Why Our Current Education System Is Failing

WARNING: This post goes against the social conditioning on education 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.



  • hey. great entry. to a certain degree i agree with what you’re saying,, but wouldn’t you say “school education” to a certain point is necessary? and that grades are a way to urge kids to study it well? you wrote “Who says life has to be a linear line?” a rhetoric question that gave me an “ah-ha” moment, but would you have been able to pull this spectacular analogy if you hadn’t learned what a linear line is?

    Also, life sucks without challenges. Have u tried playing a game on the easiest difficulty? or playing basketball with someone half your size? or have to go to school and do absolutely nothing? (a.k.a this last week…) its fun for the first ten minutes or so, then you lose any sort of interest. This challenge (the challenge of getting good grades) is a way to keep humans aged 13? to 18 (or perhaps 22) occupied and busy. Its that feeling you get when you finish an exam. its all over and you’re happy. you’ve accomplished the challenge of taking the course. of course, stress, time and effort are all part of the process, but where can u find satisfaction or happiness without stress, time and effort?

    don’t get me wrong though, i like your entry.

  • well written dude…but I must say that I agree with Kit completely. Saying that, you definitely have brought some very important points in your entry, and I absolutely agree with you there, but like Kit said, you would not be able to write such inspiring posts unless you have received basic formal education. In essence, I do think school education is important and quiet necessary, but I agree that the focus should not be solely on grades, and there is no doubt about the fact that an ‘A’ does not indicate a person’s true personality or character.
    Bud, I have always enjoyed reading your posts and it was no different with this post of yours. Though I do not completely agree with a few minor points, but I have always believed that its not necessary to be correct all the time, but it is necessary to question, challenge, and change; which you are never afraid to write about, and that is great.
    Keep inspiring!

  • I think the biggest problem with modern education is that it molds kids in the mentality of having to do something they don’t want to for survival. So many people obey the system, do well in school, get a good job, buy a nice car, and buy a nice house. All for what? To dread life on Monday morning?

    In many regards, education is molded around getting a good job, and getting a good job is generally regarded as having a good income. As a result of this, millions of people have literally become slaves to their paychecks, and once they realize this highly disappointing fact, it can seem very overwhelming to get out of.

    We obviously all need basic education and I think a few of the previous comments miss the major point of this article. Most people who base their lives on money will fail to find happiness while those who know what makes them happy will get much more out of life with just enough money to survive modestly. The key is passion and this is what the education system needs to do a better job of inspiring kids to discover. Unfortunately, most kids are on autopilot until they graduate and need to find a job. As Bud says, where’s the class on finding your passion?

  • @Vin

    I think you understood my message perfectly. Obviously we need basic education. Without basic education I would not be writing this blog. What I am suggesting is that our education system focus more on unleashing our potential and less about our grades.

    We must stop doing what we are told to and instead choose to consciously create our ideal life.

  • I definitely agree with what you are saying about grades. Even some of my teachers have pointed out that the grade does not matter as much as how much you challenged yourself and learned. I also agree with Kit though. Grades are important in motivating people to go ahead and learn as much as they can before tests. It teaches students about deadlines and about working on a tight schedule. Hopefully, students learn to use their time wisely so that they do not stay up so late. I also hope that students would learn how to not stretch themselves too thin even as they challenge themselves. Knowing that you are being graded should also help to prepare students for the stress of life. Life will not be a walk in the park, even if you find a career you love there will be difficult times. Employers will rate you against others, and you will have to be determined to work hard to beat the competition. School, along with standardized tests and grades, helps to prepare students for the real world.

    I disagree with you greatly about reading. This is one of those situations where you must learn the rules before you can break them. By reading works from the past, students can learn what influenced today’s writers. This can let them see the evolution of thought. It also helps students understand the writer’s thought process so that when they are reading a more difficult work on their own, they can understand without having to use spark notes.
    Students can read any books they want, and when they are younger they are allowed to.

    The required reading includes books that they may not like, but they are books that can be studied as a class to help students understand how to read books, especially those that challenge the students’ thought processes.

    I don’t feel that it is the school systems job to find a student’s passion. That is what parents, clubs, and outside activities are for. A person has to find his or her own passion. I think that more parents should be taught how to allow their children to find a passion. My parents allowed me to experience most anything that I felt I had an interest in. I found very soon in life that I have many passions. I love reading,, writing,, mathematics, science, and working with animals. Later in life I also found that I have a passion for helping people. I have known since I was in middle school that I wanted to put some of these passions together to find a career that I would love. I have also known since I was in primary school that I might want to be a veterinarian.

    It is the school’s responsibility to help prepare students for whatever they decide to do with their lives. It is a person’s own responsibility to find his or her passion.

    I am about to start college to become a veterinarian. I have worked hard in school, and I have not cheated to get through. Parents and students should understand that, although grades are an indicator of a student’s understanding,, grades are not all important or entirely accurate.

  • You are bloody brilliant. I am years and years older than you and yet this is exactly how I felt in high school. School for me was like a prison and so archaic, dead and pathetic. I went into shock the day I realized that school was going to be my life for the next umpteen years. I literally counted out the remaining years and ticked them off so many times. When I saw what I was living in (and I “saw” in grade school) I had no idea how I was going to survive the mediocrity that lay ahead. I ALSO could not comprehend that I lived in a system that was so ill. I’m being serious not sarcastic: I really knew that I lived in a system that was very very ill. I was bored, dying in school. Other than learning to read and write, nothing prepared me for the “real” world.

    When I graduated I think I was the only one of all my friends who didn’t go on to some form of “higher” education. I was so unprepared for the world that unless I stayed in the system, I had NO idea who I was and what I wanted to do or what life was about. Nada! I was at a complete loss. I’ve thought many times that the system is designed that way, where you can only function if you stay IN the system. Step away from it and you are lost…at first. It takes guts and courage to step away from the “security” of the system and dare to flounder until you better understand life and the world. And with that stepping away often come judgment from peers, parents, teacher, church, state, etc. A person is often looked down upon as less that or as something short of a vagrant.

    But for me, even with all the judgments that bore down on me, the thought of 4 more years of college was utter and complete despair, “Someone please put me out of my misery.” So took all the money I’d saved, loaded a knapsack, bought a Eurail pass for the trains, got an international drivers license and took off for Europe and thus began my years of traveling through first Europe, later Australia, NZ, Mexico, Canada, Alaska, USA and more.

    My life aside, this is THE BEST article I’ve ever read about our seriously failing education system. I chewed through it and line after line, quote after quote just blew my mind. You are an astounding soul and gifted writer/human being. I am so proud of you. I want the whole world to read this post. You are also gutsy. You have expressed all the things here that were my experience and my feelings. In fact I felt like you were writing my feelings, my thoughts, my life. I stand up and APPLAUD you cheering my head off. I am old enough to be your mother and if you were my son I would be so proud of you I could hardly contain it. I AM proud of you. I would see the genius in you, the intact soul in you, the free spirit in you, the great leader in you, the visionary in you,. I would tell you this: You are and will continue to change the world in a BIG way. All you have to do is what you already are doing, listen 100% to your beautiful heart and then ALWAYS act on it. Think with you whole body, with your heart and soul. I encourage to be who you already are. If you ever doubt, just email me. You can see my website (contact) at http://www.nakedineden.com.

    It truly is remarkable that you have remained a free spirit through the deadening, conformist, system that you have just “graduated” from. LOL!!! So I congratulate you on your graduation from this survival course (called school) and cheer your ability to not only survive but to remain in tact.

    I’m the one on twitter (robineaston) who said I HAD to read this article. Well, it was NOT too long, too blunt or too anything. It is fan-bloody-tastic!! And beautifully written to boot, you have a very poetic style. Thank you my wise friend. I am honored to meet you.

    PS It would be cool to see an article about what changes could be made to revamp the entire system, A major project, and one that may really be about PEOPLE changing first. Not sure, It sure would be fun to redesign the whole system or an alternative to it. Now I know why people home school their kids.

  • Great read bud. I agree AND THEN SOME. The flaw of current education goes far beyond the grading system, and is deeply rooted in modern western civilization’s agenda for competition and individualization (the bad kind). I, like others on this post experienced an early detachment from the school system- an early inkling in my mind telling me “this is not true, this not what we were meant for”. In all societies, our education is one of our main agents of socialization (we spend more time with our teachers and peers then our parents in young life ). The current education system does just that, it teaches us how to be in our society, and thus we hit our first main problem- because our society is rotten. We are being socialized to live in a society that is corrupt, and so are education must also be corrupt.
    The education system enforces such beliefs as this:
    – Success is what makes you important.
    -Money is what proves your success.
    -Life is a rat race.
    – You must surpass the other to be successful.
    -Your virtues are symbols – such as an “B” on a report card, or a fancy letter jacket.
    And of course – YOU DO WHAT YOU ARE TOLD

    As you can see, these are the same laws that have molded not just our education, but our society as a whole.

