A few days ago, I went to a European job fair in Basel, Switzerland. It was hosted in the VIP section of the Basel football stadium, St. Jakob-Park. There were many different booths covering the gamut of job fields from aviation to zoology. Most of the men there wore suits and the women wore formal attire. I was surrounded by Rolex watches and Gucci heels and I wore a casual H&M outfit. Blended right in.
Many of the booths had bowls of candy, brochures, and small, stuffed mascots to lure people in. There was one booth that had sunglasses lying on the table. Or so I thought. I noticed a big screen right in front of me and the picture was a little out of focus. So I put on the glasses and enjoyed the full high definition 3D experience.
I noticed that most of the attendees were walking around with their résumés in their hands, trying to sell themselves to at least one of the many companies represented by stuffed mascots. I overheard a conversation in French between a company representative and an attendee. The representative said something along the lines of, “You’ll max out your potential with us.” Like it’s a human’s purpose to work for another human. I like to think of jobs not in terms of “work” but in terms of “service.” Share, exchange, help. Not buy and sell; where’s the humanity in that? We’d be like the stock market with limbs.
The whole sharing thing sounds nice and sweet, but it has no place in today’s society. We’re finance-oriented. Of course we are. Why wouldn’t we be in times of a global financial crisis? You could write a book about how to implement an alternative economic system, make it available to the public for free, create a foundation, ask people to donate, and 0.01% of all people would give money to the foundation.
The market doesn’t benefit you. You benefit the market. That’s why we have job fairs: “What can you do for our company?” Of course nobody says that. In fact, companies say it the other way around: “What can our company do for you?” But in the end, you’re working for them, and they give you a paycheck with which you can buy yourself another pair of Gucci heels.
We only care about our own wellbeing. We want to make as much money as possible with as little work as possible. We’re becoming lazy, and because of that, we’re losing track of what’s moral. Which is why we praise people like Charles Ramsey and label him “a national hero” whereas all he did was the right thing. The market has become so corrupt and it’s affecting the way we live. But we’re so blinded by our own needs and our own selfish desires that we don’t even see how blind we are. We think it’s normal to work at a company and earn money for the family instead of spending time raising the children. Sadly we can’t do one without the other, unless we change our mentality about the market. Community-based life, where the rich and the poor share with each other, so everyone has what they need and the surplus is given to those who don’t have enough. I’ve found that atheists understand this much better than Christians. Why? Because atheists don’t have finance-oriented churches.
Seth Godin put it this way:
Some people spend a huge amount of time on applications, on pushing the envelope and gaming the system to get picked… and some people spend that time building a following, learning skills, posting their work online and most of all, being generous in what they know and share and the tracks they leave in the world.
I can’t imagine doing anything but the latter.
So there’s this video on YouTube that’s been getting a lot of attention about a high school student, Jeff Bliss, who stands up to his world history teacher. It’s quite crazy. Click this link to watch the 1:45 minute long video.
It’s not news to anybody that the American education system in particular is not functioning well. Mr. Bliss makes it abundantly clear that he’s one of the many who are dissatisfied with the inefficiency of the American education system. Wait, actually, that’s not true. The education system isn’t inefficient at all. It’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing: preparing cogs for the machine. But obviously students aren’t cogs. Many organizations such as TeachBeyond have figured that out, and they’re focusing their funds and attention on “equipping students to reach their full potential as human beings.” But how true is that statement?
When I was in high school, my teachers cared about me. Well, they kinda had to. They needed their students to go on and do great things, otherwise the school’s mission statement would not match up with the deeds of the school’s graduates. If the graduates ended up on Egypt’s blacklist or, even worse, not going to college, it would take away a little bit of the school’s academic credibility.
So what is the noble thing to do as a high schooler? Answer: do your homework and go to a good college. People applaud that. Standing ovations at graduation for the NHS student who got accepted to attend Yale this fall, right? Come on, you’d clap for that. It’s impressive!
