Friday, June 02, 2006

Do you have anything to say?

I do a fair amount of work with teenagers, so I get mail from them and have conversations. Here is a message that I received recently:There are literally millions of teenagers that have this same question.

I have my own perspective on this, but I am curious about other perspectives and personal experiences from a variety of backgrounds. Does anyone have a story or idea they would like to share?

Comments:
Well, my kids are educated completely outside of the school system, neither one has ever set foot in a classroom. Generally speaking, I would completely agree with the teen that he is mostly wasting his time in school.

I would point the teen to "The Teenage Liberation Handbook" for information and inspiration.

http://www.lowryhousepublishers.com/TeenageLiberationHandbook.htm
 
I develop computer software for a living. I am mostly self-taught, because of the rapidly changing nature of the industry when I was starting out in the mid 1980's. I do occasionally use some specific item from my time in school in day to day life (I'm 44 years old), but even if I used nothing at all, school would still have been valuable.

The key element of school is to practice the art of learning. It's up to the individual to continue this practice outside of school, but school itself provides one of the best opportunities that exist to learn how to learn. This is, in my opinion, the most important skill a person can develop.

I got bored a lot in school; most of the classes I took were not subjects I enjoyed. What I found out in the "real" world, though, was that being able to research a problem, take notes, present solutions in concise summaries, report on my findings, and to communicate knowledge with other people is invaluable. I am successful at what I do not because of the subjects I took in school, but because I kept at those subjects until I could apply the techniques of learning to any problem.

Practice makes perfect, as they say, so my advice would be to try as hard as possible to keep at what you do. You may be learning more than you think you are.
 
Drop out and start at your local community college. You may investigate if your district reimburses for high schoolers tuition, but in any case, you can take the same exact courses, and be exposed to a wider diversity of people and experiences. I don't recommend you start homeschooling at your age - you don't need it, and on your own, you may not be anymore motivated to complete your work independently than you are to do your coursework now. All 4 of my kids started college at 16.
 
I agree with Jack, the point of school is not what you learn, but how you learn.

If you can do that outside of the school system, and convince you peers that you are a intelligent person without a degree or diploma, then you can be successful.
 
Wow. "The key element of school is to practice the art of learning. It's up to the individual to continue this practice outside of school, but school itself provides one of the best opportunities that exist to learn how to learn. " I truly didn't believe that anyone believed that. I can't argue with that. It's so perfectly wrong that it would be like trying to convince someone that the summer is hotter than the winter. If they haven't noticed, they can't possibly be convinced.

For everyone else who reacted to that quote like I did, I recommend www.johntaylorgatto.com
or to look up the statistics on homeschooling or Sudbury School outcomes.

Beyond that, I'll second "almost lazarus"
 
http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2006/02/case-for-unschooling.html
 
I would recommend he read a couple of essays.

1: http://paulgraham.com/hs.html

2: http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/LRNFACTS.HTM

The first one explains (among other things) that high school does suck, but it's important because college is important. College is important, the essay explains, because it's the best place for meeting and interacting with smart people. (This is an important resource if you're going to start a business.)

The second essay explains that in order to remember all the random facts we're exposed to, we have to give them some meaning.
 
School teaches you to do things even though you don't want to do them. It is an important skill if you want to be successful. Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. School teaches you how to perspire.
 
Stay in school!

I was recently diagnosed with adult ADHD, a neurological disorder that affects my ability to concentrate and study. Getting tested for ADHD was one of the best things I ever did.

I am 27 years old and still have not obtained a college degree despite multiple attempts. In every case, I always sputtered out after a semester or two, failed a load of classes, and dropped out. I simply could not keep focused for such a long period of time. I became exhausted with the mental strain of forcing myself to study, and often became severely depressed. For a long time I thought I just wasn't cut out for school. This is all despite the fact that I have a very high IQ (>150).

Now that I've been tested, everything makes sense. I'm on medication, and things are getting better. I don't know why I didn't get tested earlier. I really wish I had taken care of this at 16 instead of today.

The moral of the story, of course, is that if you think you might have a learning disability, or any other disorder, GET TESTED AS SOON AS POSSBILE! I can't stress this enough. You will save yourself years of trouble.

All of my friends have graduated college, have good jobs, are getting married, and buying houses. I can't do any of that yet because I'm still trying to get my degree. You will feel similarly left out if you wait like I did.

