Imagine If Education Was Valued


Can you imagine a world or a nation where education is valued? For thousands of years, education was highly sought after. Unfortunately, something has changed here in the United States.

Today, we can scroll through social media and see memes suggesting that advanced education is worthless. We live in a nation where students cheat on exams, do just enough to get by (maybe), and feel that their high school “education” was enough, even though most are not even prepared for remedial college-level courses or entry-level jobs. We have slipped into an elaborate, global version of Punk’d, and the comedy Idiocracy has become our documentary.

When I was in college, a professor once asked if online or in-person assessments could be trusted regarding student cheating. I found that to be a rather odd question. When you think about it, perhaps that question is framed entirely wrong. I contend that almost any assessment can be trusted. That is because the trust issue is usually not with the test but with the student. However, to truly see the problem, we must ponder why a student might be compelled to cheat in the first place. I believe the answer demonstrates my original point.

Why isn’t the student engaged enough to learn the material? Why isn’t the student excited to test their knowledge? Is it the teacher, the student, the material, the curriculum, or the instructional design? Perhaps it is everything. Even worse, maybe it is the blind leading the blind.

You would be amazed at how many teachers are just as ignorant as the students they are trying to teach. Why? Because they did just enough to get by in college and committed very little to memory themselves. So now, they get paid to regurgitate talking points, stifle creativity and critical reflection, and then have the audacity to suggest that they are heroes. Well, most are not. Many are a big part of the problem. Let’s temper our enthusiasm for most teachers by remembering that most students are neither prepared for work nor college upon graduation from high school. That’s pathetic. Even more pathetic is that they blame the students.

Whether talking about grade school, high school, or college, we should probably admit that we have a systemic problem in our culture. As I have written about before, ignorance is winning. We live in a nation where celebrities like Pete Davidson will boast about their enthusiastic unwillingness to read, and fans follow. We live in a country where people say they are not concerned with the potential extinction of homo sapiens because we have more significant concerns, such as roads and homeless shelters. We live in a nation where people can take high-level courses from some of the most respected universities for free and choose not to partake. We live in a country where if your point cannot be made in 280 characters or a 60-second video, most people will not take the time to examine it. I could go on, but I am sure you get the point.

Can you imagine a nation where education worked? Can you imagine sending your kids to school to be inspired, explore, and develop their ideas? That is how education used to be. It used to be a place where you would go to review the literature, critically reflect upon what you examined, ask clarifying questions from a subject matter expert, develop your thoughts on the ideas being presented, innovate and create, learn to think for yourself and then test those ideas against peers and professors. That type of education exists but is usually reserved for private schools.

Think about it for a moment. Wouldn’t kids be much more engaged if they felt they had a personal stake in the matter? Wouldn’t kids learn more if encouraged to develop their ideas regarding the material? Wouldn’t kids critically reflect upon those ideas if they were allowed to test, critique, and debate their positions and the positions of others? Of course, they would.

That is not what is happening, though. Instead, most kids are tested on their ability to cram indoctrination and forced to parrot whatever was shoved down their throats. Many are taught that debate and individual ideas are not good things. Many are forced to dumb themselves down (as evidenced by college preparedness) for the sake of some number that a school district must hit. And worst of all, time for creative or critical thought is not allotted for most.

There is a reason why guys like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are considered exceptional. There is a reason why guys like that continue to change the world. Where do you think the ability to innovate comes from? It seems to me that you need things like creativity, exploration, examination, and so on. Either way, I can promise it does not come from conformity, dumbing down, walking on eggshells, and the status quo.

If you want to elevate yourself or your family, here is some simple advice. Write your ideas by hand once in a while. Read and read often. Examine ideas that contrast with your own. Then, formulate your thoughts about what you have read. Critically reflect upon your learning and how you can use the information. Attempt to tear apart misconceptions and biases. Test your ideas with others and be excited about the critique. Identifying, understanding, and correcting the flaws of your ideas will only make your ideas better. And most of all, stop trying to be perfect and learn to embrace failure because you can improve your processes when you know what doesn’t work.  

Check out my article titled Leadership, Learning, And Critical Reflection