    For those of you arguing that Bud is committing hypocrisy by devaluing the same education system that also taught him the basics reading and writing, I disagree. Look closer, Bud is not saying education is wrong, but that our current educational system is wrong. Education is truly a pure thing, and even the word makes it seem too industrialized. Education = To learn from experience. Homeschooling systems have proved easily that the big corporation of education is not necessary for children to learn the basics. In fact, the homeschooled kids I have personally met have been much more literate. Bud warned you : “this goes against social conditioning”- And I assure you, part of social conditioning is to condition you to believe that any other kinds of socialization outside the mainstream are flawed and ineffective.

    As bud mentioned earlier, a huge problem with education is not just what they teach, but what they do not teach.
    Where are all the classes on finding yourself?
    Where is the philosophy?
    Where are the classes aimed at understanding the human condition?
    Where is the class labeled “why we learn”

    Surely as most of us has discovered, these things listed are of most importance. Id argue that this is left out of the education system for one main reason- If it was taught, society as we currently know would crumble. The have not’s would suddenly become the haves. The greedy would have nothing to be greedy about. Many of the rich would soon find themselves poor in ways they could never imagine. Our people would have to confront as a whole that we have been lying to ourselves for centuries, and after all, who likes to admit they have been wrong- surely not those prideful “A” students who have worked so hard for this grand illusion.

  • I completely agree.

    I used to teach. Have taught elementary, high school and college. Have taught all subjects, and found the grading system, the testing, and the need for teachers to report to chancellors and such in order to compete for funding has leeched education of, well, education. It is one of the reasons I stopped. That, and my teaching methods were unorthodox. I refused to give grades. That made it much harder for me to find work.

    It’s also the reason I had no problem taking my daughter on a trip around the world instead of sending her to school. She has learned so much more. She’s learned other languages, knows the plants and animals of other countries, knows how to bellydance, tango and knows what she wants.

    I don’t even remember what I read in high school. I do, however, remember the process of learning to teach myself, and learning what carries the most value for me.

  • Marie,

    Even if the school system was willing, it’s not possible for someone else to find your passion for you. What the school system needs to do is teach kids how important it is for them to find their passion on their own. To do so, they need to go beyond the commen perception of a “job.”

    You are fortunate to know that you want to be a veteranarian. However, by knowing this, you are part of the minority of people your age who have even the slightest concern to know what they want to do with their life, and this is the problem!

    Finding your passion is hard work, and as you said, it has to be done on your own, but most kids do absolutely nothing in this regard and aren’t even aware of the need to do so.

  • Hi Bud, this is a great article and everything you have said is so true. I tell my kids all the time that you don’t have to get great grades to become successful in life, if you work smarter, not harder, to achieve in life who the hell needs the grades for that. you are right, a basic education is a must.

    I would also say the ages of in which we go to school is all wrong. I believe we should attend primary school just the way we do from ages 5 – 12 and then go out into the big wide world and learn something we are interested in. Then at the age of 19 – 25 we should go to uni, if we choose, and get indepth knowledge about our chosen path, but a uni course that is up to date and relevent to our chosen path.

    Well written article.

  • Vin,
    I agree with what you are saying about people not understanding the need to find their passion. I still do not agree that it is something the school is or should be responsible for. Parents should be teaching this to their children. It is an important thing in life that I feel should be found on a person’s own time. School is to give people the knowledge they need to be able to work toward whatever career path they enjoy. I feel that to be happy in life a person should put their passions toward finding not a job, but a career.

    I understand your point, but as I was explaining to Vin parents should be the ones doing most of this. Philosophy, understanding of the human condition, why we learn, and why we learn are things that should be covered through higher education, parents, and study done individually. These are things learned through life experience, not school. Therefore, it can’t be the school’s responsibility to teach such things in the more basic schooling of students.

    I hope that you all understand I am not trying to attack anybody or say that their way is not the right way. I am only trying to explain why I disagree with some of the points made. I think this is a very good article with wonderful points.

  • I disagree, Bud. I think that most people are different. I get the impression that you have personally found a different purpose in life that is more meaningful to you than being a successful businessman or the like. Other kids fail out of school or get shitty grades because they are too lazy to apply themselves; and others think they are being rebels by making bad grades, but they later realize that when they are applying for scholarships for college, government jobs, etc. the board of directors will usually pick somebody with a 4.0 throughout high school or college than someone who migrates between 2.0 and 3.0, for example. Let’s continue this by email because I’d really like to hear what you think.

  • I agree that everyone makes good points here. Another idea to understand is that grades do not always reflect the learning you receive in class. In some classes I don’t feel like I learn too much but still get an A, while in some classes (like AP Physics) I learn all kinds of new concepts life lessons yet end up dropping out of the class.
    We learned different ways to learn; while we can learn quite a bit through life lessons, school helps us learn to learn by reading and writing and researching and listening to other people. School also provides us with the opportunity to meet all kinds of people in all of the different walks of life who are also trying to learn. [On a side note, I definitely agree about the narrow reading choices in school…]
    Nice post =]

  • I completely agree with you! As a mum of 9 and having watched my elder 3 boys struggle… I believe that we place too much emphasis on academia! There are people out there who can, who have made it without an education! I have always said to my kids “Go to school, get a good education, get a good job!” And I still believe that to a degree BECAUSE the world is geared to that outcome! I have children who do very well at school and I can see the world is their oyster! But your blog post has changed my thinking a little, as I was already on a path to self-discovery and I completely agree that you need to live your passions first and foremost! Do that and you will be happy! Maybe you’ll get rich from them, maybe you won’t… but you will always be happy doing what you love most!
    I did ok at school, I wasn’t brilliant, but I wasn’t a dummy either… and now I am living my passion… you can find me at http://michellehayward.blogspot.com and under the Link “You can find me at” are the places you can find me on the web…living my dreams, my passions, my joy – at long last! You have learned at a tender age what it took me nearly 40 years to learn!

  • Nice entry Bud!
    As Rohan said, I am always enjoying your entries and your sincere idea in them.
    But this time, I have to say that I disagree with you. People do need grades. It’s your own free will not to care about your grades. I have nothing against about their decision because I respect their personal decisions. However, I need grades because they motivate me to study. Why do I need to study? Every single task you face in real life is a problem that needs a solution. Studying is a way to train yourself to find better solutions for daunting problems you face every single day or will face in the future. In the entry, you said “Our attitude, not our grades, determines our success.” But it is, though sad, true that your grades reflect your attitude, and your attitude plays a huge role in terms of determining our success. As a person who have been taught under Asian education system for 15 years until I came to Concordia, I would like to tell you that the education you have received for the past whatever years at Concordia is something like heaven compared to the education I had in Korea. So do not whine and suck it up. Your logic and idea, at a glance, look really decent and brilliant. However, to me, it looks like an excuse for getting poor grades and have shitty attitudes at school. Yeah I have been getting really shitty grades for my second semester after I got admission for college. I have no excuse for that. My attitude sucked. How was your GPA? Are you a straight A student? You said “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.” You are making a huge logical mistake here. You can do everything you want or things that you believe important in life while getting good grades. You can still do things like “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,” while getting As on your transcript.
    Sorry if my words hurt your emotion, but I still love you Bud!

  • Funny you asked my opinion on this. I agree, whole-heartedly! I felt the same way when I was in school (and in my family, God help you if you didn’t get the A). I chose to fail on purpose for a while just to prove that point. 😉

    I do believe the system is broken, and I’m actually working on a proposal to completely change things. 😉 Sorry, but until I get everything figured out and get it to the people I need to get it to, that’s the best I can tell you. 🙂

    GREAT post! So on the money! 🙂

  • “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.”

    You are truly wise beyond your years. Too often people refuse to see this blatant problem with society. This problem needs to be addressed… NOW.

  • You bring up a really good point with all of this, the education system fails to account for those with latent genius. It is of particular ire to me that someone otherwise altogether talented would be denied opportunities because of the inability to do well at a subject. But the fact remains that you can’t just tell the system to screw off entirely. Passions should never be compromised but if you are in a class that you don’t like, you shouldn’t just blow it off entirely. There is something to take from everything whether you like it or not, nothing is pointless. Learning means diversifying your view points, reading books that you would have never, on usual circumstances picked up, forcing yourself to work through every piece of busywork the system tosses at you. If your not good at something, thats fine, but you should always try your best, and accept that if you fail, you fail, and that you tried your best and that there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you might be surprised to learn that you enjoy an aspect of something you thought you didn’t like. I have found multiple good books through required reading programs(I do believe though that ample time should be given so that reading can be done leisurely). That being said, learning and personal growth should always take precedent over grades, life is meant to be lived, and no amount of knowledge, money, or accolades are worth the sacrifice your passions. You choose your path, and the universe will enfold as it will. Thank you for writing this article, Bud, you have a gift, it really is just beautiful. Keep on writing, cause I’ll keep on reading.

