Why Our Current Education System Is Failing

WARNING: This post goes against social conditioning and is particularly lengthy: read if you dare.

As my high school career is slowly coming to an end (I graduate June 11th) I have found myself particularly reflective on the value I have received from high-school.

I end my high school career with a sub-par 2.5 G.P.A ,having never received a prestigious academic award, and a quick glance at my attendance record would reveal numerous absences (OK 32 days just this year.)

If I listen to what I have been socially conditioned to believe:

Sub-par grades + no awards +  poor attendance = the end of my life


I beg to differ.

Chasing The A

For most of my life (along with millions of other students) I have been taught to believe that the secret to a successful life is to get outstanding grades. Slowly over the years however, I have discovered this premise to be completely false.

Luckily, over the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to immerse myself in a variety of empowering perspectives and thus have come to  understand that we are 100 percent responsible for our life.

We can be as happy and as successful as we choose to be. Our attitude, not our grades, determines our success.

I have been fortunate enough  to recognize that education goes beyond just the classroom. Life is our greatest mentor. Unfortunately,  I’m one of the lucky ones.

Myself, along with millions of other students, have failed to apply ourselves, not because we’re not smart enough, not because we don’t care about our future, but because we are tired of being dictated by a system of letters.

Continually brain-washing students into believing good grades are essential in living a successful life, has had some disastrous consequences:

Students are more stressed then ever. Cheating has become increasingly rampant. Students spend an excessive amount of time obsessing over getting perfect scores (after all they’ve been told they won’t have a job if they don’t.)

In fact, a classmate of mine  routinely stays up past 2 A.M in order to stay a float. Excessive? I think so.

What’s even more depressing about our current education system, is that it leaves millions of “average” students behind. Millions of kids with incredible potential are left to die (educationally speaking) never realizing their true potential.

Many of my current classmates, each of whom  could literally change the world, are paralyzed by fear, and are instead choosing the path of security: That is get good grades. Get a job. Be happy. Unfortunately that’s rarely how it unfolds.

We can live our purpose today.

I’m not suggesting that our current education system doesn’t do any good. It does teach us the basic necessities.  However, much of what we learn in school is not practical in the real world.

Where are the courses on blogging? Where are the money management courses? Where are the classes dedicated to eradicate poverty? Where are the classes that help us find our purpose?

Our current education system places too much emphasis on the A and not enough emphasis on unleashing the promise that lies in each and every one of us.

Education Through Reading And Experience

One of the most startling shortcomings of our current education system, is the lack of relevant reading. We are forced to read (A.K.A sparknote) ancient  text that we often find difficult to understand.

All this does is encourage a distaste for reading.

I’m not suggesting that ancient texts such as Shakespeare don’t have any value, however what the students read should be up to them.

“But wait! Then they will just be reading the latest trash.”

To which I reply ” Yes, but at least they will be reading.”

Our top priority must be to instill a passion for reading. The progress of humanity depends on it.

A number of my friends routinely say ” I hate reading”

And I always reply, ” You just haven’t found the right book.”

For reading to complement education like it needs to, the books we read must be relevant to us. Not our teachers, not our parents, but us. Each book should be likened to a puzzle piece completing our soul.

Our current education system is putting too much effort into things that don’t matter. Busy work. Perfect grammar.  Memorization. All of which does nothing for us 10 years down the road.

Over the past 4 years I have read close to 100 books. Only 15 of those books being school related.

Those 75 books (OK I’m rounding here) I read outside of school completely transformed me. My philosophy, my attitude, who I am today, all stem from the numerous books I devoured.

Education is about unleashing one’s confidence. Education is learning from failure. Education is growing from experience. Education is discovering your passions then pursuing them.

Education is not rote memorization. Education is not analyzing books that have no meaning to you. Education is not wasting your time on subjects you hate. Education is not being paralyzed because your afraid to fail.

Having attended an international school in Shanghai China, I can honestly say I have learned more from bringing running water to a rural village in China, traveling to Russia, and making friends from around the world, then I ever have in a classroom.

Education is meant to be enlightening. Reading and experience are the key.

Finding Your Purpose

Education is meant to help us find our passion, our purpose in life. Unfortunately, our current education system fails miserably.

We’ve been told:

You have to go to college to be successful. After that you have to go to grad-school. Make sure you get all A’s or you will fail.

Instead of embracing education many students (including myself) have adopted a mindset to just survive.

We’re so used to being told who we can or cannot be, many us don’t even know who we actually want to be.

All the education in the world is worthless if you never unlock what makes your heart beat.

Again, I have nothing against college or even grad-school for that matter. In fact I believe both can offer tremendous benefit to our being.

The problem lies in the fact that we’ve been told that you have to do this, you have to do that, in order to become successful.

Who says life has to be a linear line?

The traditional life time line:

High School: College: Grad-School: Job ( you most likely hate): Retire: Die

Why not:

High School: Find Your Purpose: Love Your Job: Live your life. Die Happy?

