The Sole Purpose of Formal Education

the sole purpose of formal education is to teach you not to need

Looking back at my high school days, I can't help but realise that I didn't really get much stuff done.

I did lots of stuff though: I hung out with friends. I played in a band. I trained 4 days a week on the school track-and-field team. I did all my homework, and I scored well in most of my tests. It was made to feel busy, and it definitely accomplished that goal brilliantly.

But doing stuff isn't the same as getting stuff done. As a result, I emerged from the high school experience with little idea of what I was going to, and with none of the key skills that I have today. Learning to program, learning about business, learning about economics, and even learning about personal development and philosophy, all came only when I got out of high-school and entered university. In other words, when people stopped giving a damn about me and I started giving a damn about myself.

This should be obvious: The amount of knowledge and wisdom in the world is staggering, and the dissemination of which through school is a very inefficient process. Especially in today's web of open information, your own curiosity really is your best teacher.

Given the observation above, school should then have the goal of coaxing out the curiosity within people, while simultaneously empowering them with the grit needed to strive through tough learning and execution hurdles.

Unfortunately, this is a very vague and slow process, hampered by political and cultural inertia, meagre incentives (and thus incompetent educators), and long product-cycles (1 year minimum).

It's going to take a lot of experimentation and activism for things to get better. In the meantime, the gap between the best and the worst thinkers and executors is only going to get larger and larger. The only way to stay on the high end of the curve is to remember the words of Albert Einstein:

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.


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