Why do we have education?

A meme floating around social media:

Now that people can make 20 million dollars a year playing video games on YouTube, it’s getting harder and harder to convince kids that education is important.

Wait, what?

The sole purpose (or primary purpose) of an education is to make money?

This is how it’s been framed much of the time for most people, with two results:

First, work that requires no or minimal formal education is undervalued, as are the people doing it.

Second, it puts learning in a little box to be used and discarded.

You go to school to get the paper to get the job to get the money.

And I guess that’s what a lot of education has become.

But what about learning

Sure, knowing how to read and do basic math are important for basic life functioning in post-industrial cultures. But we don’t need more than elementary school for that.

And we need elementary school for so many other skills that have been stomped out in favor of more math and more reading.

What if we learned how to learn? If we nurtured curiosity and creativity?*

Schools would look different, kids would look different, culture would look different.

Creativity is part of human expression—there have been art and music for thousands of years—but creativity is a necessary component of problem-solving. So even if you don’t consume or value anything considered “art” (TV, movies, books, photos, paintings, music, etc., etc.), you probably still want science. Discoveries. “Progress.”

It all requires creativity. Looking at things differently. Wondering how things fit together or why they don’t. 

Maybe instead of trying to steer kids into soul-sucking white-collar jobs, we should give them space to learn what’s interesting. Sure, within boundaries. Limitless options are overwhelming. 

(We could also maybe adjust the soul-sucking jobs.)

I had a final exam in college where we could use any format to summarize what we’d learned over the course of the semester. People wrote papers, created visual art, created music, performed skits. 

Why not?

We desperately need to break free from the mindsets that pushing more content makes better-educated kids, that compliance is more valuable than questioning, and that the point of school is to get a job.

Start in your sphere. What do you value at home? How do you spend your time and energy? What do you reward your kids for? How do you react to experimentation? To failure? To curiosity and questions?

*There are other things that have been stomped out of elementary school that we need, but I intentionally left them out in an effort to stay focused.

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