School doesn’t prepare you for the real world

real-world-and-school

School paints a false reality of the real world. Not only is this “reality” completely wrong, but worse, they convince students the real world is most definitely going to be the way they say it is. Students, having never yet lived in the real world, naturally believe it to be accurate. But, of course the real world is nothing like way schools describe it.

instead of simply peddling a false sense of the “real world,” they take it a step further and convince students that this “real world” they describe is exactly what students should anticipate once they leave academia. They paint it as a magical place where jobs are plentiful and available to anyone who gets a good degree and follows the rules.

So not only do students get a false perception of how the real world works, but they are forced to believe that the schools version of reality is absolutely true. It’s not just moronic and irresponsible, it’s deceptive and malicious because after leaving school, students continue to search for thisnversion of the “real world” painted in their heads by the school system – a reality that doesn’t exist.

The result is not just students when are shocked and surprised by what the real world is actually like, but they go into denial, refusing the accept the real world entirely and waiting for their version of the real world – filled with promises of a bright future – to materialize.

Its not that schools don’t tell students Santa Claus doesn’t exist. They tell students that Santa really definitely exists, and tells them they should search and wait for him to appear because he’s absolutely real. It’s incredibly dangerous and explains, in part, why recent graduates are so dillusional and unrealistic about what to expect as an adult.

Their value to the economy, their perceived skills and knowledge, are said to be absolute and “special” in this fantasy world instilled into them by every teacher, professor and guidance counselor they’ve ever encountered.

School is harmful

If the school system paints an overly positive real world where achievements in life are as a easy as they are in academia, that’s not so bad. Sure, students will eventually figure out the real world isn’t as easy as they were led to believe in school, but they’ll figure it out when they start their career. But schools go further and jam this alternate universe down every students throat. They are told that real life is never as hard as academia and if they succeed in school, real life will be a breeze.

They are told that what it takes to achieve top grades and success in the classroom translates directly to rewards in the real world. They convince students that if they graduate, follow the “plan” and don’t deviate from their path, they’ll end up with a prestigious career with unlimited pay and benefits.

They teach students that opportunities are endless and waiting for graduates to cherry pick at their pleasure. They completely ignore and worse, train students to deny he existence of the brutal characteristics of real life and what it takes to succeed.

In academia, the concept of competition, innovation and inequality are set to the side to make room for giving out trophies for anyone who shows up, and a plethora of feel-good rewards given out by the boatload to everyone who wants it.

According to academia, having a masters of the coveted pHD ensures you’ll be at the top of your career. Getting good grades and filling up your resume with lots of scholastic achievements will make you endlessly desirable to employers.

The underlying idea of school is that nothing in life is harder than school. That if you can make it in academia, you’ll surely “make it” in the real world. When this couldn’t be further from the truth, they cram it down every students throat and force them to accept this fantasy as reality. It sends these dillusional students into the real world with a false sense of hope.

It harms students by literally making them oblivious to the real world. When they enter reality in an attempt to stake their own claim, they’re ill prepared to say the least. It isn’t what they expected and it’s much harder than what the teachers told them it would be. So they continue to wait and search. They spend their lives waiting for the schools version of “real life” in the same way a child who believes in Santa Claus waits for his descent down the chimney.

I can’t think of anything more malicious, dangerous and harmful for students.

As students continue to refuse job offers because they want something more – something promised to them by their success in academia – they continue to go unemployed, waiting for that dream job to appear before them. In reality, without the necessary hard work and sacrifice, you’ll be waiting forever and never get anywhere.

School does everything wrong. They pretend to know what it takes for students to be successful once they enter the real world. In reality, school becomes more of an obstacle that students have to overcome rather than a tool for success. People who are successful do so in spite of school instead of because of it.

The big flaw

Schools encourage students to all learn the same skills together. If there are 1,000 students in a class, the school is perfectly fine letting each and every one of those 1,000 students learn the exact same thing so that everyone knows no more or no less than anyone else. I don’t know if they do this intentionally or because it’s logistically easier – but they do it nonetheless.

Instead of rewarding creativity, or individual thinking and pursuit of their place in life, they encourage you to learn exactly the same stuff as the next guy. Maybe the next guy gets better grades than the other guy – but it’s irrelevant. Ultimately, they all walk away from school with the same few skills – the same knowledge. 1,000 students venture out into the real world with varying levels of the same handful of skills.

They churn out one mediocre student after another, leading to masses of graduates who are ill prepared for the real world. It’s not useful and it doesn’t help them. Instead, it pushes out 1,000 identically skilled students into a world that has no room or need for these workers.

School doesn’t understand how the real world works

The real world only has a finite number of places available for those 1,000 students – which is why when all 1,000 of those graduates compete for those same finite slots in the world, and most don’t make it very far.