Yeah, but this is 2013, not 1837.
Alright, that’s also not news to anyone. So what’s the alternative route?
There are individuals and organizations like the Thiel Fellowship who offer students money to work on groundbreaking projects instead of going to college. But then they finish their projects and are endorsed by colleges and universities. Why? That’s the only platform we have! Millions of smart, young people are enrolled in colleges, so you’ve already got yourself a huge audience. I mean, what would you do if you sat on an amazing invention and you wanted to get some publicity for it? You’d probably go to some innovation fare hosted and endorsed by your local university. Ironic, isn’t it? You’re looking for an alternative to universities and you find yourself giving a speech about alternative education at Harvard. It’s like Jesus preaching in synagogues.
Here’s the deal: Jeff Bliss understands that a teacher who does their job well positively influences the growth of their students’ potential. But this potential is thwarted from the beginning, because as a student (and a teacher) you are serving a system – the system isn’t serving you. Otherwise students would be getting free meals at cafeterias and teachers would show their students how the market truly works. I have only met one person in my whole life who was able to explain to me in detail how the market functions. I didn’t learn that in high school, yet it’s vitally important nowadays. You don’t think so? Check your debt again, then. I also didn’t get free meals at the cafeteria.
Here’s a question for you: who is going to step up and create something that blows the existing system’s socks clean off? Who will it be? It’s not going to be an Ivy League school professor, I’ll tell you that. Why implode something you feel comfortable in? Why would anybody in their right mind implode a system that has provided them with a degree, a job, and, thank the Lord, a relatively small mortgage? As an experienced educator, you’d have to sacrifice your life’s work in order to build an alternative platform that is impossibly superior to our current global university network. You’d feel like a traitor. However, as a youngster, as someone who hasn’t been bought by the traditional education system, you’ve got yourself some freedom if you’ve cut your umbilical cord from Alma Mater.
Are you crazy enough?
I just got back from touristing in Portimao, Portugal. The weather was relatively alright; there was quite a bit of rain, but when the sky did open up, I had to be sure to find some shade. If you haven’t been to Portugal yet, you should consider doing the trip at some point in your life.
Anyway, as I was drinking my coffee one morning, I learned that about 38.6 percent of Portugal’s under-25s are unemployed. Um monte de gente. This got me thinking, “Is this a question of laziness on behalf of the youngsters, the government’s inability to create more jobs, or is it the inefficiency of Portugal’s education system?” In any case, it is a problem that needs to be addressed, and I have the feeling that more traditional schools won’t do the trick, given the fact that even though university attendance has increased, the unemployment statistics have risen with it.
Either new jobs need to be created or education needs to change from a job-oriented system to a life-oriented system. What if we equipped students with what they need to live a significant life instead of getting a well-paying job? There is a huge difference between the two, but the current state of the traditional education stronghold focuses most of its attention on job-acquisition. I think it’s because in today’s world, materialism is extremely popular. Especially amongst the insecure fellows who haven’t found their identity quite yet.
This unemployment disaster doesn’t just apply to Portugal; it is a global problem. My generation’s youth is full of undiscovered and untrained potential. Instead of extracting the best of them, however, we tend to put them in schools where they learn to become mere employees in the world market. Cogs in a machine.
I think that one of the key solutions that could be applied anywhere on the planet is to help young people discover their talents and interests and help them put those talents to use, very practically with just a tiny little bit of theory. We shouldn’t waste our time bombarding students with theory and rather focus on creating opportunities where they can apply the theoretical aspects of practical actions.
In the year 2000, for example, economics got turned upside down. From that year on, more money has been made with money (stocks, futures, derivatives, gambling, etc.) than with goods and services. Can anyone please tell me why on earth are we still training our youth to become salespeople of goods and services instead of teaching them how to invest? Why aren’t there more investing classes? More youngsters are going to college in order to be part of a shrinking financial world. What a trap!
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson