Go Beyond

Written by Teran McKinney
/ About Me / Half-time Remote DevOps/Systems Engineer /


School, I say in mostly the formal sense. Public schoosl, private schools. Universities, colleges. I greatly value an education. My feelings about school have grown from strong dislike to abhorrence.

Growing up I did have a formal education. It was about as spotty as they come in the US. I didn't quite do one grade, skipped another. Attended a mix of private and public school, finishing with homeschool from middle school on. My last couple of years had very little time in school. 3-4 days a week, about 3-4 hours a day.

The less school I had, the more I enjoyed my life. And the less school I had, the harder I worked. I spent my teenage years not goofing off, but learning Linux and pursuing skills in my free time. Not because I was told to, but because I wanted to. I appreciate my parents teaching me in my home school but I have found that I learn best unforced. And while there is much I need to learn and go back to do, I have found that the formal education style is not for me. The one computer class I took outside of elementary was Kirk Mckusik's FreeBSD Kernel Internals. I did enjoy the course and I took it voluntarily. But even in that course, I found my "grades" were better by spending less time learning and more time hunting for keywords. I am convinced that with modern testing the student is encouraged not to learn, but to pass.

When I was thirteen years old my Dad let me work with him at his job. I worked rather as a general IT helpdesk sort of person. My Dad paid me $2 per hour directly, and $2 towards something I wanted to do (or had done, I cannot recall). I am grateful for everyone who put up with my immaturity. But looking back, I probably grew the fastest working there. I learned much and learned real tasks that people are paid real money for. And any task requires real skills. Basic math and English are essential and go a long ways. But I haven't seen the need for them to be taught as they are. I think they are things which you learn once you find a passion and pursue it.

I did not go to college. There is much I lack and I would like to relearn. For instance, I do not properly know the alphabet. My math skills are slipping and my comma use is largely incorrect. But, while education tries to be very general and thorough I still found it lacking. Every moment in school was a moment I loathed. There were a few courses I enjoyed. But if I enjoyed them, I probably would have found them and enjoyed them on my own. I was quite fond of economics and chemistry. I do wish I had the opportunity to perform a dissection.

My greatest joys have always been paid work. Every job I've had has taught me more and paid me to do it. Each job taught me enough to help get me into the next. Instead of college, paying to learn and hoping you might get a good job out of it, work has provided for me financially, helped me save, and furthered my career. It is the most beautiful system -- being such a benefit to your employer that they can pay you for your time, and your employer being so beneficial to you as to teach you as you go.

Formal education, in particular in the earlier years, tries to put all children on the same, level playing field. Teaching the same way, the same tasks, and hoping for the same grades. When each individual is unique, why force them all into the same methods of learning? Does everyone need to learn algebra? Does everyone even know how to read? I realize the irony in proposing that perhaps not everyone needs know how to read in a text medium. I love reading and it has been great for me to be able to do. But to say that all must read, I don't see why. I would rather offer reading as something I can teach than force someone to learn it. It becomes readily apparent in one's mind without force that it's important, anyway. And those who don't read think differently. Likely, to a point that they will see things that others will miss.

Formal education is a homogenous education which tends to lead to homogenous results. And while you're busy teaching, it's not hard to be busy indoctrinating. Political ideas and rewritten history are all taught rather uniformly accross the country. There is no room to debate and ask questions in many classrooms. Instead of being a room of education where ideas compete, it is a room of a king and his servants where the servants must appease the king with "tests" and "homework". And rarely does the king tolerate anything outside of a perfect score to book-perfect answers.

Almost universally, the best people I have met have had very unusual upbringings. They raised themselves or at least did not go to college. I feel that being taught like everyone else will make you turn out like everyone else. Obviously, with exceptions.

I much prefer apprenticing, learning to ask questions, and being around those who give good answers. And learning first hand is probably the most memorable and confidence inspiring. Where did the first teachers come from, anyway?

There is a good chance I have lost a very dear relationship to the lure and game of university. While I thought I could tolerate school, I feel perhaps no longer. School will not tolerate me, so what do I have to gain by tolerating it?

I do not think that all things in school are bad. I just think that they should be voluntary and sporatic, not forced into monotone submission. I believe what I am describing is called Unschooling, but I am unsure. I have not looked into it much and should pursue it more.

The greatest joy in my life has been jobs. The greatest waste of time in my life has been school. I am forever grateful to my Dad for giving me work opportunities at such a young age. My parents taught me to work for what I want and got me started on a path where work begets better paying and more interesting work. I cannot imagine a better path.

I greatly value teaching and the sharing of knowledge. But not the expensive and copyrighted books, the tuition, the school programs meant to keep the blinders on, and the complete disconnect from how the world works. How can you trust professors who have not held jobs outside of teaching? They are only teaching that which has not been proven in the real world.

I believe what I say is true in any era. But especially today when one can search and find any answer. We have more equipment, knowledge, and better indexing than ever before.

I feel that monotone results are also echoed by heavily regulated fields. Especially medical fields. Being a highly regulated field, doctors are taught by similar programs. Very hard to get into and it's a very slow moving field. The least regulated fields are the fastest moving. Moving forward by ideas and profit. The deregulation of medical fields would spur on more innovation and health care than ever thought imaginable. And the abandonment of the public school system would likely stop the majority of children from acting largely the same. Learning the same behaviors, strange counting systems, and general ways to think and process information.

If you are happy with school that is good for you. Keep doing what makes you happy. I hope that you will consider that not everyone learns the same way and a mandatory compulsion beyond actual reality is not a good thing.

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