The real world wants – and needs – 1,000 unique slots to be filled by 1,000 unique minds. Not 1,000 identical minds competing for the same few places in life.

What’s even worse is schools convince students into thinking they’re filled with unique and useful life skills that will make them a huge success in life. Students enter academia with fresh minds that get melded into like-minded robots. Even if you pick a unique major, everyone else with that same major still gets filled up with the same knowledge as you do.

1,000 potentially unique minds enter academia and instead of 1,000 diversely skilled individuals entering the workforce, what the economy gets instead is just another 1,000 identical students who all think they’re special.

Its inevitable that this happens because you can’t make 1,000 different courses and textbooks for each and everyone in your class. Of course schools have to reuse the same material for everyone else. But my problem is that this has become normalized. There aren’t many areas of any school that gives freedom to students so they can invent a place for them after graduation – or to hone their unique talents.

But this is how school is designed – to take unique minds and take away their uniqueness. Neutralize their potential talents and replace them with the same knowledge as everyone else in their class.

This is why schools love giving tests that have only one right answer. Every student is expected to know this right answer and regurgitate it on their exams. They reward you for this behavior and defines it as “success.”

In the real world, whether you’re an employee or an employer, you’re constantly having to solve new problems that change all the time. The sole act of problem solving is the determining factor of whether you’ll be successful or  not. That’s never been argued.

The problem with schools is that they solely focus on the “right answer” and ignore the process that goes into finding this result. The real world is always changing and evolving – and the problems and solutions also evolve. This means the process used to solve a problem is a reflection of the changing world – and that process also has to change. Why? Because new problems require new ways of thinking. But how can you think differently if you’ve been trained and rewarded for thinking NOT differently?

The biggest problem with schools is that by forcing students to constantly seek that one and only “right answer,” they forget that the process matters as much as the result. To be successful in life, you have to know how to solve problems – which are always changing. A big problem today may not exist tomorrow, or vice versa.

Schools don’t understand or care for creativity or unique thinking – so they preach the opposite. They teach students that all of life’s problems will never change. So the process to solve those problems also never changes. And the process is always the same in school – memorize. You memorize as much as you can so that you can put it down on your exams. You do homework so you can train yourself to memorize. You write papers to help you memorize what you write. You take tests to regurgitate everything you’ve memorized. If you fail, go back to the same process of rememorizing. If jay fails, try harder and memorize some more.

If solving new and ever changing problems is what you do in the real world, how does this “process” or approach to problem solving become useful? You’re literally been trained to approach every problem the same – memorize the solution to the problem ahead of time so you can spit it out. The real world doesn’t work that way. Life’s problems are constantly evolving. How can you memorize answers to problems that don’t exists yet? Or how can you innovate when you’re always looking for the one right answer? What if the right answer doesn’t exist? What if there are lots of “right answers” – how do you solve that?

Your toolbox literally consists of one single method to solving problems. Memorize the answer ahead of time. It’s useless.

Do you see the problem here?

If you fail, try again. But don’t change your approach. Just try harder. You don’t become successful if that’s your approach to life.

In real life, if you fail to solve a problem, you have to find a new approach. Obviously your first attempt failed because your process was wrong. You didn’t fail because you failed to memorize the right answer.

if you run a business and no one wants to buy what you’re selling, you don’t just try and keep selling the same thing over and over. You find something different to sell. Simple.

But by the logic of school, what students are trained to do, is to try again using the same process. If you don’t get the job you want, go back to school and learn some more, then apply again.

If your business venture fails, try it again but don’t change a thing. Just try harder. Schools have made this approach to “learning” the core foundation of the academic system – and ironically it’s this one-way of thinking that is the recipe to failure in the real world – not success.

Schools perpetuate insanity

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Isn’t school training students to do exactly that?

Why is it that schools don’t encourage students to look at a problem is different ways? Why does there always have to be one right answer? Life isn’t a multiple choice and the questions aren’t always predictable. Nothing in the real world works like this – yet that is the core principle instilled in every student.

A successful person looks for multiple ways to solve a problem – and tries each and every avenue until it works. That’s the basic recipe for success.

It’s no surprise that when graduates don’t get the results in life they hoped for, they don’t know what to do next. Why? Because school hasn’t taught them what to do next. For all the courses, homework and exams, they have never taught students what to do if a solution doesn’t work out. So the student is stuck there in limbo. Maybe they’ll go back to school because that’s where the answers are. Maybe they’ll go unemployed. I don’t think schools really care as long as you’ve graduated with honors.

No great innovations have come out of academia

If you look at history, most successes came from people who did the opposite of what they were trained to do in school. They sought new solutions to problems and avoided the rigid way of thinking that makes students successful in school.

Thats because the real world rewards innovation – the ability to find new solutions to problems in different ways.

