The 5 Things I Never Learned in School

February 17, 2014 — 5 Comments

Let’s face it, school doesn’t do the best job of setting us up for success in life.  I’m not mad or blaming anyone, but if you’re expecting to succeed based only on what you learn in K-12, or even add in college, don’t expect Bill Gates to call anytime soon.

After I started working at Accenture, these things became readily apparent.  Gone were the days that “being a good student” was enough for success.  My bosses didn’t pass down assignments with clear rules and most of the time even if I did have direction it was quite unclear!  After I read Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto, I was relieved that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

Gatto says it’s a quasi-conspiracy because the powers that be want to keep us working class people in line.  I don’t quite believe that far yet (who knows, as I continue to grow my hair longer and wear more tie-die, I may move more that direction), but I do believe there are a lot of real world things school does a horrible job of teaching.

Anyway, enough talk, here are the five things I never learned in school:

1. How to Assess Myself
2. Take Action
3. Question Authority
4. Manage Money
5. That I’m More Than a Consumer

1. How to Assess Myself

No, I’m not talking about the kind of assessing of myself that I do after a long hike during tick season (too far?), I’m talking about determining if the work I do every day is really worth a damn.  School teaches us to be dependent on constant feedback and grading from our teachers to assess how well we’ve done; we never get the chance to grade ourselves.

If I sat around all day waiting on feedback and grading, I’d never really get anything done.  You should be able to tell me right now – is the work you do every day ‘magnet to the refrigerator great’, or is it crap?  If you can’t tell me, there’s a decent chance that it’s crap!

It’s also important to assess yourself if you have a bad boss who doesn’t give you feedback at all or gives you incorrect feedback.  Bad advice can also come from a ‘good person’ who is afraid to tell you how to actually improve.  Either way, it’s not a good life if you’re dependent on them.  Be honest with yourself, and know if your work is crap.

2.  Take Action

School doesn’t teach us to take action, instead it teaches us to sit around and wait to be told what to do.  We wait for the teacher to tell us to open our books and what we’ll learn for the day.  We work on what they assign and take our homework home with us. We wait for the bell, and then switch classes and do it all again.

If you take this same mentality and try to apply it to life after school, please don’t expect a call from Bill Gates (by the way, let me confirm, Bill Gates has never called me either).  Life belongs to those who take action – not those who wait around to be told what to do.  We never would’ve taken our trip around the world if waited until someone told us to do it.

3.  Question Authority

The 5 things I never learned in school

This bull didn’t respect my authority when I told him to stop, he just kept licking my leg.

Nothing makes most teachers angrier than if you begin to question their authority – and the same goes with most bosses too.  As kids, we’re taught to respect our elders and not to be a pain – which is usually what someone who questions their elders is considered. The point is not to disrespect elders, but to be brave enough to question what you might be spoon-fed.

We learn time and again that our current assumptions about the world aren’t all correct. Some incorrect assumptions come from a lack of information, purposeful bias, or by the fact that history is written by the winners.  One great way to bring this into light is to read the book 1491 as it tells the story of the Americas before the Europeans and how advanced the Natives really were.

Your professors, boss, parents, etc might be extremely smart, but they don’t know everything. Keep in mind if you plan on disagreeing, you better be very informed on the topic. Most likely, they are well versed on the subject and they’ve heard arguments before. Go in unprepared and you’ll look like a fool.

4.  Manage Money

You probably hear me talk about this all of the time, but we’re not taught about real life money at all in school.  In fact, as a Finance major I should have been completely prepared for the real world, but I wasn’t and I went $50,000 in debt to prove it. I learned a lot more than a non-Finance major, but it still didn’t help me.

I had one professor who told us the one thing you should do after college is continue living like you did in college for a few years, so you don’t automatically jump to a more expensive lifestyle. He wasn’t even a Finance professor, he was a “Consumer Law” professor who just liked to give out practical advice (of which I didnt’ listen to).  Check out my post on how to take control of your money if you need help in this area.

5.  That I’m More Than a Consumer

Nothing offends me more than when I hear the news or government call me a consumer;  I consider that the worst of the four letter words (ok, 8 letters).  Consumers don’t add value to this world; they consume food, crap at Wal-Mart, and everything else that can be purchased. There is very little satisfaction that comes out of a life of pure consumption where nothing is produced in exchange

No government (or whoever else is giving me this title), I’m not a consumer, I’m a producer.

How does this rant relate to school?  I think it all starts with the way formal education works when topics are dumped into our brains by the shovel full.  We don’t learn that way, we learn through experience and doing.  When we further explore items we’re interested in and truly learn them, then we can become producers.

You may think I have too much time on my hands if this makes me angry, but dang it, I find it insulting.  They’ve done such a good job of conditioning us that it’s now a normal term to be called a consumer.  I’ve actually been trying to think of animal that’s only a consumer, and I can’t think of any!  All animals are eaten by other animals so they are producers… except humans… so if you really don’t produce anything in your life, and you aren’t eaten by an animal, I guess you can be considered a consumer.  That’s not me though, if I don’t produce, I definitely want to get eaten by another animal.

Ok, on that note, I think I’ve written enough for now.  There are probably more than five things that I didn’t learn in school, but these are the five that I’ve had to change my mindset on the most to succeed in the real world.  What about you, can you think of any other things that you were never taught?

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5 responses to The 5 Things I Never Learned in School

  1. I feel exactly the same way you do. The worstt hing is for a long time we have allowed large producers to take this from us. Slowly we are taking this back. The number of small producers popping up continues to grow all the time.

  2. Good Lord, where to begin? What I was not told was what to expect when I moved my blog to my own site. Now this doesn’t relate to school, but it should! I was also not taught to manage money, and still have problems managing it now, as an adult.

  3. Gosh I can so relate to all of this my friend. As it was with you, I learned through trial and error, emphasis on the error part… LOL. I have grown to understand how to see my money in the appropriate way and manage it accordingly. I now understand that I’m just not a consumer but a person who needs to make decisions based on my needs and not on what I want. To summarize, no surprise, I am still a work in progress. 🙂

  4. It’s great to see you’ve read Gatto. However, this post only gets at the tip of the iceberg all that is wrong with education. The scenario you describe and the sort of education Gatto and others like Paulo Freire are criticizing would be that of traditional pedagogical practices that still run rampant in 21st century classrooms. You’re generalizing quite a lot, but I’m not one to speak since I left public education behind because it’s a futile endeavor to try to be a part of in its current state. Still, not all schools are created equal. Many are making strides in project-based curriculum that immerses students in more authentic learning experiences. Education can only change as much as politicians and parents allow. It’s an intertwined system and everyone is to blame.

  5. I agree with you. I am not going to continue this conversation because it will lead to a rant and no one wants to hear my rant. LOL

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