        August 5, 2012 at 16:09

        Yep, I’ve heard that criticism of Sir Ken before. I kind of get the impression not, but do you have colleagues who share your view? As one measley little parent, I of course feel powerless to bring about any change – do you, as an educator, hold out much hope? Are you seeing any small ripples of change?

        • 400daystil40

          August 5, 2012 at 16:37

          I am not sure how I feel as an educator, but I am in the process of trying to connect with other educators who feel as passionately as I do about these critical issues – I am not the only one, there are others out there…. I am going to work with one of my new HS teachers to try to create a course that encourages innovation with student learning – encouraging students to create and implement their own learning opportunity – hopefully building skills for the future…. we will see how it goes 🙂

  13. tonyakerrigan

    August 5, 2012 at 16:37

    I’ve noticed this too. Rather than delving into a topic, teachers are forced to skim over in order to teach as much information as possible so the end result is the kids don’t actually learn or retain anything. Another thing I’ve noticed is the emphasis on creative writing. Yes, it is important to learn creative writing, but it’s also important to learn professional business writing as well, and that’s something that seems to have been lost.

    • 400daystil40

      August 5, 2012 at 17:45

      Yes, it is so true – the pressure to cover ridiculous volumes of information in a limited amount of time is actually hurting the education our students get. I think it would be better to learn less, but in more depth – understanding the process of learning and writing (and researching).

  14. coconutspeak

    August 5, 2012 at 23:23

    Speaking as a person who never went to college, I think that the spirit in which Americans learn anything, whether it be in or out of schools, has to be addressed. My blog touches on the subject of education from the standpoint of the parents and their kids. Please read my posts titled ‘Adios Torreon’ and ‘Hell, Heaven … What’s next?

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:31

      I agree with you completely! Thanks for the links to your posts!!! 🙂

  15. Another Thousand Words

    August 5, 2012 at 23:49

    Truly an excellent post, 400!!! If more actually heeded the words of Sir Ken Robinson, we would surely enjoy our children more. The young people I see in my daily rounds have not benefited from caring parents or teachers…their words and actions are more than sufficient proof.

    I continue to maintain that the responsibility for a child’s basic knowledge belongs with the parents. If that child is well-disciplined at home, he/she will be a better student, ergo the teacher would have an easier time doing his/her job.

    Keep up the good work…you are blessed with much wisdom!

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:31

      Thank you so much for your wonderful words of kindness!!!!!

  16. Lily in the Nova

    August 6, 2012 at 00:31

    I completely agree with this. I used to think having a degree was fundamental in securing a job that paid well. But I’ve realised that it isn’t the case for everything.

    I agree that we shouldn’t feel like we HAVE to pursue a degree and if we do, it doesn’t have to be straight after high school. I, myself, didn’t actually know what I wanted to do career-wise when I applied for university. I ended up choosing computers because I was convinced it was a good choice – good pay and computers are used everywhere nowadays, so lots of jobs available. But looking back, I realised something. I actually had no clue about what I was really trying to aim for. I just told myself “I’ll figure it out along the way, that’s why I’m applying for this.”

    I finished the course only a couple of months ago and, although I did enjoy it, I still don’t know where to go with it. I was drifiting in the wind, waiting for something to happen. But I never did ‘figure it out’ and I’m left still figuring it right now.

    Thank you this really interesting post! We need more people like you who are willing to notice this flaw in the education system and realise it needs changing! We need to inspire students into finding their passions, not merely push them into what everyone thinks is the ‘right’ route.


    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:29

      Yes, we really do not need a degree – just knowledge, application and responsibility….

  17. werethestoriesgood

    August 6, 2012 at 05:10

    Brilliant piece here! So true, too. I myself spent the first two years of college finding out how low a GPA could go before I got shipped off with my National Guard unit to Iraq and was given some time to get my head on right. I have to admit that I am still a “cerebral snob” myself and will be initially disappointed if my kids don’t want to go to college but hopefully I will remember the wisdom contained in this piece and be supportive of however they decide to pursue their passion.

    I really like your blog, btw! As a Library Science student I am constantly talking about/questioning the value of our accepted methods of educating our children so a lot of what you have to say here is right in line with how my brain is working on a given day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Oh, and thanks for visiting Were The Stories Good, so glad you liked my review of Faith Erin Hicks’ book. Have you read it yourself?

    Take care 🙂

  18. sixathome

    August 7, 2012 at 00:18 I went to college but I am not convinced it is a viable choice anymore. The older I get the more I see the push of outside influences on our live and I am hoping to quell those forces for my kids. I believe if you ever think you have the truth about something or know it all you have stopped learning and growing. Keep questioning!

    • 400daystil40

      August 7, 2012 at 21:00

      Yes, we do need to always question – or we stop growing, which is not good!

  19. mskatykins

    August 8, 2012 at 00:36

    A very daring post and extremely well put, 400! 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      August 8, 2012 at 22:43

      Thank you so much! Now we need to do something about it! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: