Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't Let School Get in the Way of Learning

What is the end goal of education? Is it to learn and gain knowledge? Or is it to enable us the ability to get a job? Or maybe education is just supposed to prove to someone that we have the endurance and perseverance to stick with something and finish it. Regardless of the point of education I have found that school continuously find a way to distract me from learning and gaining real knowledge for my chosen career. From being taught outdated material, or maybe information that is completely wrong, or just principles that have no use formal education seems to be more of a distraction and deterrence to learning.

Think about it, we are stuck in a classroom taking classes that just require us to regurgitate what ever the professor trys to feed us during a lecture in a dark classroom with a god awful power point that breaks all the rules of presentations we learned in speech class. Ok…. Students don’t learn anything from that. I could memorize and spit out information when I was 7 years old. Not to mention I don’t want to waste my time trying to remember which philosopher said what, and which sociology principles were derived from whom. Honestly that information is only useful on Jeopardy and Cash Cab.

Even classes within our major have “major” flaws. (yep that’s a pun, I paid attention in my writing classes in high school) We are taught outdated material or even taught how to do things completely wrong, and graded more for organization rather than our understanding of concepts or if we can complete challenging procedures. But this post is not about what is wrong with classes, its more about how to play the game of school and win.

I have found that experience working enables me to learn much faster than memorizing information that I have to sift through in order to find useful material. School throws a lot of information at you and expects you to know all of it, but offers relatively little time for experience in real world situations. The only way to learn how things are accomplished in the real world is to be doing them in the real world, outside of school. This statement would imply that learning takes place away from school. So if I learn outside of school then what is school for, and why am I still enrolled? Simply put, school is just a means to obtain a degree, not an education.

The degree helps enable us to get a job, it shows that we can accomplish something that takes time to achieve. It shows dedication and perseverance, but does not necessarily mean that we learned anything useful.

If going to school is just a means to get a degree and most of the learning can be done with experience, then we simply have to play a balancing game to put as little effort towards school as possible in order to make as much time as possible to gain experience and build relationships with those who actually work in the industry and have relevant information to share with us.

One may ask, “shouldn’t you do the best you can at everything?”—YES! I strive to do my best, but if my goal is to learn about audio and I have determined that I will learn more outside of school then my best will be spending as much time gaining real experience, not studying trying to memorize how to calibrate outdated equipment. If I can minimize the time I put forth towards class then, I can focus that time on gaining experience and making connections that will lead to a job in the future. Studying or making my documentation look perfect will just get me a good grade, and maybe some more head knowledge that I have to sift through to find applicable information that I wouldn’t have learned from experience alone.

I have now determined that I will not only learn more from experience outside of class, but I will also make more connections that lead to jobs in the future. So how do I know how much effort to put towards class, if my goal is to save my time for other things? Its simple… just enough to get by. It’s a thin line to walk, but the time and stress you save pays off.

I know this is all very cynical and is a bit exaggerated, but it makes sense. Don’t let school get in the way of real learning and opportunities. There are some classes that are worth putting a ton of effort into because you actually walk away learning, but there are just as many if not more that gain you nothing but some head knowledge that may or may not be useful, and of course there are some classes that even teach material that is flat out wrong. In the end, a student has to play a game trying to sift through what is worth spending time on in school vs. what is not, and the more time you don’t have to spend on school is the more time you have to do other more beneficial things.

“Those that can't do, teach, and those that can't teach... teach gym.”

--Dewey Finn, School of Rock


Max said...

Well said. I started realizing this after our college screwed me out of a door I work incredibly hard to open. I somehow managed to snag a lunch meeting with John Esposito, CEO of Warner Music-Nashville, got him to personally send my resume through the entire Warner Music channels, got offered two separate internships within the label, only to have Belmont tell me I couldn't do them because I was only a Freshmen. Apparently I did too well too soon.

After that, I began to understand like you have that the classes and curriculum here are set for the lowest common denominator of student, and if anything create a ceiling for the rest of us. The classes may help us understand the rudiments, but its really up to us to make the connections and get the experience.

I could care less about that piece of paper they're handing us in two years; I'm here to make real connections for the future. And I know you're on the same page.

April said...

While I take offense to the statement about teachers, I can see some of your perspective. Good teachers teach because they have a passion for education - not because they aren't capable of putting their learning into practice.

That being said - there is a level of deficiency in education today that you address well. Learning something antiquated is unnecessary. However, broadening the scope of our understanding through a variety of topics like sociology enables us to be more pragmatic as adults.

Preston - you are gifted and focussed. This enables you to learn outside the confines of the university. However, many students go to college to find their passion. Many do not have the opportunities that you do for experiential learning. So, if your argument is that your giftedness makes education less applicable to your situation, then few could argue otherwise.

I'm a teacher. I also homeschool because I see the value of experience that can't be offered in the in-seat school setting. However, I do hope my children go to college to learn to deal with people, stand strong in the face of challenge when their values and beliefs are challenged, expand their knowledge base, make friends and connections, and learn to live and function within a society outside the bounds of what I am able to expose them to.

I enjoyed your treatise, appreciate your writing talent :-), and look forward to the amazing things your future holds.

Jon said...

I just wish apprenticeships were still "in."

Preston Gray said...

Mrs. Bradley,
Thanks for the feedback, and I should not discount all teachers. I have had some exceptional teachers in the past, including you, but recently I have had professors that struggle to teach information that is useful or even sometimes correct.
I also do see some benefits to learning about sociology and other general ed classes, but because they are intro level courses I find that most of the material that is taught that can be applied to life is nothing more than common sense, or what I have learned growing up from my parents and the great teachers I've had.
Again, thanks for the comments!

April said...

Preston, Thanks for taking the time to speak your mind. Critical thinking and common sense are lacking these days in many - students and teachers included. I hope you find those professors that spark your passion with theirs.

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