With that said, why should you bother getting a college degree to begin with? Because a college degree will give you the best possible chance of living the life you want to live. In certain fields such as science, engineering, medicine, law, or academia you have virtually no hope of finding a job without a college degree. Some fields are more forgiving such as acting, writing, information technology, and trades such as plumbing. However, you have to understand that for most jobs you will simply not be considered without a college degree (I know from experience this is true).

Even if you are able to find a job without a degree, you will always have to prove yourself at every step of the way. This is because you don't have any credentials to show. When you apply for a promotion, you will have to work much harder than all the other candidates to prove you are the best. Is that the kind of life you want to live?

As to starting your own business, have you thought about what that would take? What skills do you have that people will pay you for providing? Where will you find the money to start your business? Who would invest in someone without any credentials or previous business experience? How will you survive if your business doesn't work out at first? What if it doesn't work out at all? These are the things you need to seriously think about.

I would strongly advise you to finish high school, and then attend the best university you can get into. It really will help you in life. Also, remember my advice about being tested for a learning disability. Often smart kids are able to mask their disorders, so your teachers might not have any idea that something is wrong. If you suspect at all this might be the case, GET TESTED.

All the best!
 
I've been out of school for a LONG time, and truthfully don't remember too many of the details. I tend to fall in between some of the previous comments.

From what I recall, public school did NOT do a good job of teaching me how to learn. And from what I've seen of my nieces and nephews, they've gotten even less capable of doing such. So I'm not sure that Jack's comments are true any longer.

But what I have found is that it is the DESIRE to learn that is most important in getting ahead in life. A successful career requires constantly learning new things and how to apply them. If the desire to learn is lost, then the ability to advance in ANY field tends to go with it.

When I was in school, I constantly WANTED to learn new things, regardless of what they were. Yes, I did have subjects that I didn't care for, but even with them I was still able to find interesting things. Unfortunately, these days it is almost always up to the student to maintain the desire to learn, and to pursue the interesting topics.

Regarding the subjects themselves, it's virtually impossible to know ahead of time which ones will and which ones won't be useful in the future. Many people think that they know what they want to do when they are in high school, but end up doing something completely different. One should never short any opportunities, as you really can't know which ones may end up paying off in the long run.

I personally agree with those who recommend home schooling, as there are more and more signs that this is the only consistently valid way to get a real education. However, this process takes a major commitment from the parents, and can't just be chosen by the student.

On top of this, the self-discipline that one must learn to exercise in order to remain successful in school will always be a skill required for a successful career.

So my response on this would be to try to find ways to recover the interest in learning, and try to find something interesting in each of the subjects. Some of what you learn will be useful, and at this point you have no way to know which things that will be.
 
Why should you bother with high school? Because you're 16 and if you don't get a high school diploma, your future options will be limited. Sure, there are plenty of paths you could take to success, but by not completing high school (and getting good grades) you'll rule out some of those options. 16 is a very young age to begin ruling out pieces of your potential future.

When you're that young you think (or at least I did) that you can literally do anything and become anything. To a large extent, that's true and it's one of the most amazing things about living in this country. The thing is, as you get older, that wide range of options becomes more narrow. Unfortunately, our lives are still finite, so there's a limited number of careers you can have.

Since you haven't had enough time to explore all of your interests and discover your passions yet, why take the lazy path and potentially rule out something that could have provided a fulfilling life of happiness?

My advice? Get your grades back up, because you have the ability, and go to college (any college). As someone else pointed out, at college you'll be surrounded by smart people who will become friends for life. These people and experiences will shape your beliefs and thoughts and future. It's by no means wasted time. It will give you a chance to explore and learn and discover what makes you tick. That time and freedom is a luxury and an experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Like you, when I was your age I began to develop a sense of urgency about getting on with my life and grew tired of "wasting time" in school. I'm very thankful that I stuck it out though because I've had so many more opportunities because of it.

Truthfully, I still don't know what I really want to do with my life, but I'm forever grateful that my education has given me the ability to try many different paths. I'll just keep trying new ones until I find something that really clicks.

Regardless of what you decide, don't ever stop learning and applying your knowledge. In the end, that's what it's all about.
 
I think that the skills that are taught in school these days are not quite right for the world we now find ourselves living in.

Information management, critical thinking, how to learn, and logic.

I'm *not* saying that math, languages, history, sciences aren't important, but if we started off with these (in elementary school), what comes after would be much easier.
 
First of all, there is something to be said about the actual material they supposedly teach in high school. High schools do a terrible job of teaching material, but the material itself is important.

