Props: I was inspired to write this article after reading this interesting article on SEED magazine.
Class is in session
What do you remember from school? For me, I remember a lot of horseplay and trouble, coupled with the need for us to remember facts and regurgitate them with efficiency unparalleled with that of an IBM Watson. It rarely if ever taught us to be imaginative or to use our brains in critical and innovative ways.
For me, school was too slow and I had to waste time—teachers considered me a nuisance because I did not want to work and I was constantly bored of the curriculum. Some might have considered me dumb, slow or even stupid, because I would not fall in line with the status quo. But my official track record showed a smart individual with little drive: in short, my grades and time were squandered.
I managed to pass schooling with some good marks and some honors in a few subjects, as well as some more challenging curriculum, but I still found it boring: the environment itself, not the subject matter. I yearned for mental exploration, but I felt like I was wasting away in the doldrums of class.
I then got a grant and scholarship, began college and even started tutoring. I was getting paid to go to school. Not only that, there were no strings attached. I got my degree, picked up my checks, and voila, I was off into the workforce. If that wasn’t awesome, I didn’t know what was. And yet I wasn’t fueled by anything. Yes, it was design, it was something I knew intimately because I spent my free time at home on the computer, experimenting and learning for fun, not for grades or for money.
College vs. real life
The irony of it all is that college was more of a time waster for me because I had already begun working in the field as a freelancer, and juggling REAL work, the work I was going to college for, was more of a pain.
I finally got my degree but I had lost time: it took me an extra year because I was working in the field already, so I couldn’t do a full time schedule (though I was close.)
In a nutshell, it was kinda useless.
College was a lot more interesting, a lot more engaging, and I did learn some great things, no doubt about that. But the point is, I didn’t learn that much for what I put in.
99.999999% of what I’ve learned as a designer has been in the field: trial by fire.
The feeling I initially left with is that education AS A WHOLE, is a giant waste of economic capitol and human mental energy, and it is a weak link that facilitates stagnancy in the ever-changing landscape of societal progress.
The big picture
That is a pretty bold statement, but let’s look at the reality: traditional education has never been a quality metric for learning and mental faculty. More money does not equal better education, as the U.S. has demonstrated with it’s extremely poor worldwide averages and reasonable spending on education.
Even from personal experience I found the same to be true: I was consulted a few times by the head instructor of my degree’s department to help revise curriculum requirements for new accreditation.
I was working nearly full-time as a designer, and I was finding a major fragmentation between college and the workforce: requirements for the real-world and requirements for college just didn’t line up.
Side note for you web-design-savvy folks: They were teaching DEPRECATED HTML (frames,marquees,table-based layouts) while I was learning css3 and using div-based layouts, and this way before the explosion of css3 and the advent of HTML5.
This giant institution, and the fundamentals of its existence were severely inflexible: they could never, by their very nature, keep up with the flow of business.
More than just a job: teachers and students are the seeds and soil
When a teacher is just another employee, there is little incentive to work hard for the benefit of children. It’s all about the bottom line, and increasing bottom line means increasing efficiency. Increasing “teaching" efficiency has resulted in some terrible practices in teaching method (homogenized course curriculum, 1:30 teacher student ratios, standardized testing, etc…).
The web is a place where we can take on new challenges and learn instantly. We can received unbiased (and of course skewed as well) answers to most any problem we might have. It is undoubtedly the quickest way to progress in learning because it is such a vast sea of information. It requires critical thinking at all points of contact, because it is a system of anonymity and it is something new to humanity in general: there is no “supertrust” that we can use to gauge it’s efficacy or benefit. We must experiment and learn quickly in order to understand it.
But it's not just information
It’s critical thinking; it’s analysis; it’s fun and games; it’s constructive (and sometimes UNconstructive) criticism. It’s the seemingly endless chaos and equally distributed order that form such a powerful tool.
But don’t take my word for it: Isaac Asimov (you might have heard of him) explains it more succinctly:
In short, the internet feeds the expanding mind with more satiety than any stuffy classroom ever could.
We’ve seen the transtition to online classes, and online schooling. The next phase of education is of course the workforce, and we’ve seen that transition online as well.
Everything is coming into the web. Why don’t we recognize that power?
And if you weren’t convinced, here’s another great video on TED.