  • Bud,
    While your GPA may not be acceptable in the eyes of your educators you should be proud and so should your parents. You are brave to speak out about a subject many would be too afraid to discuss.
    What you understand is that our current system of education can not continue as it is-it needs transformation. As a matter-of-fact many institutions in our society will need to change as our world becomes ‘green’ and global. The old systems can no longer sustain this coming transition. It will be up to your generation to help the most in this process. Big changes like this are not easy and many will be fearful of the letting go of the old ways-they seemed to work so well in the past and why change what is working?
    See you are right about needing to find your purpose and learning about what YOU are interested in. Many here have made some valid points about reading. I believe the ancient texts are important but if students were studying their interests and were passionate they would naturally find their way to those important readings.
    Keep in mind that change is difficult for most people. It’s unfortunate because being afraid to change is very short sighted. Our new world will need thinkers like you. People that use the right sides of their brains, people who are creative, compassionate and wise. You are wise beyond your years and I would bet you are much smarter than that GPA.
    Best of luck to you my friend, this world needs more like you.
    Happiness always!

  • “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.”

    Did you do these things through your high school, or did you do them independently, while you tried to discover your passion? Did your teachers discourage and impede you from learning through these experiences? Did the institution discourage you from becoming and active global citizen and reflective spiritual being, or did it present opportunities for you to find who you are? I am curious.

  • nice caveat, i’m up for reading anything against social conditioning =)

    remember my days of reading, i mean, sparknoting shakespeare texts =D makes you a summary machine and you stop appreciating the wholeness of things. summaries can be good, but not all the time. – hey, at least school taught me to hustle the summaries 🙂

    i think the most power part of education (though not many people actually manage to “get it”) is to learn to learn. and think. which is why a system that doesn’t work can sometimes work. in not working, it makes you learn how to make it work. and sometimes that’s more important than the system itself.

    …biggest anti with school was that it was aimed at the average in the way material is conveyed. if you’re above the average, you get bored and below the average and you learn very little.

    your traditional life time line ala “the deferred life plan” is magic. really cool that you’ve seen that before end of highschool. i went through a similar growth phase after having terrible grades and managed to turn around from 50% average to all As, and using that as inspiration to get other areas of my life handled from social, girls and money to more general life stuff like purpose.

    that’s what my site is about – the transformation of it all. unleash reality.

    inspiring stuff
    alex – unleash reality

  • Fantastic comments on this post!

    Awesome Bud, I couldn’t agree more. Our current system of education is a dinosaur, no doubt. Colleges future graveyards for sure. At least if nothing changes. The world is moving rapidly and the current state of education isn’t doing nearly enough to catch up.

    Your experiences are richer than a classroom can cap. Your life will reflect that. Congratulations on your graduation and the pending, undiluted life that’s waiting.

  • I came here by way of Twitter. Writer Dad directed my attention. And I’m glad he did.

    I feel the same way about grades. I am an elementary school teacher and I will need to write the final term report cards soon. It’s something that I do not look forward to doing. I don’t think report cards really work. I don’t want to assign letter grades to a student’s performance.

    I simply want my students to live up to their potential. I don’t believe all students should be shooting for A’s. That’s unrealistic. But if you can get an A and you choose not to do your best work, then you are only shortchanging yourself.

    That’s what I believe. We should all put in a solid effort at school and in our jobs. We will see the rewards of doing so and the pride we can feel in doing a good job.

  • This passage is amazingly written, inspiring, but in my eyes misleading. You are forgetting a whole side of education! You attend high school in Shanghai, as do I. Are you saying you have never walked down a street and though “Why?, who?, when?, where?, how?” That is the point of school. They can teach you the basics but unless you strive to find what makes you inspired, it will all fall to nothing. I am always going to my teachers with random questions, and they are always more than happy to keep explaining until I have an answer that makes sense.
    You comment on the style books we read in school, but something I find with my classmates is they forget to think on their own! All books can in one way or another can always teach you a lesson, either good or bad… It just depends on how much you look into it!
    You said “Why not? High School: Find Your Purpose: Love Your Job: Live your life. Die Happy?” But when I look at the other option I see that it is the same thing, only hidden. Its your choices to get involved that will help you find your purpose, we can’t blame a school for not knowing what we don’t!

    I’m not saying there isn’t truth to your words, I’ve been to enough schools to see that the education system it is flawed in many ways! But here you are taking the points too far, that its the educational systems fault that thousands of students don’t find their purpose? That can’t be true. Maybe in a few of those cases the schools hold them back, but as a whole its the students doing. I agree grades are not everything, maybe even uselessly easy to bring down… But when I get a bad grade I don’t see my failure, I ask what I did wrong so I can become better! If you want to learn you have to try, and to try you have to experience. Maybe this has to be done out of school but learning who you are is easier with others. I know my school is amazing at giving me experiences, but where they fall short I make sure to fill in on my own!

    I want to say I agree with you but your statement was just too stretched for me!

    School is what you make it. If you just take it as school and notes, then you can’t possibly learn about yourself during it! If you look deeper than that, past the grades and work hard to do your best just because, you would learn a lot more than any class can show.

  • Thanks for all the wonderful comments guys! We have been able to see a variety of different perspectives which I think is wonderful for growth. For those who have a different take then me, I appreciate your insights. By no means do I have all the answers.

    I would first like to say that I have been lucky enough to have a few wonderful teachers in my high school career. These teachers are special to me because they helped me look past the social conditioning of the system.

    This post was crafted to make you think, and I think it was successful. We learn a tremendous amount from immersing ourself in perspectives that we may not agree with.

    I think many of the comments are missing my point This post is not saying you SHOULDN’T get good grades. There is nothing wrong with getting good grades. When we make it our life “goal” that’s when it becomes a problem. Passion over grades any day.

    To say the education I have received didn’t make me who I am today, would be a flat out lie. Obviously my education, both the good and bad, has had a great role in shaping the person I am.

    I have been lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time.

    As a whole, the system not the teachers are at fault.

    For what it’s worth I have been to both a public school (in Texas) and a private international school in Shanghai.

    While my international school still places heavy emphasis on grades, it also places a heavy emphasis on being a global citizen, living a life of service, and reaching you’re true potential. I feel lucky to have been introduced to such a life.

    Schools need to teach kids how to find their purpose.

  • When I finished reading your entry, I thought I completely agreed with what you had to say. But after I thought about it for a while, I realized, okay if all of us “average” students had straight As, would we even be complaining? If you had straight As and a 4.0 GPA, would you have written this entry at all? I know I personally complain a lot about how too much emphasis is put on grades and academic achievements, and I agree with your reasoning, to an extent, but I think I complain mostly because my grades are mediocre and honestly, I think you complain for the same reason. I think your reasoning seems logical at first, but in the end, it’s all pretty much an excuse for not reaching your full potential. Just from reading your blog, anyone can tell that you’re an extremely gifted writer. But without basic education, you never would have been able to write this entry.

    I agree that your grades are only a tiny part of you, as a whole person, but they’re still a part of your character. Good grades reflect hard work, determination, intelligence, and capability. When you look at someone’s report card and see straight As, you normally don’t question their ability. However, although it’s true that bad grades don’t necessarily indicate stupidity, they can come off that way. “I’m smart, but I’m lazy” is never a good excuse either. If you’re capable of getting straight As, why not try? Your grades don’t completely define you, but they do reflect what kind of person you are.

    I agree that the service interims and the trips to foreign countries affect us more than anything we learn in the classroom. But weren’t you given these opportunities through school? Life experiences are ultimately what will enrich and shape your character, but education is what prepares you.

  • The real problem with the educational system is that it not only teaches a lot of memorization and has too much emphasis on test-taking, but also that it fails the students who do not learn best in the methods that are taught.

    Also, much fault lies with the parents who are ultimately responsible for their child’s education.

    I’ve learned far more about life from living and looking for answers myself, not from traditional schooling.

    Keep up the search Bud, keep sharing your story. Great post; it wasn’t too long for someone who is interested in the subject or in what you have to say. =D @HolisticMom

  • Hey, I’d like to point out something about the education system. It is the biggest money maker out there. My school, St. John’s University, eats money like I eat rice. They charge me an estimated total of $40,000 dollars a year for the education they offer. At the first glance, it seems about okay. They offer small classes, a beautiful campus, a variety of acitivies, and a diverse environment. Some might consider that to be a great deal. But when you delve deeper into the actual educational system, you see there are numerous flaws.

    To start off, each credit at the school is $1,000 dollars for an education you can recieve elsewhere for much cheaper with the same outcome. So the most basic fee for freshman year (their required 12 credits) is a total of $12,000 dollars. Of course the fees don’t stop there. Let’s also consider the necessary fee of food and dorm. Let me inform you that college food isn’t particularly the most spectacular food there is. True, most campuses offer an open buffet of many different items, somewhere into the year you’ll find yourself ordering out more often the eating in. Also, the dorm fees. I was charged an estimated total of $12,000 dollars (general fee, micellaneous fees, repair fees) for the dorms. Not including the stuff you actually have to get to make your room livable. Other fees you’ll find yourself paying through the wazoo for throughout the year are for expensive books you might not end up using and or can’t return, clothes, etc.

    The point here is that when you are interested in an education system, for you it’d be colleges, take into consideration that what you pay doesn’t always determine what you get back. I am taking courses in different schools that charge significantly less for the same course and the credits can also be transferred. Also, when you apply for a school, consider what your money is funding. Some schools (even middle/high/elementary schools) are research facilities. So when you pay whopping amounts of money to that school, you’ll find yourself funding research that could lead to endless new discoveries that could improve our life. When you attend a research school, know that your class options aren’t necessarily top notch. This is because you’re paying for research, and to them, teaching comes in second.

