“They are not teaching my child enough in school (K-12).”
“School (K-12) is boring.”
“I don’t like my major, but my parents are forcing it on me because they believe this field is where all the good jobs are.”
“I need to pass this course, even if I have to cheat so that I can finish my degree and get a job.”
“I know people with college degrees that can’t even find a job.”
These are some of the statements that people make when they are either feed up, confused, or disinterested in the education they or their children are receiving. While their concerns may seem legitimate to them, the act of drudging through school or dropping out of school before completing a bachelors degree is becoming more costly to the average American as the rest of the world surpasses us in the educational arena and becomes more marketable and competitive in the global marketplace. More and more, American CEOs are complaining on Capital Hill that America’s young people do not have the required skills and training to meet the demands of the ever-changing business world. CEOs like Bill Gates, have used these claims to widen the door for the ever-increasing outsourcing of American jobs to more educated talent pools in poorer countries like India.
Now, I would like to address this issue by discussing the need for Americans to rethink how we go about educating ourselves, because our educational process has gotten caught up in the web of capitalism and has become a product for sale rather than an intellectual enrichment process that lasts as well as benefits us throughout our life. Contrary to what many may believe, education is not simply a gateway to a job. And while our government has created and “maintained” our educational system through our tax dollars, it is not solely their responsibility to provide us with a quality education that meets our individual needs and satisfies our unique curiosities. We have to begin taking some initiative in our own education and that of our children if we want to remain marketable and competitive on the world stage as well as develop intellectually as human begins. This requires educational leadership in the form of shifting our thinking from simply being educated because society says so, my parents say so, or because I need a job, to retraining ourselves to learn how to learn so that we can begin shaping and controlling our future endeavors.
What do I mean when I say learn how to learn? Well, learning how to learn means that one goes into the educational process ready to absorb the material from the standpoint of sheer curiosity. Whatever peaks your interest is what you as a learner should focus on. Now, I understand that schools (K-12) and colleges have curriculums, but the idea here is to identify you learning style (such as visual, audio, or hands-on) through learning the basics in K-12 (reading, writing, and mathematics) and then use this knowledge as a spring board to teaching yourself any and everything that interests you as you move through your life. You may be asking, how can I teach myself or learn anything without formal training? The truth is that everything that we learn intellectually is rooted in reading, writing, and mathematics. Therefore, your level of mastery in these three disciplines will play a large role in determining your intellectual prowess as well as ability to teach yourself new things. This is why you must master reading, writing, and mathematics in K-12, so that you can supplement your formal education with informal education (which includes utilizing the wealth of knowledge available at libraries, museums, art galleries, and the information-rich Internet). The key to the informal education is that you identify and explore things that you are naturally curious about and use the knowledge you gained in your formal educational training to facilitate this learning process.
You see, when you begin to learn how to learn, you can teach yourself almost anything if the natural curiosity is there. That gives you great power and can turn you into a life-long learner (which is becoming very necessary in this competitive world). Speaking from the vantage point of someone who has mastered the skill of learning how to learn, here are viable responses to the statements made at the beginning of this piece:
One is not simply relegated to saying his/her child is not being taught enough in school (K-12), because one realizes that there are many venues outside of the formal school setting where he/she can supplement his/her child’s learning.
School (K-12) is no longer seen as boring, because one realizes the foundation (reading, writing, and mathematics) for all supplemental and future learning begins here.
It becomes difficult for others (such as parents, friends, or teachers) to impose their will upon you in regards to your education, because you have taken control of your learning. In life, it is your own, not someone else’s natural curiosity or interests that will make you great in whatever you choose to do or be.
Cheating becomes unnecessary, because you realize that by doing so you would be hurting your intellectual development in the long run. By cheating, you would be learning very little if anything for use in your future endeavors.
Lastly, having a college degree by itself guarantees nothing. There is much more that makes up a person’s level of employability such as work ethic, punctuality, or diligence. Nevertheless, education is very important, not only for career development but for self and intellectual development. Don’t use others failures as an excuse for you to fail as well.
Dr. Barrett has an earned PhD in applied management and decision sciences, with a specialization in leadership and organizational change. He also holds a MS in organizational leadership and a BS in organizational management. In addition to these degrees, Dr. Barrett has completed several executive certificates focusing on various areas of management and leadership development.
Dr. Barrett is proud of his academic accomplishments, as they are the product of his long and sometimes difficult journey out of poverty. Along his journey, Dr. Barrett served honorably in the U.S. Air Force, participating in several vital overseas operations in the Middle East and Europe. He has also taught organizational leadership courses at the graduate degree level at Mercy College. This desire to develop leadership whether it be in myself or others is what drives Dr. Barrett. Dr. Barrett currently lives in NYC, where he runs The Barrett Center for Leadership Development, LLC (http://www.TheBarrettCenter.com) The Barrett center offers workshops, seminars, caoching, consulting, and speaking engagements focused on the leadership and organizational principles developed by Dr. Barrett. You can find his current leadership model (The Barrett Leadership Model) in his new book Leading from the Inside-Out.
The Barrett Center’s Mission: To help clients develop their leadership from the inside-out. The Barrett Center’s Vision: Uplift the human condition by teaching individuals and organizations how to lead their existence from the inside-out.
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