How many professors have you heard of that have changed the world? Not many. That’s because the formula for success in the academic world punishes the same approach in the real world. The formula for success – the idea of the “one right answer” – ensures that you’ll do phenomenal in school. But taken out of context and applied in the real world, it guarantees failure.

Life is a lot of new problems that keep on changing. The successful people in this system are expected to change alongside these new problems and find solutions by any means necessary. They constantly change their processes and ways of thinking in order to find new solutions. On every scale, whether you’re hunting for a job or looking to become the next Steve Jobs, finding the solution that others haven’t yet considered is what creates success.

Those who can’t do, teach

I’ve interviewed hundreds of people over the years for my company and my clients companies. They mostly follow the same path of “right answers” and when asked the same 10 questions to an applicant. They’re canned responses but they don’t understand that because they don’t want to be unique. They want to be correct. They think the interview went really well because they recognized 10 questions and were able to respond with the 10 “right answers.” But I tune them out because 99 other applicants just replied in exactly the same way. They were all “right” but employees don’t hire based on who has the right answer. It just doesn’t matter.

Being right – although great for school – does nothing to show me how this person is able to solve problems or adapt to their environment. It doesn’t show me their true talents or ability to think outside the box or add value. Employers hire employees because they understand that they will add value to their organization – and the only way to do that in the real world is by being able to solve problems – and not just the same few problems but new problems that haven’t been invented yet.

Professors and teachers usually have never had to pursue a career in their field. All they know how to do is perpetuate the same system that employees them in academia. They’re the least qualified to give advice to any graduate on what will make them successful in the real world. Ironically, they’re the first person most students turn to for advice.

Ask a professor or guidance counselor how to be successful in the real world. Their answers are usually the same – take as many classes and learn as much as you can. Get good grades and use that to impress your future employer because how you do in school is a direct reflection of how you’ll do in real life.

It’s bullshit. If that same guidance counselor went to a job interview, their resume would be added to the pile of other 10,000 mwdiocre resumes headed for the shredder.

There are a few exceptions – but by and large, the real world doesn’t fall for this nonsense anymore. School means very little. There was a time when school reflected your true abilities in the real world. Good grades and a good degree showed employers that you are able to accomplish and innovate successfully under any circumstances.

Employers have gotten smarter than that over the last generation. They know that great grades and 3 degrees are not reflections about that graduates value. They see it for what it is. Someone who is really good at memorizing textbooks and taking tests.

Schools need to get with the real world. They need to structure learning environments that reflect the true nature of the real world and allow students to find their own right and wrong answers to problems.

The ability you be your own “right answer” is far more valuable than the ability to memorize someone else’s right answer. The ability to approach problems in a multitude of ways is what is actually useful in the real world.

Real life experience is what determines your true value to society. Don’t pad up your resumes with lots of school. Get out there. Make something happen and show the world you can do more than memorize and regurgitate.

Don’t be the 99% of applicants at the interview with the same canned answers. Don’t try so hard to blend in because by putting your faith in the academic system and trusting them to prepare you for the real world is a mistake. Even if school tells you you’re special, you’re not special in the real world unless you can think for yourself.

Schools, by their nature, churn out losers. Life has winners and losers. Winners adapt and think outside he box. Losers think exactly like everyone else and never consider other ways to approach problems. Never forget that.

You won’t get far relying on school

Stop thinking school is looking out for your best interests. They’re not. They want great test takers and memorizers because that’s what makes a school look successful on paper – what grades their students are getting is far more important to a schools measured success than what their graduates move onto after they leave.

School will make you a one-dimensional person in a three-dimensional world. Don’t take your professors and teachers word for it. They likely have never had to interview for a job or try and accomplish themselves in the real world on any level.

The real professors and teachers are the successful people who are the winners of the real world. The executives. The successful business owners. The people who you aspire to be once you graduate.

Talk to these men and women who are winners in the real world. The people who do and don’t just teach. Thkse who figure out the right answers for themselves instead of memorizing junk. Those who don’t hide behind a classroom or tenure, dishing out career advice to students when they themselves have never had to do what you’re trying to do – make it in the real world.

Find these people and ask them what made them successful. You’ll be surprised how many will want to talk to you. You’ll also be surprised how few of them attribute their accomplishments in life to what they learned on the classroom. You’ll see a pattern. A pattern that shows the most successful people are those who found their own way and learned how to solve problems in spite of how they were trained in school.

Don’t listen to anyone who hasn’t done it themselves. Anyone can teach or give advice – but not everyone’s teachings or advice are worthwhile.

School is just a semi-optional stepping stone – a line in your resume. To be truly successful, learn from other successful people and find a way to know more and offer more than the next person. Don’t forget that in the end, you’re measured by your worth – and if you can’t do any more than everyone else, you’re not going to be worth much.

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