Reflection is a powerful thing. Often we can’t help but to look back on recent events and ask ourselves, “What the hell I am I doing?” We try to tell ourselves we’re doing what we’re supposed to, or what we have to in order to accomplish some goal that doesn’t have much detailed purpose. Sometimes, we’ve just convinced ourselves there is a purpose to what we’re doing when there really may not even be any. We may even be simply doing what we’re told to do, because its what’s necessary, because we think we know the why’s and the what’s when its quite possible that we don’t. Its quite possible that we don’t know anything at all.
We learn much of what we know from what is considered standard education. It starts when we’re children, obviously in public school, and continues with higher education in college and sometimes graduate school. Growing up its where we get most of our information, unfortunately. I say unfortunately because there’s an endless array of information at our fingertips on the internet and even more in books which we can order on the internet or check out at our local library. Of course we need motivation to get that information and learn what’s in those books. Motivation that usually comes from a class we’ve chosen to pay for instead of merely choosing on our own to learn for ourselves.
Institutionalized learning is an extremely complex issue to discuss. I think its our nature to believe as a product of the system that public education as well as higher education are made for our benefit. After all, the people pay for it with their tax dollars and tuition fees. But once again, its hard to look at the entire system without looking at the fact that there’s so much money involved and so many individuals who profit from that money. I’m not talking public school teachers either. I’m talking about school boards, alumni foundations, athletic programs, etc. Either way, that’s neither here nor there and a different discussion altogether. But if there is more to learning than just reading and writing than what exactly are we supposed to gain from institutionalized learning? What tools does it provide us with to take into the real world? These are questions I used to ask myself often as a child. Now, as a grown man with a mind of my own I still ask those questions, as if I decide to have a child of my own one day it’ll be the most important question I ask for their best interest.
I can say with one hundred percent confidence that I learned nothing noteworthy in all the years I attended school. Sure I had a decent experience making friends but that was for social purposes and had absolutely nothing to do with education. If I could go back in time to have a discussion with my parents as an adult, I would’ve said, “Send him to a specialized school for the Arts. He’s an artist and a writer. He should have the opportunity to mold those gifts so he can fulfill his wildest dreams. He has the talent and the intelligence to do just that. Don’t deprive him of that by following the status quo and giving him nothing to challenge his capabilities.” Unfortunately I can’t do that so I’ve had to spend the past 7-8 years making up for it, trying to re-educate myself with the proper tools to fulfill my wildest dreams without having to pay an arm and a leg for them.
As much as many of us wish we could go back to do it all over again, we can’t, at least not in the literal sense. In defense of my parents for their inability to see the magnitude of the force they brought into this world when I was born, they didn’t know any better. They were just kids. They were so young in fact, by the time they were my age I was preparing myself for junior high school. Again, that is neither here nor there and beside the point, I’m just explaining from experience where these ideas stem from.
From what I’ve come to realize through my self-taught education as of the past several years is that public school only serves a small handful of purposes. The primary function of public school is to teach kids to follow directions. Plain and simple. They’re taught to obey the rules and to achieve menial tasks to occupy their time and sit still until the end of the day when they are released. They aren’t allowed to question what’s being taught or speak out of place or they’ll be disciplined. As a matter of speaking most children are disciplined for, being children. Its ironic how that works. Very little of what they are taught actually sinks in which is why after 12 years of schooling, many teenagers, in this country at least, can’t even provide you with answers to simple questions of history, geography, science or math. Today, more than 50% of them can’t read past an eighth grade level so again, what exactly are children learning in school? My answer again remains the same. They don’t learn anything at all. In fact studies show that all children do take with them from the public school system is a slew of emotional and behavioral disorders that didn’t even exist thirty years ago.
But then again if the primary function of institutionalized learning is following directions then I believe we can all agree on that part being etched into our brains for life. That’s what preserves a “normal and functioning” society right? For a decade and a half we’re taught to follow directions so that’s what we do. The system doesn’t cater to individual talents or dreams unless they have to do with science or mathematics then it can profit from them by steering you a direction that will end up involving research for the government or privatized institutions whom receive contracts from the government. Either way, there is an endgame to it all and it has nothing to do with who you are or what you want out of this life.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not placing blame on any single person or party for our society being where it is today. I’m merely stating observations because often I ask myself what if things were different? What if I was assessed as a child what my gifts, talents, and passions were, placed in a specialized learning environment to help craft those talents so when I was ready I could seek opportunities that would give my life’s many occupations purpose? Because as I see it, we were all given talents and gifts to do something special. So why do we get convinced our best option is four to five years of college at a school of generalized studies with tens of thousands of other individuals paying to learn the same lessons, then a job as a insurance adjuster or a starting position in a corporate office doing menial tasks for a billion dollar cooperation to benefit? Why are we not encouraged to do more, be more and reach for the stars? They feed you that idealist approach early on then slowly they talk you into conforming to a sense of normality and practicality. Truthfully, I’ve just always been convinced there was much more to life than this. And my main objective with the work I do is to help others realize there is much more to this and they can be anyone they want to be, but they have to try and to work for it.
That’s another issue that I find slightly odd. More often people try to discourage you when speaking of grandiose wishes to do more than the norm and not take the path most traveled. What is this sense of fear from the incredible that so many people have? Where does it come from? It doesn’t just come out of nowhere, it had to be learned from somewhere? Could public education be the likely culprit or at least where it begins? Since we all experience it, I think it does a fine job subjugating people to control one another through discouragement. Everyone whose wanted to do something extraordinary has had their fair share of friends and family tell them they’re crazy for what they’re trying to do. Socialization is the only way people can adopt and abide by certain behaviors and its most perfectly executed by people on other people.
When you think about it on a deeper level, I’m sure there’s always been a voice inside of you that has always said, “No, this isn’t right! You should be doing this because its what you’ve always wanted to do!.” Somehow other voices that aren’t even your own always silence that one that matters the most and thats sad. Its sad we all have to compromise who we are simply to make others feel comfortable for being inadequate. But most people experience this than not, which is why I’m convinced there is a greater external force at work that allows people to fall into that state of mind their entire lives. You shouldn’t have to be afraid to be a writer, an artist of any type, singer, actor, dancer, performer, professional musician, etc. If you have the gift to do something, you should be encouraged to do it as often as possible. But we’re not, and I have never quite understood it. I refuse to believe thats right. I refuse to believe its anything but criminal to be honest and don’t understand why the majority of others don’t see it that way. Because its not until you break free from it and let your ambitions guide you down a more favorable path that you see it.
Life isn’t about doing what everyone else wants you to do. Its not about being who your parents want you to be or who your friends want you to be. Its about finding out who you are and embracing that person without fear or shame. The moment you decide you can’t be who you are because of whatever excuse other people have given, you’ve deprived yourself of the most natural aspect of your entire being. You’ve committed a crime. Which is why at that point, the rest of your life you’re punishing yourself by doing something you despise doing, to make somebody else happy. Because in reality, when you resist who you truly are, you’re not even real. That person you’ve created for others to admire and appreciate is a complete phony and a liar. And no sense of genuine pride could possibly result from becoming that person. Which is why that form of unhappiness can become a slow and torturous death if we’re not careful. Its just a matte of taking that first step of asking questions and admitting, “This isn’t who I am at all.”