Science, math, and history in particular are fascinating areas of study. The idea of high school is a good one; it's just that the execution has gone terribly awry. The key is to take responsibility for your own education in these areas (e.g. read your textbook and Wikipedia). You can even consider proposing cool things the class could do to help you and other students learn more effectively, since chances are your class could use the help.

Second, if you want to start a business, here is one thing you can do: go to college, take a moderate courseload, and in the meantime work on a business. Most undergraduate college students accomplish very little in a given day. College is such a great environment to start a business, because no matter what, you are gradually completing your classes and working toward a degree , and society considers that alone to be enough! So any sort of business venture you do is extra. And if it succeeds, you can drop out to work on it full time.
 
Benjamin Franklin had no formal education after the age of 10, and yet he was an inventor, writer, business man, diplomat, statesman with notable distinctions such as signing the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

He educated himself, because he just loved to read.

Of course, he was probably also a genius, and we're not all that naturally gifted.

But I think the most important thing is to be interested in something.

I mean, it's very difficult to learn when you're bored. Not only is it difficult to learn facts, but it's also difficult to learn basic skills when you're bored.

I don't think I learned anything in my history classes, even though I got good grades.

Yet, when my brother gives one of his spontaneous history lectures, he can hold the attention of a whole room of people, including myself. And so, I think I've learned more about history from him than all the history classes I've had to take.

So for this reason, I think both the teacher and the student should make their principal focus on finding ways to make learning interesting (and finding what interests them).

When people are motivated, they will largely teach themselves when it comes to both facts as well as the basic skills such as communicating (reading/writing, speaking/listening) and thinking.

By the way, I have a cousin who has ADHD who I don't think ever completed college. But he always loved to work on cars. When he got to be in his late 20s, he took an exam to be a BMW mechanic. He got one of the highest scores. And now, he's loving his high-paying job as a BMW mechanic.
 
The only worthwhile thing I remember from high school is reading McBeth in senior English. I wanted to do more stuff like that. Everything else seemed like just a repitition of what we had studied in earlier grades - a complete waste of time.

I've had several jobs and although all applications ask your level of education I've never once been asked to prove that I have a high school diploma. Still, I can't say school was completely useless. Most workplaces have a lot in common with high school. You're expected to show up every day, on time and you spend a lot of time doing worthless crap that doesn't make any sense. You are also expected to get along with your co-workers, many of whom act like, well, high school kids. So high school is good for the experience even if it seems like you're not learning anything you'll ever need.
 
I tend to write too much too fast in this crazy area of sur-information (not to mention that my english is not that good :/).

So all I would say is find your interest, get motivated, and get passionate about all you do (or at less try!).

A challenge in this life is to get a right balance that will make you happy. Do the right thing. If your school grade are important to you, then study the right-way (think about this... you can study 10 hour and get 70% and study 5 hours and get 90%, find out why.)

Sometime we only change our way to work because of other, or we simply just take the wrong path because we feel the need to go fast. Often… slowly is faster. Do it slow, but right will save you more time than try to rush and get all mixed up. Ok, I am trying to repeat this for myself too… and all the others.
 
"Learn to learn"- I agree with that. However high school carriculum could be quite useless and boring. It is more important to understand what you want in life and target your education accordingly. Take AP classess. Think beyond high school.

Good grades are important. How can you get into good schools if you don't have good grades? It does mean that you have to suffer through a lot of learing that you don't need in your life. How can anybody determine that you can do intelligent work otherwise? If you are a genius and planning to be self-employed - don't bother with high school - otherwise get a grip and endure trhough.
 
Here's another interesting article on this topic, written by a former teacher...

http://www.wesjones.com/gatto1.htm
 
My son, now in his 20's, got straight A's until his senior HS year. He was a brilliant student, one of the smartest people I have ever known, and nearly 100% bored with school. He never entered college because he thought it to be an extension of HS. He is now, by choice, a hippie street musician.

His belief was that almost all public schooling is simply for the warehousing of youth and/or preparation of clone workers and consumers. I think he is basically correct.

More and more schools are dropping the arts while maintaining job related skill building. It may be considered reasonable so that the future worker can earn a living, but at what cost to the humanity of the individual and to the esthetic needs of a culture?

Our US culture is rapidly becoming one of bland corporate sameness. Most of us eat and drink the exact same products, wear the same clothing, and listen to the same music - all more or less dictated by the R & D of a few mega-corporations.

Now, with the intrusion of these same companies into our schools curiculums and facilities, the schools have become instruments of that economy more than the means of a truly broad and enriching education.
 
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