The latter sounds more enticing to me.

Education is all about growth,  it’s about experience, it’s about creating authentic relationships. It’s about being human. It’s about connecting with humanity.

Our current education system is inherently flawed. Times are changing. We must stop obsessing over becoming “book smart” and instead focus on unleashing our passions.

Without living out our passions we just add to the clutter of the world.

When we choose security, we sacrifice our passions, killing part of us in the process.

I have tremendous faith that the answers to today’s problems of the world: poverty, war, and disease, will be solved by the youth of today not because they are smart but because they follow their passions.

Enough Is Enough

I know I speak for millions of students around the world when I say:

We’re tired of being told we’re not good enough. We’re tired of doing mindless work that only adds stress to our lives. We’re tired of feeling unworthy just because we fail to meet the expectations of the A+ poster child.

We’re tired of being told who we can or can not be. Shouldn’t we decide that for ourselves?

We need to be inspired. We need to be encouraged. We need to spend time doing things we love. We want to change the world.

Is that too much to ask?

So many students fail to realize their potential because a simple grade tells them they have none. They receive a D and thus feel they are worthless and have nothing to contribute to this world. This defeats the whole purpose of education. Education is meant to build not destroy.

In no way am I suggesting getting good grades is a bad thing; that would be foolish. Getting good grades is not the problem. Allowing grades to dictate one’s life is.

Grades don’t guarantee success.

Passion + Determination + Positive Attitude = Success

I’ll give you an A if you transform the world  🙂

What are your thoughts on our current education system? What do you think must be done? I encourage you to share your comments in the comment section below.

It’s obvious our current education system needs major reform, until then however, it can proudly boast a fat D- on its fridge.

Editors Note: In no way is this post attempting to bash the educators of our world (whom I am eternally grateful for) but rather the education system as a whole.

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Hey Bud
I really enjoyed reading your article. I agree that people need to be driven to discover and follow their true life’s passion. Reading this article I remembered my days at school and i can agree that there are elements where they could include more life relevant syllabus and inspire students rather than just teaching them how to remember and recall information in time for their final exams.
There are many occassions where i have realised that i have not TRUELY learnt parts of the syllabus. i simply remembered them until exam time and then they seem to have been erased from my brain. If you dont use it you lose it I guess”.

i understand that your writing is not trying to discount the need for a good education in terms of literacy and numeracy which are the backbone for survival in the real world. I would just like to share the fact that I have discovered my passion for animals and as such I am aiming to become a veterinarian. In order to do this a very high level of education is required. I understand that passion is important however I feel you need to highlight that people need to have a passion for learning in life. This does not only mean book-smarts but if students are just drifting along they will not pay attention to the cues which may be an opportunity to learn everyday.

The education system needs to encourage students to wake up to their place in the world. They have the power of the future. They can be what they want to be. Passion alone will not get you there. You need to also gain an education from books to have a true understanding and achieve their dreams.

I feel the education system needs to somehow put the content of the syllabus into real world situations. Making it relevant to the students may help them to pay attention and realise its importance. This will encourage growth and a change in attitude towards education.

A good read. You are a great writer. I enjoyed reading your point of view and feel this issue should be considered in future changes to the education system.

Jeanie Robinson

You are wise beyond your years. As a teacher, you have given me great food for thought.

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José Romão


First of all, I must state that I am a portuguese 54-year-old teacher.

Cutting to the chase, I might agree with most of your reasons but there are a few points that are really important:

1. In order to write such an article, you have to be a good student ( above average at least )
2. 2 It may very well be that you missed classes, that you haven´t read all the books they wanted you to, but I think you have reached a very good level with the struggle you have put up: not accepting everything they want you to.
3. I’ve also noticed that you know how to use your brains ( the most important thing of all )
4. But you have to agree that parents are afraid their children have to face difficulties, and if you have a degree at least you are better prepared to reason and face the hard and dark side of life
5. In the end it all comes down to pleasure, values and attitude, but it doesn’t hurt if you have a degree, does it?

I wish you may go on in quest of your Graal…


Mrs. Lisa Linn

Very well stated! I am a teacher who agrees with you full-heartedly. Sadly, we are forced to work within the framework of an education system that was built for a newly industrialized country over 100 years ago. Many teachers, like me, struggle daily to give our students the kinds of learning opportunities you describe, only to be hampered by old-school administrators, and non-existent technology tools.

Check out this middle-school video illustrating the same sentiments: http://www.istevision.org/watch.php?vid=4026e3fcd9ee52c75998999b13182242ae1d743e

Keep up the good fight! While a formal education system is necessary, there is no reason for it to be boring and irrelevant.

P.S There is a mistake under Education Through Reading And Experience
Education is about unleashing one’s confidence. Education is learning from failure. Education is growing from experience. Education is discovering your passions then pursuing them.
Please delete this last part! and good luck, I know you’ll have a great future.