    Basically, what I’m saying is that the urge to make money from an education system is one of the biggest flaws I’m finding since I left Concordia. Honestly, I felt my money spent on concordia was put to far better use then the money I’m spending at St. John’s. I felt that I got my money’s worth in education. For St. John’s on the other hand, I sometimes feel like I’m wasting money. So, be careful.

  • “I think I complain mostly because my grades are mediocre and honestly, I think you complain for the same reason. I think your reasoning seems logical at first, but in the end, it’s all pretty much an excuse for not reaching your full potential.

    I agree that your grades are only a tiny part of you, as a whole person, but they’re still a part of your character. Good grades reflect hard work, determination, intelligence, and capability.

    Life experiences are ultimately what will enrich and shape your character, but education is what prepares you.”


    If a 2.5 was the absolute best you could do then I would understand your frustration. But, your writing ability and intelligence in conveying a message in addition to your initial comment about 32 absences in a year lead me to believe you have not put any effort into “unleashing your potential.”

    What are the intangibles of education? I’ll give you a few: self-discipline, problem solving, strength, integrity, the ability to do what is necessary (and to the best of your ability) even if you don’t like it.

    You mentioned the stress of high school. I remember feeling that way as well. However, the intangible qualities of attending to your duties as a student are a small step in the preparation for life. The stress of high school is small in comparison to losing one’s job and worrying about providing for a family, having a sick child on the verge of death and feeling hopeless about their survival, or having a terminal illness and wondering when it’s going to be your time, and who will be there for your family when you’re gone, all the while going about the menial tasks of life.

    You mentioned a classmate stays up past 2 am studying – good for him/her – although I would argue about maintaining mental/physical health, but too many of today’s youth are staying up to 2am playing video games or on the internet.

    You mentioned being forced to read literary works that are difficult to understand. That’s the point. They make you think. And it’s not easy.

    You mentioned how “books we read must be relevant to us…not teachers, parents.” Would you so flippantly dismiss the wisdom and experience of teachers and parents who might inspire you with something you initially had no interest in and felt was irrelevant? Would you close that door without a thorough examination of what was being taught?

    You mentioned education should be meaningful to you and not, “wasting time on subjects you hate.”

    In life you will find yourself doing many “meaningless” things. If you can do them well and to the best of your ability…I would call that being successful.

    You are an excellent writer. Work hard at everything placed before you, no matter how much you hate or disagree with it, and you will be surprised where life takes you.

    I graduated high school with a 2.5 gpa. Although I dropped out of college for a time, I graduated with a 2.0. Nine years later I earned an M.A. graduating with a 3.4 (that is the best I can do) and am now pursuing a doctoral degree…I only wish I worked that hard when I was your age. (note – I am pursuing a doctoral degree because my field requires it).

  • Interesting thoughts Bud. Always good to hear reflection from a student in the system. Otherwise we teachers will think we are doing everything right!

    I had a similar life experience HS, but looking at it now I see it as a place to learn a set of skills that you can then later apply to whatever you find interesting.

    I do disagree that it has to be HS-College-Grad School-Job (not fun)-death.

    For me it has been HS, College, Job (it was boring) Grad School, Job (teaching is seriously fun even after 15 years) and then that death thing.

    Keep reflecting out there! It never ends, hopefully.

  • Looks to me like you are going to achieve great things in spite of your education. Well done. Maybe you could become a teacher and help us try to change the system from within?

  • Schools should adapt to students; it’s not students adapting to school.

    Though some organizations and most colleges judge us by our grades, the classifieds don’t list a GPA as a hiring point……have a look……companies seek individuals who demonstrate what they can do (portfolio), can problem-solve, have strong interpersonal skills, give muscle to the word integrity, able to collaborate in the global village, etc. Yes, the degree is important, but I wonder which holds greater value—the degree (coupled with grades) or the portfolio (what I can do–failure and success)?

    Have a look at Daniel Pink’s question on his blog:

    Bud, thank you for your insights and please continue to raise the flag. John Dewey tried almost a century ago…..and we failed.

    Have a read of Sir Ken Robinson’s white paper:

    With gratitude and appreciation of your posted comment on 05.29.09,

  • There is nothing I need to say that hasn’t been said in the post itself or the comments that followed, but I wanted to thank you anyway, for so perfectly articulating what I have been trying to teach my students since I started teaching. I will print this blog post out and it will be read the first week and last week of school for as long as I teach. Thank you.

    I have subscribed to your blog and look forward to your future writing. I would love to collaborate with you on some sort of media version of this piece. Check out my work: http://intrepidflame.blogspot.com/

    Check out my style and let’s be in touch.

  • What a thoughtful post!
    As Chris Lehman says in this video, “What happens in school is real life, not preparation for real life.” http://www.viddler.com/explore/tdlifestyle/videos/134/
    I think that the ‘missing piece’ when it comes to education today, is that it tries to fill us with important things rather than make us feel important and valued… it feeds us content, but doesn’t leave us contented in any meaningful way.
    I wrote a post a while back, (I linked it to my name above), about the ‘Square Peg’ students that we try to fit into the ‘Round Holes’ of education. It seems both you and I have had an education that feels that way. I didn’t fit, but I didn’t care. I did assignments my way, not the teacher’s way and wore my C+ badge with honour.
    I had some amazing teachers along the way, and I had some that weren’t… and the main difference was that the good ones inspired me to care and do my best.
    But I think you hit the issue at the core, it is the system itself that seems to suck the life out of students at a young age. As you eloquently said,

    “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.”

    There is an old proverb that says, “When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the Way”
    (Found in Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams.)

    Marks seem to take our attention away from what matters. I find it funny that we can assess young kids without grades and then around Grade 3 we suddenly start indoctrinating students into the paradigm of good marks = success…. and the really important things we learn in Kindergarden about sharing, respecting and loving one another, as well as communicating how we feel and getting along with each other, suddenly takes a back seat to achieving some sort of success beyond these things that really matter.

  • Hi,
    I’m Leila and a 9th grade student.
    Okay first this is a great blog post. You seem to bring up a great subject. I like how you talk about chasing the A.
    Recently, I have been freaking out because when I came into high school my grades dropped a bit. I had this panic thing where all I could think was why would my grades drop. I felt horrible because my math grade wasn’t as good. I did feel like any career choice I would choose depended on that one math grade. Seeing now, it was so stupid. It was very stupid.
    It’s true that it has been implanted in our brains that the only way we would live the happy life was with those good grades. As long as I like the material I am studying then why should i care much about if I have an A or not.
    Thank you for this post, it’s making me think. Also giving me support that it’s not just me who thinks all of my friends, well most of them, are obsessed with their grades.


  • Bud,

    I am a teacher at an International School, and I do agree with a lot of what you are saying. I think that the focus of education needs to shift from beings grade-obsessed to simply teaching students to enjoy learning so that they will continue to do so- either in college or on their own- in the future. I don’t believe that grades always accurately assess what a student has or hasn’t learned in the class, and it is getting to the point where anything below an A is considered failure- how did that happen? I also don’t believe that every student is college-bound, but I do think that going to college should be encouraged. This is not because I think that it’s necessary to go to college to get a good job and make a lot of money, but because I believe that for many people, college is really the place where they figure out who they are and what they are truly interested in. Again, this is not true for everyone, but many students who graduate high school and go off to college come back for vacations and tell me how much their world has opened up since they started at university.

    I also find that parents often will put much more stress and emphasis on grades than many teachers will. I cannot count how many conferences I’ve had where I’ve raved about how a student seems to be enjoying him/herself in my class and is really interested in the content, only to have the parents focus on nothing but how their child can raise their grade to an A (or an A+, if they already have an A). I’ve tried explaining to parents that Bs, and even Cs, are perfectly acceptable scores, but this is usually lost on them.

    All in all, I think that you have given teachers, students, and parents something profound to think about, and to challenge them to re-evaluate what their definitions of success and happiness are.

  • A great entry. I would say it is a best entry I would ever read about education. This is what a true education should be about. Even though I was once an “A” grader, always aiming for academic success, I realized that I have lost out a lot in life.

    I would say that your post is one that should be published in national newspapers, and one that should be read by teachers, principals of schools which are placing too much emphasis on getting As.

    I agree what you have said about reading. I never liked to read since young. Other than being forced to read to improve my English, or to study textbooks for exams, I have no interests in reading other books. This has carried on for 19 years, until 1 day I found my right book, on the shelve of ‘Self-Improvement’. I have got my right book, and that’s where my passion of reading lies.

    Thanks bud for having such a great post, and I am going to share it with ALL my friends. They got to be enlightened about the true education system. 😀

    Look forward to greater posts!

  • That was me in 1995. Now I have a Masters degree in Education and am an Instructional Designer at a University. This means I design University courses. My High School principal told me to drop out in Grade 11. Hmmm.

