I've done about 4 years of college, but have no degree. I've fallen into the trappings of traditional education several times because I thought they could give me what I didn't have. I thought they would equip me for the world and give me the tools necessary to be successful.
Recently I've been thinking a lot about education. Particularly art education.
I'm now a full-time artist. It's still happening, and my lack of blogging has been the result of me being maybe a bit overzealous in my new career. I have worked hard my whole adult life. My first job was in high school as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant in downtown Plymouth.
I'd come home at like 2am on the weekends with my clothes soaked in dirty dish pit water after washing everything in the restaurant by hand. My second job was at Chuck E Cheese. On the first day there, they made me be Chuck E. The costume smelled as if it had never been washed, and you had to be guided around the restaurant by another team member because you couldn't look down in the costume.
It was a pretty important feature as the clientele for that establishment are under 4' tall. I was grateful to have only had to wear the costume once, because there was one guy who loved to be Chuck E. I couldn't understand why, and I was a bit disturbed by it, because the most uncomfortable part about being Chuck E wasn't marinating in that costume.
It was the children coming up to you and hugging you by grabbing both of your legs, and then putting their head in the middle.
Outside of the costume, I was a "game tech". My job was to unjam tickets from the games and occasionally clean up "accidents". My last day on the job was when a kid peed in the sky tube which was over the ball pit.
Wasn't into it.
I have been able to deal with a fair amount of unpleasantness in my efforts to do a good job, but there was always a breaking point when I worked for someone else.
In restaurants, I was always at odds with ownership or my superiors, because I've always been hardwired to make things better. I want to do a good job, and if something doesn't work well, I want to make it better. Seems like a good trait to have as an employee, but I found it's not always the case. And working 80 hours a week never seemed to be enough.
I actually found that in most instances, my desire to improve systems or innovate was met with resistance. I was a problem. Now that I think about it, I was also a problem child in school. Most of my teachers didn't like that I was a critical thinker.
Many teachers I had didn't like questions regarding why we had to learn this or that. So much of my life I was told that this is the way it is, and that's why you do it.
That's so dumb.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but that seems to be the norm. Many people, companies, institutions thrive on status quo. It's why I had to become an entrepreneur.
But why is it that after 36 years of life, I'm only now am I able to leverage hard lessons from life to make a living as an entrepreneur? Why did I have to teach myself to learn how to be myself, so I could make a living doing it?
I spent about 16 years in school, from elementary through college. In that time I learned some basic general stuff that's valuable (like reading, writing, and being able to do simple math), and a bunch of other stuff I don't remember or use.
Along with the useful, they also taught me lies, like: Columbus discovered America in 1492. I learned from my bully and from American popular culture that being Asian wasn't cool. I learned that white people are awesome and that I was unattractive to women.
I keep thinking about that question all adults ask high school kids. "So what do you wanna be when you grow up?" or "What do you wanna study in college?"
The answer is always, "I donno".
The adults chuckle.
Ask an adult what they want to do with their life and most won't have an answer.
I'm not trying to poke fun or belittle anyone who doesn't know the answer to that question. I've spent a lot of time thinking about that question, "what do you want to do with your life?".
I want to change the world.
Naturally, after an answer like that someone would have to ask, "well, how are you doing that?"
That's when pandora's box would open and I would tell them about art projects I'm working on, infrastructure for the creative class to build cities of the future, sustainable seafood, innovations in banking, yadda yadda yadda. I've got lots of plans, and what's more, I'm working on them. I know what I want to do, and the kind of change/impact I want to have and none of that happened overnight or happened at school.
That's a huge problem.
Why is it that we figure things outside of schools teachings?
Shouldn't school help us figure out who we are, what we want to do to contribute in life, then help us become more skilled and capable of working towards those goals?
Isn't that what education is all about?
Society and universities say you need to get a higher education so that you can get a good paying job. That's not a reality for most. Most college grads do not get a job in their field of study. Many college grads don't know what they want to do with their lives. Most college grads are saddled with tremendous debt after graduation.
So if school doesn't get you a job, but it costs a lot of money, why do students go to college?
Because going to college is in my eyes the equivalent of knowing Cindy Crawford is beautiful. I think the beauty industry works in a very similar way to college, and a lot of other businesses in America.
The industry defines beauty, then proliferates that image, and makes it so well known that everyone believes that that image is what beauty is. For the most part, that image of beauty has been a white woman who's look/body type is unattainable for most (if not all) women.
So once women are conditioned to believe that they are flawed, or less than beautiful, the industry saves the day with fantastic products that help women fix their flaws. They sell beauty.
Education is not unlike this. They say you need a great education to get a great job (which in some cases is true) and they are the solution to help you obtain that end goal. This narrative is perpetuated to help you feel you need college in order to be successful. You find a rude awakening when you graduate and enter the "real world' only to find you don't have the skills necessary to succeed and you won't make enough money to pay your bills.
In the case of art school, I think this charade is nearly criminal.
Art schools make artists believe they need art school to become a great artist. Art school can help you become a great artist, but it's like saying basketball camp is going to get you a career in the NBA. Hahaha... that's also college.
So, if art school will make you a great artist, that means you'll be able to make art and sell art to make a living. Name an art school that teaches you how to do that. Most art schools train students for jobs that may or may not be in demand by the time the student graduates.
But for those who go to art school to become a great artist (and not to get a job) are the ones who truly get screwed.
Full-time artists need to make a living selling their work. So, if an art school cannot teach a student how to make enough money to pay back the $100k it costs to go to art school, they're robbing the student.
Art school must teach students how to make a living by making and selling art. Art colleges are businesses. If no one paid tuition, there would be no school. So, if they have to make money to survive/thrive, why don't they teach art students to do that?
It's absolutely crazy to me that entrepreneurship and art education do not go hand in hand. It's also crazy to me that school doesn't help students become their best self. School is designed to teach everyone to be a mediocre version of some homogeneous "good student".
I'm just rambling and talking in circles, but the point I want to make is, I've learned far more from "failure" than I did from the 16 years of school I went to. I've learned more about how to learn from self help books. I've learned how to communicate from Dale Carnegie, and how to design my website through an online UX design course.
Why can't school be tailored to the student's needs? School is supposed to educate, but it needs to be more than informing students about "facts". That model is stupid and broken. Facts change. Google is a thing. The internet is a thing.
School must be designed to help students adapt to a chaotic, dynamic world. It should teach students how to resolve conflict, handle stress, pay taxes, grow food, cook food, do laundry, manage a budget... all the things that humans need to do to live in modern society while inspiring them to pursue a vocation.
And in that, students should be encouraged to try new things, to fail, to explore, and make mistakes. School should be a place of innovation and discovery, not regurgitation and memorization.
I think school should teach you how to turn a dollar into two dollars, and understand how Uncle Sam will take his cut.
It seems to me that the fundamentals for being an adult let alone being successful are absent from education (and I went to pretty decent schools!), and they need to be. K, I'm done.