P.S There is a mistake under



I agree with everything you say! I was a classic underachiever in high school and when I got to college and found my passion, education. I since have experienced a level of success. One thing I disagree with you on and that is the educational system needing an overhaul. Teacher attitudes towards students needs to change and this can be done on a local level with a good administration. However, change on a larger scale is done by changing the way society views it! Speaking negative about any system is counterproductive… Attitude is everything!

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Sarbjit Singh

A point well raised and conveyed..

Being a teacher I agree with almost everything said here. The education system needs to change, the sooner the better. We must not let grades affect the potential of average children. If only we can help students realize the potential within them, we can help them change this world.

Grades are meant to quantify knowledge but they quantify JUST MEMORY. We need to change our evaluation system and link grades to practical aspects of knowledge that we want to quantify.

I hope that educator around the world, including me, will learn something from this.

God Bless All..

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Justin Brady


You are dead on. I too was frustrated just as you were in my high school days. High school is completely broken and focuses on ONE skill. Left Brain regurgitation. Regurgitation was great for the CPA / accountant / MBA jobs, but not great for students that have passions such as yours.

Basically, right brain activities such as creation, design, problem solving have NOT been measured on traditional testing, SAT, and ACTs. Have hope, people of influence are finally starting to figure this out and changes are coming. I will enjoy changing the system with people like yourself.


so to whom or to what do you attribute your intellectual curiousity? I encourage you to be specific.


Well written and articulate.

The only thing I would add is simply the caveat to avoid completely closing any doors – keep your options open. 🙂


“Education is not being paralyzed because your afraid to fail.”- it should be “you’re”

On a brighter note, I agree that education does need to change. Obviously we have to learn all of the important things in life and give people enough knowledge that if they do want to go to college then they can, but the big problem is how many exams we have to take. We end up being taught how to pass exams instead of being taught how to think originally.

Janice I

Thanks. Excellent read. I agree and disagree.
If a person has the knwledge and does not apply themselves, what does that say about the person. It seems this kid has the potential to be an A student but chose not to. I work with kids who have learning disabilities and a C is a major accomplishment in their lives. If the methods used to convey the information was challenging and exciting, the students will respond and excel accordingly. Learning the information in the classroom develops the students’ organizational skills, research/investigative skills, etc. When my son was in school he had ADD. He was very disorganizaed. His grades did not reflect his actual knowledge. I did not care about his grades in the early years. But as he became more organized the good grades foolwed. He was able to apply himself more. The expectations from myseld changed also. When he couldn’t do it, I had no demands. But when he was able I did expect good grades coming home. I always asked “Was that your best at that time?” He was always told to do his best and did not necessarily have to be the best. He rose to the ocassion. To much is given, much is required.


Of course, you could look at school and grades as a giant filter – Only the kids who can force themselves to work and do the things that they don’t want to do are worthy of high grades.

School is an opportunity to find your passion, but anything worth doing doesn’t come easily, school is also the place where you can find self discipline, and the ability to work through the things you find distasteful to achieve the things you really want.

P.s. I’ve found through bitter experience that life is *easier* and more rewarding if you put in the work to be a winner.

Learn that lesson, and you can achieve a lot more in life.


Amazing. Wonderfully written. You are so enlightened! I homeschool both of my kids in hopes to light their passions so they can lead a fulfilling, happy life


Bud ( and friends): read it and found it enriching. On the method: I have been re-studying several authors who spent their lives moving in the direction you so eloquently expressed. I took you seriously when you mentioned purpose, erradication of poverty, money management strategies. I have all my life, and I still have one more month to go in my formal education, or a month and a half, written one formal professional or scientific essay a year. Most of them have been directed to provide you in what you say, with questions and answers, method, and some working samples… Written three books in spanish: directed to kids your age and my age. There is a method, there is a solution out there for poverty, and people like you can share meaning and point to goals, mission, commitments…I have always since my graduation from college, tought one colleg course a year, read more than one book a year about these things you are sharing, and continued studying. One more month (in my mind this is my plan, though I still need one permission yet; we kids always await for these permissions that usually come with the stages of growth and maturity, 16, 18, 21 or my age) and I will present the final defense of my Ph.D. dissertation. I have challenged what I read and received in class. I created things myself. I have had the oportunity to be, in one country, academically on top of everything new in my profession. About 33 years ago I created something which remained until today with people like all of you. They called me back last year and almost made me die. They made a house for the training of people looking for new ways to lead the young and the rebel. They house is called: joseito. I, a kid like you, about to finish my studies in one month and dying to jump to a new level. You never said your age. I am 68. I have stopped the final chapter of my Ph.D. to write back to you this comment, originated by my son (23 and doing Mathematics with stupid ideas like yours and those of your crazzy friends). Shit, with people like you, there is hope, purpose and solutions. Cono (Spanish), count with my comments, shorter than this, as soon as Joseito can be properly and legally called Ph.D.

Michael Boll

Look at this, you made digg! http://digg.com/d1siWR

John P

I appreciate the passion of your thoughts. Perhaps if you had attended a few more classes, you might have found some help for your writing.

