October 28th, 2014 // 3:24 pm @ Oliver DeMille
Hire and Higher and Hire
“Universities…have been absorbed into the commercial ethos. Instead of being intervals of freedom, they are breeding grounds for advancement. Students are too busy jumping through the next hurdle in the résumé race to figure out what they really want…. They have been inculcated with a lust for prestige and a fear of doing things that might put their status at risk. The system educates them to be excellent, but excellent sheep.”
This is a profound and all too accurate description of our current educational system. It was written in the New York Times by David Brooks, as a summary of a William Deresiewicz’s essay in his book Excellent Sheep.
Let’s briefly consider each main point:
- “Universities…have been absorbed into the commercial ethos. Instead of being intervals of freedom, they are breeding grounds for advancement.”
This is true of schools in general today, at all levels. Most people now see the goal of almost all schools as job preparation, as Hire Education instead of Higher Education.
In this model, the quality of learning isn’t important. Job placement is the goal, and it drives the whole educational system.
Sadly, it drives it down, not up. As the quality of education decreases, so does the quality (and availability) of jobs for most people.
- “They have been inculcated with a lust for prestige and a fear of doing things that might put their status at risk.”
The conveyor-belt approach to learning trains followers, not leaders. It makes our students and workers risk averse, not creative or entrepreneurial. Our economy is losing jobs by the thousands to nations where initiative, ingenuity, and innovation are rising. In these vital things, our failure rates are growing.
- “The system educates them to be excellent, but excellent sheep.”
Our education system of “students follow, while their superiors tell them what and when to do things—from Kindergarten through graduate school” is creating a populace that obediently takes its marching orders from the media, experts, and government officials. But free societies only stay free when the people are watching things and telling the officials and experts what to do.
We’ve got it backwards. Most of our current educational system is designed for a socialist nation, not for a free one.
Leaders or Drones
There is a solution, and it is for parents and teachers to deliver Leadership Education and teach young people how to think—not what to think.
This has been the focus of our work with TJEd (Thomas Jefferson Education) for over two decades. It’s tenets are simple: classics rather than rote textbooks, mentors rather than professors, personalized learning rather than the conveyor belt, quality rather than conformity, etc.
It all boils down to inspiring students to passionately choose the work of getting a great education, not requiring youth to do the rote behaviors of mediocre learning—or even the rote actions that bring high test scores but turn students into excellent sheep.
In The Atlantic, Sandra Tsing Loh called this “high-class drone work.” Note that she was referring to the prestigious but rote careers that such education leads to, not to the schooling.
Leadership Education is a better way. For everyone.
Simplicity and Success
Just consider another powerful quote, this one from Luba Vangelova writing about the non-traditional revolution in modern education:
“Every day, veteran educator Scott Henstrand walks into his history classroom at the Brooklyn Collaborative secondary school, jots down a few conversation-starters on the blackboard, then takes a seat amongst the 14- to 17-year-olds. He does the same work as they do, and raises his hand when he wants to speak.”
This sounds like a formal school modeled after an excellent Leadership Education homeschool:
- “Inspire, not Require.”
- “Simplicity, not Complexity.”
- “You, not Them.”
- Mixed ages.
- A mentor learning right along with the students.
- Readings and lots of discussions.
Great education is really quite simple, after all, as successful homeschoolers can attest.
For help in engaging your education, and mentoring others in their learning, join us for Mentoring in the Classics >>
Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.
Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah