How Does School Prepare Us For Work?

We want to do well at school for an obvious reason: because – as we’re often told – it’s the primary route to doing well at life.
Few of us are in love with the A grades themselves – we want them because we’re understandably interested in one day having a fulfilling career, a pleasant house and the respect of others.
But, sometimes, more often than seems entirely reassuring, something confusing occurs: we come across people who triumphed at school – but flunked at life. And vice versa.
We shouldn’t actually be surprised: school curricula are not reverse engineered from fulfilled adult lives in the here and now. They were intellectually influenced by all kinds of slightly random forces over hundreds of years of evolution – shaped by, among other things, the curricula of Medieval monasteries, the ideas of some 19th-century German educationalists and the concerns of aristocratic court societies.
This helps to explain the many bad habits schools inculcate:
  • They suggest that the most important things are already known; that what is is all that could be. They can’t help but warn us about the dangers of originality.
  • They want us to put up our hands and wait to be chosen. They want us to keep asking other people for permission.
  • They teach us to deliver on, rather than change, expectations.
  • They teach us to redeploy ideas rather than originate them.
That said, it isn’t that all we need to do to succeed at life is flunk school. A good life requires us to question the long-term validity or seriousness of what we have been asked to study, and how it relates to our everyday life at home and at work. 

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