“Unfortunately, I’m one of the lucky ones.” Did you mean it is unfortunate that you are lucky?

“For reading to compliment education like it needs to…” —maybe “complement.”

“We are forced to read (A.K.A sparknote) ancient text that we often find difficult to understand.” If you read the Sparknote, it is not surprising that you did not understand the work. Literature requires thought, work, close reading and personal expansion. This may not “build confidence” but it does help us to stretch ourselves into something more than we were before the book was opened.

I am just as puzzled by the people who called your essay well written.


Stunning – you’re aware at 17/18 what nearly took me an additionally 20 years after high school to figure out. You’ve escaped the matrix and some of the criticisms and warnings are from those who are still trapped (and creating implications of your expression based on their incarcerated view).

Mrs. Lisa Linn

John P,

You make some good points about the grammatical and structure errors in this post, and yes, he should have used spell, grammar, and style check, but the points he makes are not only valid, but well stated by one so young. There are too many educators who have no real notion that the situation described is approaching a critical mass of sorts, and that if we don’t change the way we educate students in this country, we will likely start to lose them in exponential numbers.

There will always be those students who know how to “play the game” and have learned to play school well, however, they may not be the ones who innovate and and move us forward in the direction our world is going. You really need to look at the bigger picture, Bud’s brain has developed neurologically differently than yours and most of the adults we know. Do we not have the responsibility to Bud and all of our 21st Century students to provide an education commiserate with their intellectual strengths as well as their mode of learning?

Bud Hennekes

My grammar has always been one of my weaknesses and I’m working hard to improve. I got the point across did I not?

@John P instead of bashing my grammar how about contributing to the discussion?

Thanks everyone for the wonderful comments. I have read every single one.

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Daisy Swan

I found myself agreeing with your perspective — I felt this way too when I was graduating and in my twenties. But by my late twenties I was hungry for learning. I returned to school as an english and education major and devoured everything I could. At 29 college was great. Enriching discussions, great relationships with faculty and a clearer sense of what I wanted to contribute to the world. Not having finished my BA by 27 was a problem for me. I knew I had the brains and so much to offer but I couldn’t pay for it due to family circumstances. When I figured out how to finance the deal I jumped at it and decided teaching was the way to go since I had felt like education wasn’t relevant enough. Now I’ve got a BA, an MA and a life of having helped people make sense of work, education, relationships, creativity. I agree; life isn’t linear for many of us. We make our own way. My parting words in my high school year book were ‘You’ve got to take risks.’ I still haven’t stopped doing that. Let your nose by your guide — and remember that when the student is ready the teacher appears. Congrats – Daisy

Jennifer Anne

As a parent & educator I hve to tell you… there was no need for the disclaimer at the end–I completely understand your point of view & so should every other true educator.
I am not in the business of Reading, Writing, & Arithmatic as so much of the “outside” world believes–I am in the business of students. What I mean by that is that my end goal is not a perfect paper, an honor graduate, or a worldly scholar, but a complete person. As a complete person–you–our youth–need so much more than just facts & skills. You need to learn to be a good citizen of the world, how to care for yoruself & your future family, & how to be (happily) yourself.
Congratulations to you for being ahead of the curve!!


I have a feeling that if you look up the concept of unschooling, you might find much that inspires you!

Very inspiring article!


Wow you have such great insight! I also admire you for your wonderful attitude and the confidence you have in yourself to go against societal norms! I also commend your parents for the support that they must have given you throughout your high school career. Keep writing! I am looking forward to adding your blog to my feed reader!


Bud: I have discussed with my son, a senior in Mathematics, that you must be a great guy. Now, let me tell you something about real tough life: one cannot go making statements about situations that have been already considered from a scientific and a philosophic angle and act like it has never been done before. Your ideas are excellent, and the fact that you came late to propose some of them, does not take away your merit and brilliance. For example, Carl Rogers wrote a book about education called Freedom Learn in 1969. His movement in psychology called the third force, was impacted. In Harvard they received the brillian Brazilian called Paulo Freire who wrote another book called Pedagogy of the Oppressed in 1970. Both are top world scholars, one the best educator of the century (Harvard Educational Review) and Rogers president of the APA (American Psycghologocial Association ). They are both leaders in creating a non-directive new approach to education. My PhD teacher did not know that Rogers had written a book, before he died with en entire chapter on Freire’s approach to a acritical and non-directive concept of education. There are hundreds of people, thousands, reading each others’ comments and articles and books to create a new system of education. It is in the direction you so brilliantly and intuitively described. BUD, you can be a part of changing this eduational system and bringing it to a new level. These creative acts took place, stand on these people’s shoulders and be a leader in changing this educational system. This is a concrete example. You don’t know how much you could do. Again, I took a time-out. Maybe I should keep silence and let all of you dream. Let me tell you, your dreams make me excited. Joseito

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Charles - Big Idea Blogger

Hi Bud, you really spoke something that is within my heart. I’m also very disappointed with the current system, after having exposed to the views of some great business leaders, like Robert Kiyosaki who absolutely abhors the current education system.