  • I read this blog with great interest, being a New Zealand teacher, in a primary (elementary) school. I agree that education Grades don’t guarantee success.
    Passion + Determination + Positive Attitude = Success. Many of my University colleagues did not necessarily do that well – I myself never did that well at University, with a B+ average. However, I have now gone onto Masters and when reflecting on what success I have had is interesting. I am a successful teacher, well regarded in the education field and by colleagues because mostly I have passion and determination to do the best I can for my kids in my class. I spend countless amounts of hours reading, researching, twittering, blogging all for my kids. Does this get graded? I think not. Do I write about something that I am not passionate about? I think not. I am a true believer in all chn becoming the best person they can be – whether it be in oral language, leadership, kindness, or writing. Not all of us can be A grade students – does this not make a boring kind of world. People who are movers and shakers are often those that work hard, persist and see a bigger purpose for themselves. This is not done by grades. I commented to my better half (who is a Professor at one University here) that the people from my school days who were the Dux/High achievers are no better for it than I am. I am happy, passionate about life and all there is to it, and successful with my family and work. Those who were Dux are successful in their chosen paths – whether it be in finance or lecturing at the university.
    We need education to show us how – not to tell us how. We need education to keep up with us (my class know how to blog). We need education to teach us some knowledge (like reading/writing/numeracy) but we also need education to inspire, lead and leave us with wanting more.
    Recently a USA student has arrived in my class to learn how we do things. One comment was “Ur class is a demoracy, kids have so much independence but are driven in their learning. They know what they need to know and what they don’t know and how to get there. It is personalised learning, where every child has their say and their goals.”
    Obviously you didn’t get this. But you did get the passion of learning from someone, otherwise why would you write this?

  • I am an educator myself – who no longer teaches by choice – and I must say, I agree with your ‘rant’. Marks are important, but not everything. I have seen many a student stressed out by pressure from peers, parents, etc which didn’t allow her to ‘enjoy’ the possiblity of LEARNING. I made a point of using the curriculum as a bridge to ‘real’ life issues, and to inspire my students to find exactly what you said….’what illuminates them’, regardless of what society thinks. I will forward this to my fellow teachers and pray that they ‘get’ it.

    My only fear is that the powers that be are not open to even the possiblity of this concept – that’s why both teachers and students have to work TOGETHER to find ways for everyone to shine and be ENGAGED in learning.

    You can change the world, never, ever forget that.

  • 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.

  • Hi,

    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…


  • 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

  • Bud,

    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!

  • 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..

  • Bud,

    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.

  • “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.

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!!

  • 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

  • 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!

  • Bud,

    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.

  • Bud,

    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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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,


  • My greatest fear is that my granddaughter will grow up dumb because her teachers will not show her how to learn and memorize and excel and get good grades because it’s easier for them to go along with your evaluation-‘It’s hard, therefore I should be allowed to find myself at my own pace.’ Hmmmmmm Maybe kids don’t read because the books are hard because they haven’t been taught to spell or define words or find their meaning. Maybe kids don’t read because the books are hard because they haven’t been taught comprehension. Maybe fighting against education will diminish you in your chosen life’s work. Who will you blame when one of your stops along life’s way is ‘unhappy at my job’ because you can’t excel there either?

    • Sue,

      I agree wholeheartedly with Bud. With all due respect, your view on education is short-sighted and immature.

      My uncle graduated high school with a 1.8 GPA. A C- average. He went to school at a community college and earned roughly a 2.3 GPA there. A C+ average.

      He now works at Google, writing code and doing something that he loves. He makes more than $500,000 a year, has his own family, and lives in New York.

      I asked him about his schooling after reading your comment, and he agreed with Bud. School teaches you things that you will never need to know, but very little about how to get by in life and become a good, contributing member of society. For example, in my junior year in high school, I can currently point out that on the day he was beheaded, King Charles I of England was wearing a green shirt, but I couldn’t tell you how to start looking for a job.

  • Dear Bud,

    I can relate to every one of your statements and feelings. I am 56 years old and have spent the better part of my life looking for my passion.

    Although I was a very good student in high school, even earning a National Merit Scholarship Letter of Commendation along the way, I had no interest in going to college. My parents, however, did. And so I went, spending a miserable four years pursuing a liberal arts degree. I managed to graduate with a 3.0 average, but little good it did me. The only recruiters to show up on campus were from banks. I had majored in Art and English–hardly promising attributes for the world I was expected to enter.

    By that time I felt as though I’d disappeared. I had no idea what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. I only knew that giving voice to anything “creative” would have been ridiculed by my parents and my peers.

    Your advice to find out what you really love to do, and follow it, is excellent. Unfortunately schools and society want to squeeze everyone through their “Play-Dough” machine, shaping them for factories and offices–a slow death. Unfortunately, society finds freedom highly suspect, dangerous and scary. Don’t follow your heart, it says, follow the established order. Wouldn’t it be nice if nobody showed up to work at a job they hate? What a happier place the world would be.

    Young people are afraid to envision or talk about their dreams. With the amount of busywork and memorization they’re required to perform, they hardly have time for such reflection. Perhaps that is the intent of “schooling.”

    I have let my two children, now 19 and 16 find their own paths. They take as many “mental” days off as they want, in spite of the pressure by our local school system (very highly rated in Connecticut) to conform, and the pressure put on me as a parent. How dare I flout conventional wisdom! Nevertheless, they are thriving and, more to the point, happy. (What a concept!)

    Thanks for writing this piece. All the very best in whatever road you choose.

    (BTW, I am a freelance editor and writer (as well as a wife and mother)–a path I discovered late in life, but not too late. I suspect, being the writer that you are, that by the time you’re my age, you’ll love those “ancient” scribes as much as I do.)

  • Hola Bud: I wrote to you and your friends June 1 and June 2. I was legally Joseito. Now I am legally Dr. Joseito. I just finished my final defense last thursday, 10- 8- 2009 from 2:30 pm till 5:10 pm. I am writing this note to you and your friends from my heart. I think I have a little over 10 more years to push hard in the direction of a new world, a new social order, a new educational system. I hope to visit with you some day: there might be out there something worth fighting together. Now I will concentrate in writing about a “new Rogers-Freire-Goleman paradigm” and other theoretical issues in heuristic-phenomenological research. I tell you these things because this is what moves me now. Your brilliance and energy is “fuera de serie”. These readings of your friends are contagious. Joseito (Dr. Jose Reinaldo Cruz, Ph.D., Miami, Florida)

  • Bud, thanks for you expressing your thought in details.

    I have been to Harvard University and achieve a great grade. My experience struggles can go on ever on and on. One thing that I learnt is there is some truths into everything that I studied in High School and act as a building block for everyone to have common grounds.

    However, I agreed 220% that there are many flaws, is it to train up each of our ADAPTATION? our CRITICAL thinking? Our education is not currently the best yet but we need progression in education, in learning and societal development; thats what I personally but you may agree or disagree…

    Indeed, I encourage to persevere your struggles as I am!

  • Bud,

    I would highly recommend an excellent by Yong Zhao entitled “Catching Up or Leading the Way” (2009). From his beginnings as a student of China’s educational “system” to his current position as a professor at Michigan State, he has accumulated cross-cultural experiences that make his argument for recovering the strengths of the U.S. educational system even richer.

    His critique of the hysteria that surrounds the whole “oh damn, we don’t score as well as other nations on standardized tests so the system has failed entirely” lie that began with then Secretary of Education Bell’s “A Nation at Risk” report and perpetuated in both the popular press and “scholarly” research is superb.

    Anyway, just more food for thought…

    Mr. Hulse

  • Hi

    Bud this is an excellent article i agree with you 100% in fact i am teaching my students the same thing and working with different scholars around the world to work out a relevant system for now. I be very happy if you joined us.

    Ismail Asif

  • “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.”
    *cough* That’s me. A highschool freshman speaking here. I actually don’t care about school. But I’ve built a mentality in my head to get straight A’s. I have parents who put pressure on me and a slew of other things. I do work I really don’t care about (Shakespeare, meh, I don’t think his writings were really that good.) and feel stressed to have that 100 average.

  • Excellent post. You might find this interesting:
    Apparently schools fail at education on purpose – because it’s convenient for the government and big businesses to have lots of complacent workers who don’t dream big or “rock the boat” too much. Of course most teachers and administrators probably aren’t aware of this: they’re just doing what they think they should, because that’s how school taught them to be way back when they were there.

  • Definitely blame the curriculum, Justify mediocrity, and Underachieve. You really don’t get it at all.

    It isn’t about social studies, or home economics or biology. It is about time management, setting priorities and self-discipline.

    Never mind, it’s probably beyond your comprehension. Just play your Wii and discover yourself. Your parents will probably support you until you are well into your 30’s.

  • If one’s intelligence and level of education can be judged by how one interacts with other thoughts and ideas, then we may very well conclude that it is YOU that is lacking in learning and knowledge – it is YOU who doesn’t “get it.” You present no argument or counterpoint. You lump anyone who dares to question contemporary pedagogy in your self-defined category of “slothful punks”. One can only imagine that you are a product of the very system being called into question – a system that has little to do with particular teachers or learners and much to do with a general approach to education that demands little more than regurgitated rhetoric and insipid obedience to those who hold positional authority.

