We know that kids who cut corners and question the status quo are the ones who make a big difference in the career arena.
Yet we keep focusing on the right way. The right answer. The right path. We buy lego kids with directions and we praise the kids for following them. Yet the real joy of Legos — and everything else — is watching someone ignore the rules.
Yet we so often give them the exact opposite advice. I find myself doing it as well. I start with advice that emanates from nostalgia for my own favorite experiences. And when I see it’s not working, I realize: duh. Of course this is bad advice for kids growing up today.
So I keep examples of people like Lego artist, Tary, who are amazing precisely because they defy expectations.
I am not perfect, but here are three examples of common advice we need to stop giving to kids:
Stop telling kids reading and writing long-form is important.
People do not write long papers in adult life, primarily because no one wants to read them. It’s an academic construct that most people have no need for. So it makes sense that kids would use a site like Bid 4 Papers. Essay writing arena is a $100 million industry. Kids have figured out that paying someone to do something you don’t want to learn how to do is not cheating per se but rather is a form of self-directed learning.
Another thing: I’m starting to think that the only reason people read literature in school is to write papers. And I say this to you as someone who went to graduate school to study literature.
I just wonder: why is reading literature from years ago so important?
Maybe literature is just another way to study history. For example, why is Dead Souls so famous? Sure it’s hilarious, and Chichikov is memorable, but it’ll take you two months to read its 400 pages. (It took me longer.) You can get that much joy from reading David Sedaris, who needs only ten pages to tell the story of Santaland, which is as memorable as Chichikov’s Russia.
Santaland is not as historically significant as Dead Souls. Because Gogol is indicting the whole system of feudalism. And his particular indictment is a watershed moment. But you could just read a history book about the watershed moment. We need to realize that we cannot make education about primary sources and writing papers about them. It’s too inefficient.
Stop telling kids that they must adapt to unpleasant environments.
I assigned my son to read Death of a Salesman. He is reading plays and he read No Exit and could understand existentialism. And he read Rhinoceros and understood the theater of the absurd. But he read Death of a Salesman and had no idea why the guy didn’t just get a new job. “He’s pathetic and boring,” said my son.
It’s incomprehensible to a kid today that someone would be such a slave to their job. So Death of a Salesman is a lesson in sociology, maybe, but it’s a slow way to get the lesson, so it’s only significant as a mellifluous lesson about the history of work.
In the real world career advisers say one and over again: play to your strengths instead of working to overcome your weaknesses. So why teach kids otherwise?
This is true for learning subjects that are not interesting. And this is true for sitting in classrooms that are not optimized for your learning preferences.
Example: At least half the world is introverted, which means they need quiet time to think. In most schools, quiet time is a punishment, not a privilege. And the workplace fetish with open-plan offices is a recipe for insanity for an introvert.
Susan Caine’s book, Quiet, goes a long way to show how important introverts are to our culture, and she’s turning that popular book into a movement. Quiet Schools Network is a more inclusive way to educate, and its coming to a school system near you. Hopefully.
Most of us, by the time we are out of our twenties, know what sort of environment we flourish in, and we find it. We would take much less time to find where we are comfortable if we didn’t spend our childhood being told we have to learn to deal with environments we don’t like.
Stop telling kids to use LinkedIn to transition into adulthood.
Sure, everyone you know is on LinkedIn, but not in a meaningful way. Young people are trying to hide on Linkedin because the format for talking about yourself favors a long career. And older people are “forgetting” to update LinkedIn because the site rewards people with linear, uninterrupted careers, and few people over 35 can say they qualify.
LinkedIn was launched with the profiles of a bunch of Harvard Business School grads, and more than a decade later, that’s still the only demographic that shines on LinkedIn. Biggest sign that Linkedin is over? Microsoft bought it. Biggest sign that we’ll be displaying our skills in other formats? New tools like The Document Factory’s Resume App are emerging to give people a way to shine, even without a cookie-cutter career.
Generation Y will live until they are 90 years old. The resume format is for people who retire at 65. That 25 year difference is what will force us to come up with a new way to talk about work life.
We will need new metrics and new tools for figuring out how to pay for college it because the current model for funding school is not working. We already have a lot of reasons to skip college and a lot of reasons to make financial solvency the focal point of education. But now we need to evaluate education in the context of a 70-year career.
One long-term plan would be to pick up skills as you need them, instead of trying to guess, as a teenager, what skills you’ll want for the next 70 years, which is essentially what the extremely large investment in college turns out to be.
Upskilled offers single courses that focus on the meat of education — the learning — instead of the degree which has become only the veneer of education. And formerly old-guard companies like E&Y are supporting this shift by getting rid of degree requirements.
One way I get myself to look at things from a new perspective, is I ask why. A lot. I notice my son refuses to read about one tenth of the books I give to him. I ask myself why. Why would kids love that book for nearly a decade but my son doesn’t?
I ask myself why a given company is getting funded. If I don’t want a service I ask myself why other people are buying the service. What am I missing?
Forcing myself to see a different approach for learning actually helps me come up with a stronger approach of my own — one I believe in more.