Other leading thinkers like Peter Drucker and Buckminster Fuller have seen it happening – that the current education system is becoming outdated, and they come from the previous generation!

Though we can’t change the system, we can influence our peers by engaging in real-world learning and shining for them to see, so that they will change their minds and join us!


I think there are a lot of teachers out there in the world who agree with you, Bud. Count me as one. It is cliche, but it is cliche for a reason: education should be about lighting a fire, not filling a bucket.

There is one small point with which I must disagree a little. I would submit that as a high school student, you might not know everything that’s out there. Part of my job as a teacher is to expose you to writers and thinkers and ideas that you might not know about. I know it is not a perfect analogy, but a parent would not let their child eat only ice cream because “At least they’re eating.” Sometimes you have to make your child eat his/her vegetables. However, I think teachers could do a much better job of making the vegetables more palatable!

Keep thinking and keep challenging, Bud!

Samihan Yedkar


Your article is as provocative as it is deep – it raises some very interesting points, and shows that you’ve put in some serious thought in the matter. If your goal was to get everybody reading your post thinking about our education system, then the unending string of comments above should be ample evidence of its success.

As with any “controversial” topic, I don’t think there are any right or wrong answers on the issue. That said, consider my viewpoint:

I believe the education system, even in its current state, is vital.

First, the education system may not teach you Math, Language, Science or the Humanities, but it instills in you –nay, demands of you– a certain work ethic, and for that, you have grades to thank. Grades are the carrot-and-stick trick schools use to condition you towards developing strong work ethic. After I collapsed into my airplane seat last week following a whirlwind and chaotic year of exams, projects, labs, study, and an obscene amount of hardwork, I took some time to reflect on my freshman year at college, and consider what I learned most. I do not exaggerate when I say that I spent atleast one (mostly two, and sometimes three) days a week in the library until 3AM, I studied (almost unfailingly) every single day, and I learned more than I ever had before. As a first year engineer, perhaps I would look to the math, computer science and engineering courses I took, and claim that my greatest accomplishment of the year was learning all these new formulae and principles and algorithms. But all that is sort of secondary. What I truly value the most from the year was the work ethic Carnegie Mellon pounded into me; I came to college having developed a value and respect for grades, and I soon found out that the only way I could achieve them was by working tirelessly. Hard work is something everyone is going to demand of you – in your personal and professional life, and is a critical life skill. If you can develop work ethic by yourself, in a non-academic setting, more power to you. But for the rest of the hoi-polloi shuffling through the ranks of academia, the reward-and-punish approach to glamorizing good grades and discouraging poor performance appears to be a sound means to developing these qualities of hard (or smart) work. To be completely, unhealthily obsessed with grades is bad – but then, so is anything else in excess. In moderation, however, grades are a wonderful, and powerful incentive.

Second, education is a conduit to exposing students to the myriad wonders of the modern (and ancient) world. The purpose of reading Othello and MacBeth is not to show us the saviour that is Sparknotes (though I dare say we’ve all done it at some point) but to introduce us to a man with as much mastery of the English language, and as deep an understanding of human character, as Shakespeare. You read some, and you tire of his pedantic script-and that’s fine; try Conrad, or Fitzgerald, or Austen or some of the other multitudes of authors English classes introduce us to. Education, as the ancient Greeks show us, is supposed to generate dialogue, debate and emotion. You dont like Shakespeare? Don’t reject him, tell me why! Tell me what you find dissonant about his writing, and let that generate conversation and debate amongst our peers. We take classes in Math, Science, History, Economics, Psychology, English, Art, etc to similarly expose us to many such avenues of thought and interest. You may dislike Calculus with a passion, but you cannot walk away from it without admiring the insight Newton and Leibniz demonstrated in formulating a new language of Math. Memorizing dates may be a tireless chore, but admiring the work of Egyptian Engineers 4000 years ago certainly isnt. I went on a tangent there, but it was in an attempt to demonstrate the wealth of information that lies in the curriculum of secondary education. In my experience, American education does a decent job (better than Asian systems, let me assure you) of trivializing the rote memorization of dates and values, and prioritizing the understanding of underlying principles and concepts. Similarly, the American system of education attempts to elicit emotion and educated opinion through essays and in class discussions, and suppress inclinations to robotically accept learning as fact, and for that, we should be thankful. It is through our reactions to what we read that we learn, and without the breadth and scope modern education affords us, we would be intellectual paupers.

Education does not (and most definitely should not) force upon its disciples material that is to be accepted without contest. It does not focus on the trivial minutiae of silly, easily forgotten facts at the expense of the bigger picture. It does not suppress creativity, impede the freedom of thought and understanding, or stifle intellect. If we move away from the notion of the schooling system as a dark and nefarious factory ceaselessly beating students into submission through an undending stream of homework and tireless exposure to dreary subjects, and begin to view schools as institutions that encourage higher thought and good habits, we can perhaps begin to view schools through a slightly more favourable light.

