Education at Work

This is an excerpt from chapter 2 of my book Resumes are Worthless. Hope you enjoy!

Twelve years of school. This is where most of us really start our careers. In theory, those twelve years of basic education prepare us for the world of work. But in reality, all it does is prepare us for college—for yet another four, or more, years of education. Then college is meant to prepare us for the world of work.But what is really being taught?

EducationatWork

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Remember when your parents were so proud of you as you advanced from one grade to another in school? Perhaps you are expressing that same pride now with your children. Yet, I remember thinking, “Mom, all I did was what they told me to.” Every year, I was moved along with the masses like cattle being herded in the great system of education. I do not think I did anything stellar. I just followed directions.

Personally, I hated school. I remember trying to skip school in first grade. It was a total bore from beginning to end. I was thrilled when I got to college and was no longer held prisoner every day.

But even in college I noticed that I did not have to think; I only had to learn how to follow yet another set of instructions. I showed up to class, got the syllabus (the rules of the class), studied the material (OK, studied might be too strong a word), took the tests, and, at the pre-assigned time, the term was over and I got a grade. From Day One of my engineering studies, I pretty much knew the rules all the way through, so I followed the yellow brick road right to the stage where the president of the university handed me my empty diploma holder.

Looking back, I can see that all along the way from first grade to the end of my college days, I was receiving thought control. I was being taught to follow instructions, conform to the group, and respect authority. And, of course, I was being taught how to view the world, how to view government, how to view school, even how to view myself. In the end, they were telling me how to get along in the world of work. The education system was designed well to produce workers for the American corporate system.

Get a Degree and Get a Good Job

The fact is that in both K-12 schools, as well as in colleges (or other institution of advanced education,) we are told how the world works and how we are to work in the world in order to succeed. The end goal of it all is a job. OK, sometimes we call it a ‘career,’ but let’s be clear: they (the teachers and those who in their infinite wisdom counsel you whether you ask for it or not) always talk in terms of jobs and going to work.

The high-school and college years are particularly troubling in that you are constantly being groomed for work—but work for whom? To what end? To get a good paying job, of course!

Success?

Yes, this educational system is thought of as the modern path to success. But zoom out and take a bigger look. You are born, grow, attend twelve years of school, attend four years of college, perform a mission in a career (usually someone else’s mission), work at it for thirty years, and then retire.

Yes, I have just described what many people believe and sell as the American Dream. This is what most of our parents have told us … “get a good job, work hard, and live the good life.” Or, to put another way, here is the equation we have been sold:

12 yrs of school + 4 yrs of college + 30 yrs of work = Happy Retirement

Houston, We’ve Had a Problem

I think most of us realize that this system of doing things is broken. Careers no longer last thirty years. Jobs are not secure. Holding a degree does not even mean you are guaranteed a job! And think about it: you go through all of this work and education so you might end up being…average. In fact, that is what we are trained to be: average. Who wants to be average?

You might be thinking, “I know! This is nothing new to me.” Then you understand the problem: the formula is flawed. Yet, we continue to march to the orders given to us by drummers over the years, and we are, in turn, handing our children over to the same set of drummers. Worse yet, we have become the drummers!

But do you really see all the impacts of the system? Consider these quotes related to this version of the American Dream. Which do you believe?

  • In a survey of 5,000 people by the Conference Board in January 2010, only 45% of those surveyed said they were satisfied with their jobs, down from previous years.
  • A 2007 Gallop Poll indicated 77% of people hate their jobs.
  • Another survey says 87% of Americans ‘dislike’ their jobs.

Frankly, I am not sure which is right, but clearly a lot of people are not satisfied with their jobs. Most troubling to me is that this data comes from people working in the USA—the freest nation in the world! People here have every choice and every opportunity, yet a majority of them are not happy. In fact, in the freest nation in the world, many people feel enslaved in their jobs.

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