When schooling interferes with your education

When schooling interferes with your education

When the subject of educational institutions comes up, I have a tendency to get very passionate about it.  The reason for this is that I did very poorly throughout my primary and secondary schools and the reason was that I was often bored to tears and had many teachers who did not have a clue (to be fair, not all, but a vast majority were this way unfortunately).  It was not till later in life, to the utter surprise of my parents and friends, when I attended the university after transferring from a local community college that I started to do well.  Though I was initially enthusiastic when I transferred, I found that I was just as bored as I was in high school and even more disappointed since unlike high school, I choose to attend the university.


Fortunately, unlike my younger days in high school, I was older and a bit more wiser and found learning and education (not schooling) both intoxicating and mind expanding.  When I ran across the quote from Mark Twain, it dawned on my that I let schooling interfere with my education in my early days and vowed from that point not to let that happen again!  I have never stopped self-educating myself since.

But what I specifically want to talk about today is an article I found titled “Is Our Education System Hurting Entrepreneurship?” in which it discusses how the educationalist Sir Ken Robinson, critiques our educational institutions for as he states it so eloquently, “employs 21st century technology, but with a 19th century mindset.”  This he believes, and in which I’m in agreement, stifles creativity which in turn stifles innovations and the budding entrepreneurs who will create the enterprises of the future.  According to the article, Ken Robinson outlines three changes that must be done to facilitate innovative thinking:

1. Its emphasis on conformity.  While human life flourishes on the prospect of diversity, schools often box us into predetermined curricula that can feel both impractical and stale.  By studying subjects that don’t help us in the grand scheme of what we’d ultimately like to accomplish, schools act like machines that prize standardization and efficiency when people are far more complicated than that, Robinson says.

2. Its emphasis on compliance.  Whereas teachers follow regimens to curb disobedience, real energy comes from creativity and diversion, he asserts.  An emphasis on discipline can yield harrowing statistics: one-third of high school students don’t even graduate and 50 percent of adults claim that they are depressed and engaged at work, Robinson said.

3. Its emphasis on a linear path. Our educational system operates under the assumption that everyone should follow the same path — from elementary school through to university — when, in fact, life is composed organically, moment by moment, according to Robinson. Some of the most celebrated business luminaries — Richard Branson and Steve Jobs among them — did not graduate from college.

What’s most illuminating about the three points aside from the sound recommendations, is that the critique of the emphasis on conformity, compliance and linear processes in educational institutions, can be applied verbatim to the corporate institutions.  It is why as I mentioned in my previous post on the intrapreneur, a facade when companies tell you to take risks and be entrepreneurial.

But people who lead organizations are not all to blame because their educational institutions and the schooling that they received made them that way.  And the more schooling that they get, the more compartmentalized and siloed their thinking becomes.  It is a vicious circle and the only way to break from it is to go on and maintain a rigorous program of self-education coupled with healthy skepticism and desire to not only think out of the box, but create new boxes as well!

P.S. – On a similar note and so that it aligns with this site’s emphasis on project management, this also explains why PMO’s are not “centers of excellence” but in reality “centers of mediocrity” since they have the same obsession for conformity, compliance and linear processes.  I’m not saying this is bad and in fact, getting mediocre performance consistently and predictably is a goal many PMO’s would be honored to reach.  Its only when you try to pass off something as excellent when in fact you desire mediocrity that it is attempting to pound a square peg into a round hole.

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