Secondary education, then, builds in its pupils willingness for, and tolerance towards, hard work and motivation, and introduces them to new and dissimilar models of thought in a variety of disciplines, allowing students to reflect, generate opinion, and understand.

In many ways, we are the successful products of an American education. You have put in careful thought and effort in your opinion, deliberated over your views, and expressed them in a manner that represents your feelings. For possessing the qualities of logical reasoning, rhetoric, and linguistic fluency, you have none other than your education to thank. Hopefully, my ability to digest your views and propose a coherent retort is a further testament to the power of education.

Robert Hulse


Reading through your provocative post several times now (along with the comments), I wanted to respond (which is actually an unnecessary comment due to the fact that if I did NOT want to respond, I wouldn’t be posting this)…

The first point I wanted to make is that your passionate and honest perspective is both refreshing and challenging. As a teacher, I have always sought to provide students with the inspiration and motivation for which you so eloquently plead. With some, it works and with others it does not. There are times that I wonder whether or not I could have done more and there are times where I know that nothing I did was going to work – the student had simply decided not to respond. Thus inspiration and motivation transcend simple “products” to be provided and consumed by those who teach and those who learn, respectively. Inspiration and motivation are more precisely understood as a dialogue between students and teachers, qualities of a relationship, rather than goods to be exchanged. While I (and other teachers) contemplate your admonition to inspire and motivate, I offer you the same opportunity for reflection – what did YOU do to support and nurture the process?

Second, you seem to vacillate between condemning an entire educational system and reducing the focus of your disdain to that which is but one indicator of achievement – grades. This is most evident in your replies to posts that challenge your more global comments. I would encourage you to stay the course – to avoid capitulating to those who would seek to blunt the comments that challenge a system that is, in many ways, profoundly out of step with the way the world works (not to mention the future). It is easy to lose sight of the greater vision for a better way of educating students in reducing the conversation to a cliche-filled, back-and-forth about whether or not grades are fair, reflect achievement, promote cheating, or whatever.

Having said that, it is good to recognize when provocative phrasing has crossed the line into hyperbole and diatribe. These do not advance the cause and simply serve to inflame those who might otherwise agree with you. For instance, I would find it incredibly hard to believe that a teacher actually told you (or anyone) that not receiving perfect scores would preclude getting a job, good or otherwise. The upside is that you seem to recognize these moments of rhetorical excess and are willing to call them what they are.

If I may (another silly statement, of course I may), I would like to encourage you to find your path in life, a path that suits you and one that provides the kind of internal satisfaction that simply getting high scores cannot. If this post and the resulting conversation may be used as indicators, then you are well on your way to doing just this. However, I would also like to challenge you to be encouraging of those who chose to achieve in ways that you have not. There ARE many paths in life, and thankfully most of them intertwine at many points (e.g., the high-powered lawyer who lacks the ability to fix his own car, collect her own garbage, or put out the fire in his McMansion). Putting effort and energy into scholarly and academic pursuits is clearly one of those paths and those who find and follow this path are just as deserving of a passion-filled life as you. Your post provides a necessary and often ignored corrective in an educational dialogue too dominated by intellectual superiority as a criterion of or for achievement. But let’s make sure the scales are fairly balanced and, in the process, affirm each other as being who we are and letting this be the only standard by which we judge one another.

Thank you, once again…

Mr. Hulse


The good news is that after June 11, 2009, you will never have to sit in another classroom. You can dedicate all your time to changing the world and reforming education.
I’m glad you mentioned the systems failure to provide useful financial literacy training. The system is designed to prepart students for college, rather than prepare them for life. Sadly, if you visit the Dept. of Education website, ED.gov, you will notice that the Federal Government intends to place more emphasis on collge prep.
Congratulations on graduating. Don’t lose your passion, education reform is the most important issue in America, and no one seems to realize that. We need people like you, especially being fresh from the trenches, to call attention to our education crisis. Our current economic and healthcare crisis are direct results of a failed education system. I hope you share more of your thoughts on improving education in the future. http://www.grassrootscommando.com

Nina Peery

I came across your blog through a buddy on twitter. As a 3rd-5th grade educator in technology, I totally agree with your assessment of education. I also watched the TED video on schools killing creativity…WOW! I have a lot to consider during my summer break as to the direction I want to take my students next year. I will subscribe to your blog. Thanks!

Pheak Tol

this article is the truth.

my thoughts on today’s, current education system is pretty much like yours, it lacks motivation, lacks good teachers, lacks the resources, lacks the enthusiasm, lacks content, pretty much lacking everything that i was fortunate enough to have when i was in school.

education is key to a better future, i never knew how important it was until after i graduated from college. although still not late to go back to school, i wish i knew now what i did when i was in high school slacking off.

our educational system can step their game up with teachers that really care about their student’s future (not saying all teachers dont care, but most dont nowadays) and providing students with a safer learning environment and an atmosphere that actually makes them want to learn. but we cant just blame the education system for that – kids nowadays is just too caught up on other things. so who’s really at fault, our educational system or the kids that just simply shows up at school just because they have to be there?