    On the other hand, perhaps we should thank you for illustrating the point…

  • It needs to be noted that my last comment was directed toward the comments made by Mr. Nix – this was not captured in the text.

  • Bud,

    As a recent high school graduate I am in complete agreement with this post. Our education system here in the United States certainly needs to be reformed. I suggest that we base our classes on principles such as Truth, Oneness, Love, Peace, Change, and Creation. Our classes should lead students to find their own answers to questions they deem important. I have much more to say on this topic. Feel free to contact me. I am an 18 year old student and personal development blogger.

  • YES!

    I am so glad I found your site. I am sixteen years old and left school last November based on this premise. I created a blog around Youth Liberation; empowering youth to develop their passions, follow their dreams, and, if school got in the way, to quit it, and start living. I let it drop after a couple months because of certain circumstances, but I am now picking it back up again with the help of Jonathan mead’s Paid to Exist Program. For some reason I think you’re in it too, but I can’t be sure.

    Anyway, I felt totally validated when I read this post, especially from such a young, inspiring person (I like your goal about being financially independent by the age of 21)

    Keep rocking the boat!


  • It is great that you are questioning the system. So did I when i was a student and I have done quite a bit of teaching “out of the box”. (you can see it on my web site). Alas, those were small experiments which wanished into nothing because they were too brief.
    It seems to me that what has to transmitted today is not mere information (internet is full of it), but enthusiastic,loving attitude.Very few people have it, actually.
    I would love to organize a school together with a group of young people where students will be creativelly challenged in a variety of unexpected ways, and where each person will be looked upon as a human being above all. If anyone is interested, check up my web site and contact me, please.

    • Hi, Lada
      I am 19 years old and I have a similar dream…to set up such a school.
      It’s a pleasure to hear of someone who shares my vision.
      Can you please tell me how to contact you and if you have taken any steps towards your dream?
      Thank you!


  • Hi, I really liked whatever is written in the post as i have always myself believed that grades are the most important thing in a students life without realising that this will one day leave me unsatisfied about what i am doing in lfe. today i feel i wish i had some one to tell me the real aim of education in life.If so,i am sure i would have been in a better position. but today i feel we should guide the students to help them realise the true potential in them.

  • Although I agree that the system is failing, your grasp of what the core causes are, is loose at best. I’m certain that in the years since you wrote this you’ve changed your premises while still drawing the same general conclusion. Nevertheless, this was most interesting, however very flawed. My perspective on this, is that I earn straight A’s without much effort and still study various philosophies and read on my spare time. I would argue that if one is not able to understand ancient texts and is unable to do well in school they should strive to be at peace with being average or less-than-average. You obvious did not develop a “yearning for learning” while in high school, regarding its curriculum, and so I can understand your situation. However, I must point out that what you perceive as the problem only appears that way from your stand point (being average or less-than-average), and isn’t actually the fundamental factor that is causing our school system to crash. The factor is more along the lines of evolutionary theory (or at least, evolutionary theory is where we will resurrect our system). The fundamental problem with our schools is that they don’t teach along the same parameters we evolved to learn by. Our system is plagued by ignorance, not a faulty esteem-building assessment system such as grades.

    In addition, I just graduated from high school three months ago, so I am a long way away from grad school, but even I can tell you that grad school isn’t a place to go to if you think you are going to get a job you hate. Go to grad school to get a job you love.

  • YES YES YES!!!

    Ray Bradbury said, “I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories. ”

    He also said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

    Too true today. People skim through the summaries to pass the test, and never understand the delight of literature. I hope to change that habit, one student at a time.

  • Schools are failing because students are starting to realize just how worthless and corrupt it is. Take my high school for example. We cannot afford busses anymore, all students have to either walk (no sidewalks, rural) or have a parent take them. However our peice of Shite supperintendent (spelling) gave himself a 300,000 dollar raise, then scolds parents for not donating enough money during fund raisers. Not only this but NOTHING that we learn in elementary or high school actually applies to real life. I say that college is the only system that works. Schools are worthless and a waste of reasources. Lets end this nightmare of forcing innocent kids to endure PRISON. That is essenctially all schools are and nothing more.

  • Oh god . . . I agree with you completely.

    I just finished ranting about how terrible my professor is, and the lack of enthusiasm in his method of teaching the class. We meet once a week and he lets us out an hour and a half early every time.

    At the end of the day I realized: we are in control of our grade; what we learn from the class and how; and not to depend on a professor who doesn’t care as much as the students care.

    It’s sad that professors like this are allowed to teach on a college level — especially to those who are interested and enrolled into a particular major.

    The school system is a joke, regardless of what town or state you’re from.

    It’s our job to educate ourselves, to better ourselves, and to create our own opportunities. No more relying on the professors who I thought were living up to their title.

  • Thanks for this post i more than agree with this right now im in high school and they dont have the class that would make me a better mechanic i want to be a mechanic and all there is, is like woodshop or something i think this would help me but not make me more than average of it. Again thank you for this post it helped me with my school project.

  • I would have thought that I wrote this article because it is 100% true, and I am absolutely against the way the education system is set up.

    I always thought grades were important, so I always kept them high, but while doing so I learned they are basically a load of garbage, and having two parents that work in education I learned to hate the system even more, because they have become robots, controlled entirely by it, not understanding what life is like outside the world of school.

    Grades do not mean anything, they never will, if for some crazy reason I end up in a position where I’m hiring I won’t give the S*** about someones GPA, I’ll personally interview the candidates.

    Another thing I would like to add, that may have been slightly touched upon in the article is the fact that school is not about learning, it is abot placing kids in a group- either smart or dumb, and basing this off of regurgitated information that is immediately forgotten, and is useless outside of the school walls.

    Teachers need to teach, not grade.

    Homework is meant to blackmail those who don’t want to live a life dominated by school, and to “reward” those who fall into the social norm. Society is becoming robotic, and that ruins the unique life experience of the INDIVIDUAL.

  • I love this post, i told my Dad i wanted to change the world…..he told me i lazy and crazy lol…..people now a days think no one can do anythin but get a job and die….

  • It’s almost like you took the words straight out of my head 🙂 I completely agree with you. I think people should be hired for their true potential and their desire to achieve success, not based on a list of grades and tests. Education now has become more of a status than knowledge. ie. I can get into a certain college because I took certain classes, but learned little to nothing from them. It’s just information being crammed into our heads for a short period of time, quickly tested on, and then thrown away.

  • I found your blog on a search for Bruce Lee quotes and then I look at this post. It’s all truth. And I’m not from USA, I’m from Europe, but is all truth. I quit school at 8th grade, yes, 8th grade. Today many people think I’m dumb, or just ‘quit life’, they can’t be more wrong. I learn much more out of the school system than in. Recently I realized that, one of my top hated disciplines at the school, history, it’s not so bad, I really start to search FOR MYSELF (not just because the teacher told me to do) and actually study history. I realize that our history book tell us a bunch of lies, but tha’ts other topic of discussion.
    If you take a bit of time to think, without pre-judges, you realize that school isn’t about learning, it’s about fit in this ‘everyone should fit’ society.

  • The same problem prevails all over the world. The young ones are cheated. I am trying my best to change the system of Education. Every child should enjoy what he or she is learning and they should have the right to select what they want to learn. Experts should teach and give their very best.

    Hope many will realize what they are been put through. It is only a few will have the eyes to see and the wisdom to understand.
    Thanks for raising a valued point.


  • thanks sir…this is so true…and i’m sending this website to all of my teachers …i will try my best to spread the knowledge…if u think about the old education system like Plato, Aristotle etc..they teach the student the value of life…by doing that could bring prosperity to the world. :)) peace to y’all

  • Goddamnt bro. I loved your article, it brings up the imporant things we fail to find out during our lives. I live in Norway and our public education sucks beyond any I’ve ever seen. We’re creating debt-slaves and boring jobs that have no meaning for life. I don’t seem to have found my  pupose. I wish to study International Relations but there are subject like math and biology that I hate, but I must go through them, even if it means getting D on those subjects. Life is as you said difficult and stressfull. Here I am learning things I am sure I won’t be needing in the near future.

  • What i love about this is how you outline this to the US Education system, when in fact this is the Western worlds education system. The UK Education system is just the same and all the students over here equally hate it. Every single paragraph is the same here and i too want this system changed.

