More than 50% of the science and electronics that I know are self-taught. In fact, all of the electronics that I know I learned on my own. It formed the foundation of my career. Perhaps half of the math I know came the same way. And everything about computers.

I’ve always had this love/hate relationship with schools and education. Public education is important for the building of a democratic society. But so much of the regimentation of schools is off-putting to me. I had 17 years of formal education and the thought of finishing a Ph.D. in the field I was in ceased to be appealing (International Politics–engineering is much better).

Schools, including universities, need to teach reading, written/oral communication, thinking. Maybe throw in creativity. Memorizing all the subject matter stuff—well, that’s important, too, but not so much if you can’t do the other stuff.

Seth Godin recently addressed this idea. And he takes my idea to a whole different level. That’s what he does.

He writes:

For the longest time, school has been organized around subjects. Fifth graders go to math class and then English class and then geography.

Mostly, those classes don’t teach what they say they teach. Sure, there are some facts, but mostly it’s the methods of instruction that are on offer. School usually has a different flavor than learning.

There was a story about a boy in school staring out the window. The teacher asked, “Little boy, what are you doing?”

“Thinking,” he answered.

“Don’t you know you’re not supposed to think in school,” replied the teacher before realizing the joke in what was said.

Godin continues:

Perhaps, instead of organizing school around data acquisition and regurgitation, we could identify what the skills are and separate them out, teaching domain knowledge in conjunctionwith the skill, not the other way around.

It turns out that the typical school spends most of its time on just one of those skills (obedience through comportment and regurgitation).

What would happen if we taught each skill separately?

Obedience
Management
Leadership/cooperation
Problem-solving
Mindfulness
Creativity
Analysis

When I teach people to be soccer referees, it’s only a little about the Laws of the Game. Mostly it’s looking and being professional, making decisions, handling people, managing a game. These are sometimes called “soft skills.” I beg to differ (my favorite phrase in high school!). These are “hard” skills. Hard to learn, hard to master, essential for maturity.

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