The article is written very well. The school system and education system is improving all the time which can not be denied. How can you find the passion, the right purpose, the way of dealing with different thing. How do you define humanity? What is in the real world? All these question can be answered by being educated. Education brings you different thing. The education you got might not the direct answers for your questions,but it will make you wise and give you new and different perspectives which helps you to find those answers. What is the real world? Real world is complicated enough for you to explore for your whole life. And this is not something to be taught. Real world is something to be felt and to be reflected. 😛


Wow this is amazing, you have so many people commenting on and discussing this article. I think it is really cool what one person can do.

I agree with this article because I have been in that same boat all through high school and even if this is an excuse for my grades its a lot better than just giving up. It really gives you hope to continue on to try to live a life that is not full of regrets.

Thanks for your insight bud.

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Your essay is my introduction to the world of global conversation on a single topic. Thank you for having both the guts and brains to organize, compose, and share your thoughts. As a relatively new educator and not-so-new parent, I found your essay and the subsequent comments about our public education system reaffirming and motivating, but lacking an important component: parents. It is my personal and professional experience and belief that the development of purpose and passion in a young person requires balanced commitment and direction from 1) educators, 2) parents, and 3) the individual student.

I agree wholeheartedly with you about literature. Literature comes to us via our own curiosity or the recommendation of others whom we respect. I teach elementary students, those just on the cusp of reading to learn, and it is in large part my responsibility to ignite a love of reading in each of them. I cannot do this without my own hill-to-die-on passion for language and I cannot do it alone. I need my students’ response and I need their parents’ support at home.

As for your point about grades, you seem not to need them. Our system gives students grades, but you must remember the other two prongs of the system use them as well: educators and parents. I often contemplate how I could better “grade” my fourth graders to benefit and motivate them and still meet the requirements of my job. I’ve not yet made the innovation I feel we need because grading is more complex than it appears. Maybe you would have a suggestion?

Thank you again for a stimulating introduction to cyber-conversation and for expressing yourself, BUD.


You make wonderful points, however there are a few things that seem a little misconstrued.

First of all, the subjects we are learning in school are, holistically, beneficial.

Sciences help us understand the physical/biological/chemical world around us.
History helps the newer generations learn from past mistakes, and to teach how previous events shaped the modern society we live in.
English classes (or any other native language) teaches us to explicitly communicate how we feel, what we know, what we see and know of the world, ect without too many misunderstandings
Foreign languages aid in breaking down the barrier between cultures (which is often condemned with the American “You’re in my country, speak my language” attitude)
Math teaches us the value of numbers, and how to use them in society (primarily finances)

If even one of these subjects were missing it would severely hinder our ability to not only understand, but to operate and move forward in our world.

However, receiving a failing grade because you didn’t memorize Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is trivial. What is more important is that the students can read the speech, and understand what it means and how it impacted our society.
A failing grade for forgetting the u-substitution formula for integrating is also trivial, if the student understands that concept of how, and why, it works. (Calculus is the devils hobby by the way… I swear on that)

What is important is not the grade, but the education. Its not the memorization of facts, its what all of the memorized facts mean and how it affects us, which it generally does.

However, students have been so patronized with these trivial and minor details that they refuse to understand the beneficial qualities of the education offered to them as a whole.

While the majority of students learn best from experiences, rather than books, the knowledge learned in school is 100% applicable to the world we live in, as long as students push past the ridiculous hours of homework and mindset that A is equivalent to success.

If students began, and were encouraged to, care more about their education, rather than the grade (or lack there of) then the typical under-motivated student body would most likely pull themselves out of this education slump.

Roberto L. Echanes

Dear Bud,

You have given many important points regarding education. Current education places to much emphasis on academic achievement, leaving behind the holistic development of the person.
As a teacher I can attest to that and soon educators around the world will have to address this urgent problem. Education is supposed to be a man-making institution . My spiritual teacher, Shrii P. R. Sarkar, has propounded Neo-Humanist education, a new system that develops the whole personality, that is, physical, mental and spiritual. Nowadays bookish education is not enough, but we need to discover our own inner potential. All knowledge, in fact is within each and everyone, we just need to use the proper tools to unfold and discover this precious inner knowledge, and thus, will bring us to become whole and complete as a human being. Boundless love is the answer to all problems in the world.


Bud –

Congratulations to you on both your graduation from high school and your thought provoking article. I generally agree with the overall themes of your post, which appear to be that (i) grades do not and should not dictate “success”, (ii) education occurs both inside and outside of the classroom and (iii) the educational system should include developing a child’s passions not just a child’s ability to memorize facts. I believe that all of those things are true.