  • The education that you are talking about must be that of the US right? Can you imagine the system in Singapore which is very much influenced by the Chinese system…

  • I found this whole conversation to be very relevant. I have 2 kids in college, one hates it, and the other one hates it but is forcing himself to do it anyway. I can always tell when he found a really good teacher because he talks about it all the time. The one issue no one sees a way around is the union. The union (which normally I agree is a great idea) has turned into the alternative for tenured professors. Some professors should be tenured, and the rest suck. Some suck really bad. One of my other son’s teachers decided to flunk him early on in the course because he didn’t follow every single rule she set out. That really pissed me off. There is a lot of that going on in schools. That means the focus of schools is what I told them both: it is a game of bullshit. It’s a game of priorities. You have to learn to figure out which teacher wants what and which one can wait. That part of school is very much like the real world. I told them both, school is a game you play because you think it will make you more sucessful, which it might, it depends on teh person. Some people find success because they make it happen, and half the students graduating from college are unemployed or underemployed. That means school is not a necessity in today’s economy, we just pretend it is. Since I spent most of high school trying to forget whatever the teacher was saying, and thinking more about my boyfriend, and working on my tan, I figure that’s about normal for 17 or 18 year old kids. I think whoever it was in this commentary that talked about the obsession with grades is correct. Why can’t all classes be taken with the option to take them pass/fail? Why does everything have to have a grade? Along that line of thinking, all my kids and myself have had teachers who started class by stating “Not one of my students have every failed my classes”. These teachers would spend as much time as they needed to with any “failing” student to find out why they were failing. Did they have a learning disorder? Are they raising all their brothers and sisters because their mother is working 3 jobs? These teachers would sit with these students and help them over and over again until they passed the class. Since the system has gotten to the point where that approach (called “teaching” is impractical, we need to start redoing the whole thing. And that is why we have so many alternative schools cropping up. I myself, kept my kids out of public schools as much as possible so I could spent less time fighting with the administration in the schools. I think we should listen to what the kids in schools are saying about school. They know what they need, and they have new creative ideas about how to do things. Otherwise, we are not really preparing them for the world, we are just continuing a stupid tradition that isn’t working anyway.

  • Well said. I’m currently a second year university student who grew up throughout high school as the typical student chasing the A+. I got super great marks in high school, got awards, got into a prestigious university, feeling really great about myself. It wasn’t until recently that I started investing time into many “outside of school” activities where I was able to take my mind off of school and view life from a different perspective. It wasn’t until now that I have a better understanding of what life really is and started to question “Is my school actually worth it?” I started to think really hard about what I was truly getting out of my schooling, as well as the amount of money I had to throw into it every year. Luckily I’ve been able to open my eyes to see that school is really not worth it. There are so many more things in life that are more inspiring, motivating, in which I actually feel passionate about doing. School is probably one of the most un-inspirational places I know of and I feel like I’m completely wasting my time in most of my classes learning about things that have no meaning in real life. These were basically all the thoughts that I concluded myself before reading your blog. It wasn’t until today in which I explained to my dad why I hate the concept of schooling. We had an argument because he is the typical asian father who wants his son to succeed, aka do good in school. So I explained my thoughts about why school sucked and luckily he was somewhat understandable. But after saying all that I felt like I was the most rebellious person in the world. I felt like I had this super crazy new idea that only I believed in. I thought to myself that there had to be people out there that feel the same way as me. People who think our education system sucks. So I went on youtube and started to search “why our education system`. Then youtube`s auto-suggest suggested “why our education system is failing“ so I clicked on it and found a video that linked here to your blog. I just finished reading your blog and I feel exactly the same way as you do. Marks are not a measure of intelligence and school is not a measure of success is the way I like to put it. Im so glad that there are others out there like me that are able to think for themselves and not just follow what society has conditioned everyone to follow and believing that that is the only way to success.
    Cheers and thanks for the time to make this blog,

  • I’m sitting in a class I don’t want to be in, and reading you article. i agree with each and every word you said. I’m tired, and I’m only 20 years old. I’m trying hard to maintain a good GPA, get a good grade, but it’s just killing me. I’ve become increasingly anti-social, because I don’t know who to talk to. I have nothing good to talk about when it comes to college education, because it’s pointless; I can learn all those topics myself, but I need that degree so an employer will believe me when I say I know what I’m doing. I have to take classes that I find a waste of time, but I need to take it or else I cannot graduate. I need to pay thousands of dollars so for knowledge that I can find in a library; the only difference is that now you have someone regurgitating all the topics from textbook to you which we all can read for ourselves. I’m so annoyed, but still I dream to live to see the day when I’m done with college and do what I love to do. Yes, I’m a coward whose first priority is future security than my passion, but I’ve become this way over time because of what others have instilled in me.

  • I’m sitting in a class I don’t want to be in, and reading you article. i agree with each and every word you said. I’m tired, and I’m only 20 years old. I’m trying hard to maintain a good GPA, get a good grade, but it’s just killing me. I’ve become increasingly anti-social, because I don’t know who to talk to. I have nothing good to talk about when it comes to college education, because it’s pointless; I can learn all those topics myself, but I need that degree so an employer will believe me when I say I know what I’m doing. I have to take classes that I find a waste of time, but I need to take it or else I cannot graduate. I need to pay thousands of dollars for the same information that I can find in any library; the only difference is that now you have someone regurgitating all the topics from textbook to you which we all can read for ourselves. I’m so annoyed, but still I dream to live to see the day when I’m done with college and do what I love to do. Yes, I’m a coward whose first priority is future security than my passion, but I’ve become this way over time because of what others have instilled in me.

  • I am in my 50s, and am somewhat of an expert in education and critical thinking–being a professor in a very good university in the Middle East. I am also American and have seen the US educational system devolve down into its present state from the 70s to now. You are correct in the essence of you conclusions. The way I put is that US education is failing to do the three jobs of public education: a) teach students the facts as we know them; b) teach rigorous critical thinking skills in order that students can solve problems well, make good decisions, and formulate good arguments; and c) teach a good work ethic where hard work, accomplishment, and earning are respected. All of these things add up basically to Citizenship Education. All of these things mean a population that knows how to think–and this is exactly what the power and money mongers who control the US DO NOT want–a population who can and will ask questions about what is fed to them. Notice how we have a congress and a president who accomplish nothing–and this has been true since the Bush administration. Our government accomplishes NOTHING but at the same time continues to charge tax payers more and more for doing less and less. US citizens now believe  or at least fail to oppose almost anything the US government / military / industrial complex tells (read “SELLS”) them—making the power elite in America incredibly wealthy and / or powerful. This is WHY the US educational system is as it is–to turn most US citizens into unquestioning and immobile sheep–endlessly arguing with each other over…..NOTHING…..

  • I know why our current education system is failing. Any psychologist will tell you to focus on the positives and less on the negatives. Our current motto for our education system is “No child left behind” which tells us that there are students who need to be improved and is somewhat of a negative message. Our motto for our education system should be something like “Every child moving forward” as this is a much more positive message and implies that we are capable of succeeding. Simply by changing our motto, we can improve our education system.

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  • Education systems have failed the majority of citizens in the world , as they have failed to recognise that everyone is an individual and develops at different at times and at different speeds . The education systems and people in charge have taken the easy way out by saying everybody should develop at the same rate and at the same time , they are the ones who should be sent back for education to understand biology and the human race .
    Also many governments and politicians do not believe that education for the young is an investment for the future , many see it as competition to their ideas and their status .

    People of this world should take back control of their education systems and make ministers , and school leaders accountable for their decisions and actions , if necessary with legislation and punishment .

    In addition education systems in general are teaching people more and more about less and less , in this way people cannot think out of the box , are inflexible , and know very little about this world and are incapable of taking rational decisions .

    The idea of private schooling and paying for education is another example of the control by the rich over the education of younger people and is unacceptable.

  • The amount of similarity between us is…… uncanny. I always hated the “forced learning” education system. I have 2.7 gpa, I also happen to be a high school student in Shanghai, China ( SMIC private school). I now attend Jiaotong university and I still despise the system we are in.

    I would like to show some of the emails I relayed between Rochester institute of Technology…regarding my rejection letter.

    I am very saddened by the rejection, I really wanted to go to RIT and as you can see that by the exclusive video that I made for RIT (I believed I demonstrated competency in my understanding of electronics). Ever since I came across engineering technology on RIT’s website “ If you learn through hands on experience, engineering technology is right for you” I was struck by how much this major in RIT suits me. I suppose my grades are not up to par with the accepted candidates, but this is only because my love for inventing is so permeated through my life, that it distracted me from my schoolwork, though at RIT studying engineering technology I will be able to live for the reason i was distracted in the first place; being able to study what I wanted to do but couldn’t for the longest time! I know from my previous high school ( SMIC PRIVATE SCHOOL) many candidates were accepted to RIT with their beautifully polished essays and diverse extracurricular activities, but none of them actually attends RIT, to them RIT is just a safety school to cushion their fall if they get rejected by their target and dream schools. Me? though it may have been a very stupid thing to do at hindsight, but I only applied to RIT and nowhere else it is my dream school. Seriously, I have no other college to go to at this moment. I never had a girlfriend but I am already in love, with RIT’s the school environment, the SAE formula racing team, and the way the students said “everyone at RIT are nerds and geeks.” It felt like a big happy family and I want to be a part of it, the imagery of being with my fellow nerds and geeks makes me jitter with excitement. Please re-evaluate my application, I never felt I wanted something so badly in my life.

