Why life learning? Look at The Kids…

“The worst thing is that I’ve always gotten self-worth from performance, especially good grades.  But now that I can’t get a job, I feel worthless.”    Lael Goodman 

“I have a lot of regret about going to college.   If I could go back again, I think I’d try…not going to college”–our generation’s ultimate blasphemy.    ‘Sam’

“I worked hard (40 hours a week during most of my education), for what?  Tell me what I need to do to get ahead, because I did everything right!”    Goodman

These quotes are from the cover story in this week’s NY Magazine, “The Kids Are Actually Sort of Alright”.   The point of the story is that at least some of the 20-somethings who grew up thinking good grades and a college degree were their golden tickets to the good life and who now are out of work are re-thinking what it means to be successful and live a good life.

I found the article both sad and hopeful.   Sad, because it is tragic to spending 18-22 years of your life doing everything ‘right’ in order to get ahead only to find that the rules of the game changed at just about the time you were ready to wave your magic diploma in the eyes of would-be employers and then hop on the train to Successville.   And the hopeful part?   Well maybe, just maybe we are on the verge of something – a massive paradigm shift? –  that will take us down a better path than we have been on.

Because I’m raising life learners, I read the NY Magazine article and thought it’s too bad those kids wasted all that time.  I’m with the guy who regrets going to college.   What kind of life experience would he have gained in those four years that might serve him better now than his degree – which has gotten him nowhere but in a lot of debt?    That said some of the kids interviewed are figuring it out and following a different dream than the one they were ‘supposed’ to pursue.   It’s too soon to tell if this trend will catch on, but I hope it does.  Better late than never, right?

See, life learning in the world we live in has the advantage of allowing you to discover things you love to do without any pressure of ‘but you’ve also got to score high in Math and Science’.   (Or if what you love is Math, without the pressure of, ‘Yes, but have you diagrammed any sentences lately?’)  It also allows you to become skilled at getting the information you need when you need it – not when someone else thinks you should have it.   I have no doubt that as my kids grow and set goals for themselves, they’ll be great at figuring out what they need to know to achieve their goals, and then learning it.  (College can be a part of this learning, but it is certainly not a given that it must be.)

Knowledge is not static, it is dynamic.   For that reason, most of what is taught in schools is – let me be diplomatic here – often not the most useful of information once you leave school.  (How was that?)   Only when knowledge is gained through life experience and of our own volition is it a vital thing, moving us forward and engaging our minds while at the same time able to develop and change through the natural course of living.

The Kids, as defined in the NY Magazine article,  may in fact Be Sort of Alright, but they have a long way to go.   I’m not naive enough to think that our paradigm will shift overnight and tomorrow kids will begin leaving school in droves to pursue their interests.    But I’m hopeful that at least some of them will.    Or maybe just one.    And then the next day, another one.

How does the saying go?  “Even the longest journey begins with a single step.”  The journey will be long.   Guess we better get walking.

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