What I am somewhat stuck on, however, is at what level (and to what level) the educational system needs to change, i.e. should education reform come in the form of national standardization, should the reform fall to individual states or should the reform fall even further to individual school districts? I can tell you that my school district has already moved in the direction of developing both sides of the brain. We have art programs beginning in our elementary schools, computers in nearly every classroom in the district, even a fully functional TV studio in our high school.

In my opinion, national standardization of education is not the answer nor are mandates from state legislatures. As I see it, educational reform should begin at the school district level as what is good for my town’s children may not be best for the children in a neighboring town. Naturally, there are basic skills that need to be a part of every school district’s curriculum but there is enough room to appeal to non-standard education as well.

You did not mention it but I believe one of the most important components of the educational system is the parents. I believe it is vitally important for parents to take an interest in their child’s education. Clearly, not all children are built the same; “learning” comes very easily for some kids while others, as you stated, need to stay up until 2am to keep up with the Joneses. Other kids simply could care less about school and I would wager that eight out of ten of those kids get little or no encouragement from home.

I hate to say this because I have so much respect for teachers but there are some very poor educators in our system and they are nearly impossible to get rid of thanks to an overly powerful union. Anybody who has ever gone to school knows one or two of the teachers I am talking about. Heck, I will bet that some of the teachers here know who I am talking about. They are rude, unhelpful, uninteresting and uninterested or just down right negligent. While schooling does not automatically equal success, education IS extremely important. We need to ensure that the right people are standing at the front of our children’s classroooms every day.

In closing, I do not think that the educational system needs a complete overhaul. There are some very, very good schools in the United States (and we are very fortunate to have some of the best schools in the country here in New Jersey). There are some things that I think would improve the overall educational experience but I think perhaps what is needed most is simply a change in attitude about how to educate both in our government buildings, our school buildings and in our homes.

Best of luck in the future, Ben. Despite your system-perceived “lack of success” in high school something tells me that you are going to be successful in whatever it is you choose to focus on in life.


I meant Best of luck in the future BUD, of course! Sorry about that.

Bill Farren

Great post! I wish more students had your attitude (and wisdom). I don’t however, blame them when they don’t have it. I think the system they labor under needs to be changed–dramatically.
Dropping out of teaching for a while to try this: http://www.plearn.net



Right on, Bud!

I enjoyed reading your article, and also the comments that followed. I thought some of the people who commented missed the point while caught up in their need to correct your grammar, or to diss you for your writing style. But that just proves your point, doesn’t it?

Your article is about what I firmly believe: The whole mind-set about education needs an overhaul. My first inkling of this came when my daughter was in early school. Like a dutiful mom, I had started her in preschool, then kindergarten, then on to full-time school, not really considering that I had other options, nor that their was a need for other options. One day, during her second grade, I spent a day in her classroom, helping out the teacher by stamping t-shirts, I experienced first-hand what my daughter’s day was like. It was chaotic, loud, disorganized, and simply oppressive. No wonder she came home stressed out, had tummy aches at night, had headaches, cried every morning. It was that day that I decided to take her out of the school system.

It was 1992, and not many people were doing it. The word homeschooling was not in most people’s vocabulary. Both my kids (my daughter and her younger brother) were homeschooled for nine years, collectively, until they made their own decisions to go to school. They are grown now, but to this day, they both say it was the best thing that happened to their education. They were in charge of their own educational direction, I simply facilitated by helping them to find resources that allowed them to follow their natural yearning for learning. When kids are encouraged to direct their own education, it’s phenomenal what they come up with! We had so much fun!

We did not have grades in our “school”. There were no tests. Any testing (such as in their Saxon mathbooks) were treated as tools for learning. They’d check their own work, and correct any mistakes so they knew what they did incorrectly and could learn from it. They measured their progress against their own yardstick. Kids are not stupid–they know when they are “getting it” or when they are not. The only rule: Define your own excellence, then strive for it.

There was no busy-work. All projects were purposeful, and fulfilling, otherwise, why do it? Is time in a child’s life so unimportant that time-wasters are necessary? Busy-work is an insult and not respectful to the child.

When all is said and done, my kids grew to be creative, intelligent, well-adjusted, free-thinking, life-time learners. I’m very proud of them.

This kind of education is ideal, in my opinion. My kids were celebrated for the people they were, not brow-beaten for who they were not. By the way, my kids are complete opposites in nature, so this kind of education works for both ends of the spectrum. It’s too bad public schools couldn’t be more educationally nurturing, and less like a state prison.

Tony G. Rocco

Bud, I felt exactly as you do when I was in high school long ago, although I never could have articulated my thoughts as you have here. You are exactly right about our educational system and how it seeks to elevate a few high-achievers over everyone else, leaving a great number of students to feel like worthless mediocrities. It’s sad to see that the educational system still works to stamp out individuality and creativity and produce replicants who will fit neatly into a world of industrial, assembly-line production – cogs in machine. I hope you live a long and passionate life. I am still trying to do so myself.

Best wishes,


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