    ( Applying for engineering technology)
    Regarding my GPA, when I was in middle school ( Presidio middle school, California) I made it to the honour roll every single year, but after I graduated and moved to China for high school, the disparity of difficulty began to appear. SMIC is a particularly difficult school in terms of math and sciences, I try very hard to keeping up. I was always quite conflicted about my talents and teachers also were puzzled by why I can build such intricate things. The way I looks at it, every school is different in the levels of difficulty, it would be rather unfair to judge the GPA though a non standardised way. My SAT score and SAT score for math is right along the range of the applicants RIT accepts, so I believe there is a great chance. I have talent for Engineering Technology, I am more than just numbers on a piece of paper, the things I can invent cannot be done by applicant who have the best grades ( as you can tell from my video). Its the path I knew ever since I could remember, I am the type of person that would truly appreciate the opportunity given to me and in the future I will give back. Please re-evaluate my application.


    Andrew Geng

    Response: When reviewing an application for engineering technology degree programs, we take a look at a student’s overall GPA with a stronger emphasis on their math and science scores. We had concerns about your high school math/science grades and your lack of math/ science coursework in college thus far. We typically recommend taking coursework within an engineering science associates degree program and maintaining a GPA of 3.0 or higher. I would encourage you to take college level physics or chemistry and algebra/trigonometry. Once you‘ve successfully completed that coursework, I recommend that you reapply for admission at that time.


    ( applying for Business and marketing)
    I want you to see my drone business, http://xinchejian.com please scroll down to the 3rd project. I rented a space in a hackerspace to promote my project. I used its open nights to do some marketing, such as showing off the drone’s capabilities, elaborating the pleasurable experience of building, and etc. last week, I have made 4800 rmb ( 775 dollars) in revenue. The kit costs 1600rmb ( 257 dollars), and I made a profit of 900rmb (145 dollars) including the workshop fee, I have understood the crucial elements required to star a business, marketing, target audience, pricing and its effect on sales. The drone’s materials are sourced the parts from ShenZhen, China. Over there I learned how to negotiate prices, and find the best quality parts. I am expecting up to 13,200rmb next week ( 2127 dollars) in revenue, and 7320rmb ( 1179dollars) in profit. This business of mine is taking off in an very fast speed, in 3 days I was able to make more money than most college educated employees in one month, and by next week where more people will buy my product I will be earning more money than most employees in 4 months. (China monthly urban average wage in the most developed city in China, Shangahi is 2892rmb, or 466 dollars. Source: http://www.ihlo.org/LRC/WC/071008b.html)
    I am now completely independent financially, and I no longer receive allowances. This has been an amazing week, I hope can see my talents in business and marketing.

    Response : I am sorry that we cannot admit you. We recommend that you continue to take courses at your current college and you may reapply to RIT at a later time.


    ( I relayed back and forth 20 some emails, after showing them all this content I was still rejected due to the grades. So finally I decide it was not worth it, even if I got in I still won’t be able to be happy because RIT like most universities out there ONLY CARE ABOUT GRADES. My quest to find that perfect place for me is not over yet, i am applying to BCIT see how it goes. Oh, and for fun I sent them an email to bid my goodbyes.)

  • Goodbye letter

    I am very saddened by the rejection, I really wanted to go to RIT and as you can see that by the exclusive video that I made for RIT (I believed I demonstrated competency in my understanding of electronics). Ever since I came across engineering technology on RIT’s website “ If you learn through hands on experience, engineering technology is right for you” I was struck by how much this major in RIT suits me. I suppose my grades are not up to par with the accepted candidates, but this is only because my love for inventing is so permeated through my life, that it distracted me from my schoolwork, though at RIT studying engineering technology I will be able to live for the reason i was distracted in the first place; being able to study what I wanted to do but couldn’t for the longest time! I know from my previous high school ( SMIC PRIVATE SCHOOL) many candidates were accepted to RIT with their beautifully polished essays and diverse extracurricular activities, but none of them actually attends RIT, to them RIT is just a safety school to cushion their fall if they get rejected by their target and dream schools. Me? though it may have been a very stupid thing to do at hindsight, but I only applied to RIT and nowhere else it is my dream school. Seriously, I have no other college to go to at this moment. I never had a girlfriend but I am already in love, with RIT’s the school environment, the SAE formula racing team, and the way the students said “everyone at RIT are nerds and geeks.” It felt like a big happy family and I want to be a part of it, the imagery of being with my fellow nerds and geeks makes me jitter with excitement. Please re-evaluate my application, I never felt I wanted something so badly in my life.

  • Sorry that wasn’t the good bye letter.

    this is:

    After all these emails displaying my talents surmounts to nothing in the end. Grades… an account of points earned through various activities that are influenced by artificial deadlines, grade inflation, extra credit, and subjectivity. Grades are inherently meaningless in the real world, which everyone of us will inevitably meet. It is the main cause of student who just graduated to say “ what now?” because for the most part of their educational careers they followed a systematic, ordered formatted on how to get good grades instead of actually learning and applying the knowledge in the real world. The thing that initially attracted me towards RIT was its emphasis on practicality but only now did I realise that this is not the case because practically, RIT would accept me because I can be successful AT LIFE. Practically, RIT would take me because I am already succeeding in both areas of Business and Technology. Grades are predicators of success? I have those proof of success in a another form, that is far more convincing than grades. I am not going to wait one more year, 365 days or 8760 hours, because as an individual with talent, independent-thought, and ambition, one year is far too valuable for me to earn a place in a school that cares about grades above all else. Good day, RIT. You will see me again, on Forbes Magazine.

  • I would suggest that your problem isn’t really the school system or education, but in fact the people who run it. It is largely composed and operated by a generation of misfits and fools, known as the baby boomers, who neither understand themselves properly or other people. How on earth can you hope to be a teacher or run a system of teaching if you don’t even understand yourself first?

    Education itself is not there to inspire you. It is a system designed to elevate your capacity and provide you with the tools to improve your standard in life. Teachers are the generators of inspiration and passion, and unfortunately many are in the profession for selfish reasons or because they thought it might be easier than a regular job.. couldn’t handle adults, so they’ll bully children instead.

    Dilution of quality, in terms of final academic achievement, is an issue. There are simply too few schools, good quality teachers, and jobs available at the end of the process.. no one in the baby boomer generation is doing anything to rectify any of those issues, and instead the buck is being selfishly passed on to their children.

    “Get good grades, or you will stack supermarket shelves.. the more updated version being ‘or you will be unemployed'”.

    Don’t blame the education system itself. You need to see it IS a good thing and has potential to be so much greater, and we should be fighting for that.. for the sake of our unborn children. Place the blame where it really belongs; with our parents and policy makers who have allowed the education system to disintegrate so rapidly in just one generation.

  • Education is a key component of human developmet, this is not limited to classroom theoretical lesson but must be all encompassing. education system must be result practical oriented which must prepare individuals for life long challenges.

  • Bud,

    I am an educator, have been for some time now. I work diligently every single day to get students to understand exactly what you have just written. The “academic knowledge” you learn throughout school is not what you will take with you through your life. No one will ever ask you to solve a calculus problem, or explain the nitrogen cycle, or quote a line from a famous work of literature. The true value of our current education system is learning discipline, cooperativeness, timeliness, and how to function socially with your peers. That being said, you are (or at least sound like) a very educated person. Maybe not because you got good grades and were a “model student”. YOU understand how the world works, or at least have a plan on how to attack it. The unfortunate thing is, YOU, and other others like you only make up a small percentage of our current national student population. Too many students, left to their own accord, will not choose to learn and better themselves, but will instead spend their time doing things that have no purpose and will not benefit them as adults. You read books. Others will play video games, spend their entire lives on social media, watch mind numbing television shows (if I had a dollar for all my middle and high school students who still watch spongebob……), and overall waste their short time as a young person with no real responsibility. What then happens to them as adults? What role do they play in our society? As you continue to grow and learn as an adult, you will learn that people, void of education, become a drain on our society. They eat up tax dollars. They ruin our local and national economy. They become criminals and overpopulate our prison system (once again eating up tax dollars). Worse, they reproduce (typically more than the average American) and have children who they do not know how to educate. It becomes a wash, rinse, repeat cycle! And it is getting worse as the years move on.

    Which brings me to this. I agree that our education system is broken and does not meet the needs of all young people. What is your solution? How can you fix it? What changes need to be made? What can be done to motivate students who don’t want to learn? This is the goal of your generation. A generation who by all standards, struggles to read, write, and understand science concepts as well as the rest of the civilized world. A generation who never holds themselves accountable for their faults and failures, but makes excuses about who’s fault everything is (have you seen the news?). It is a daunting task, one the people like you will have to overcome.

    For now, mainstream school introduces young people to a wide variety of things. Some they may like, some they may not. Some they may be good at, some they may be bad at. But somewhere in there, maybe they find that one thing that inspires them to move forward and have that career, that success you talk about. I will leave you with this quote.

    “If you don’t want to learn, no one can help you. But if you want to learn, no one can stop you.” If more people wanted to learn, maybe you would not find school to be such a horrible place.

  • WOW! Please marry me. I have never related to something more than this. If you don’t mind me asking can I ask you where you are in life now and how you are doing? Everything you stated is EXACTLY what I’ve been saying all along. I’m in awe. Thank you so much for proving me to not be alone in my thoughts and struggles. This is truly the most uplifting reading. I wish that instead of saying all of this WE, the students, could actually make a change occur.

By Bud


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