The Education Strikes Back

Just posting to say that original content might be at a premium over the next few days as the education system has found a temporary way of stopping EduCoup in its tracks: A glut of assignments. I’ll still be posting something of value every day but it’ll be short and sweet. You see, I have three essays and a feature article due in for college over the next two weeks so I’m going to focus on getting those essays done as they’re hanging over me at the moment.

I won’t deny allegations of hypocrisy in my availing of a system I’m criticizing so much. However I will say that I did drop out of secondary school for six months to try to control my own learning, but I had absolutely no support and the usual teenage problems, and just found I couldn’t do it without the support of anyone around me, and having just begun using the internet, that wasn’t much of a help either.

College has had its pros though – meeting an amazing girlfriend and making great friends too, but its all been on the social side of things. Somehow I don’t think me meeting my girlfriend in college is a great argument for other people to pursue a degree, there are plenty of other groups and organizations one can use to socialize.

In analysing the value of college I would focus more on the fact that I have assignments now which are distracting me and preventing me from actual journalistic work that could help me make an impact and a wage – the two main ‘official’ reasons people go to college. If I could have found a way of living in a city and directing my own learning there without agreeing to go to college, I certainly would have. The essays I’ve been assigned are on arbitrary topics like ‘food in society’, which would be more interesting except that anything you say has to be backed up by a source and consequently you are not allowed say anything original. These essays are simply glorified and excessively large exercises in learning not to plagiarise/to reference. Which is indeed a useful skill when it doesn’t interfere with you doing your most bountiful work. Luckily I can write the feature article on whatever I want so that doesn’t get in the way.

Anyway, the point I would like to make is that doing a college course has only served to strengthen my belief that while college is not without merit, self directed learning has far more potential to tap the learner’s full potential. Unfortunately at the moment personally directed education does not have the independent framework, accreditation or cultural familiarity to be a seriously considered option for many. Including, for the moment, myself.

Thanks for all the comments, likes and support. I’m absolutely chuffed and love hearing from people and discussing ideas together.


  1. I just think some people aren’t meant for structured education systems. I can’t sit in the classroom and focus, but I can sit down and do math problems for 3 hours without any problems. Education is too restricting.

    Self directed learning is nice, but without any external motivation, I don’t think people will have the will-power to learn everything that they need to learn.

    1. I’m not sure – Self directed learning is about overcoming the problems in your own life and personality that are holding you back. Self interest is as powerful a motivator I know and humans naturally adapt and learn. Sometimes we judge how motivated people naturally are to learn by people who’ve been robbed of that urge by the system – its been processed out of them. If there was a social framework provided by a variety of private and open source options, and e.g. courses for specific skills, things like skillshare – and maybe a community learning centre open to everyone to be popping in and out of – self directed learning could be very successful, and much cheaper to the state, than public education. What do you think?

      1. Oh, I didn’t mean to downplay self directed learning in my comment. It definitely is very powerful and everyone does it to some extent.

        What I was getting at is that you can’t just have self directed learning. Because your own motivation can only go so far. People are born naturally motivated to learn, but there needs to be some structure and direction to that learning. And eventually, your motivation will fade. If you quit school right now, do you think you will learn what you need to learn on your own to get a job?

        The idea of school and education isn’t a bad idea. It’s good. We need educated people. But we need to do it in a different way. We need schools to move towards a system of more self directed learning, not for people to quit school and try to do it on their own. And some schools are already starting to do that:

      2. I don’t know that what you say about the individual not being able to motivate themselves is true. I think learning needs a social context to take place in to be at its best, but I’m pretty sure people were learning before school as we know it came into place. Structure and a network of peers are important but I don’t see why that has to be delivered by schools – it could be delivered by combinations of community learning centres, online opensource stuff like skillshare and having your own online portfolio, and learning specific skills through short courses, and apprenticeships. People can set up their own learning groups etc. Perhaps communities should prioritiese that oppurtiunities for learning for the young and the curious became laced through the fabric of its culture. That apprenticeships and youth branches insofar as possible became the norm in every workplace. What are your thoughts?

  2. Love your blog. I was 100% committed to public education until I sent my daughter to the local award-winning public school. She stayed for kindergarten and 6 weeks of 1st grade. Now, my husband and I spend a small fortune every year so that she and her brother can enjoy a wonderful, inquiry-based, progressive education, and it is worth every penny. I am so curious (not that it is any of my business) where you went to high school and where you are in college. I totally understand if you prefer not to share this info. Keep fighting the good fight!

    1. Thank you Dr. Sayers, I appreciate the encouragement! Well done on having the courage to give your daughter the education she deserves. I’ve found some parents to be afraid to consider anything other than mainstream schooling because of the social stigma attatched to bringing kids up in an ‘alternative’ fashion. I went to high school in a catholic school in my hometown of Ennis, Co.Clare on the west coast of Ireland. Alot of the classrooms were actually in a huge old cathedral that had been repurposed. I’m now in my second year of journalism at Griffith College in Dublin. Why do you ask?


      1. Thanks. I think Americans are under the impression that many other countries are doing a better job educating kids. The public education system here is in such a shambles, it only makes sense it has to be better elsewhere, right?. It’s disappointing to learn the same problems that exist here exist in Ireland and many other countries as well.

      2. The two most populous countries in the world, India and China, have massive problems too. Though they score high in the PISA rankings, this is because of massive pressure and army style drilling for success in standardized tests. Both these countries but china in particular have widespread problems with lack of creativity and as a result copying each others work. China, whose press normally shout any international triumph from the mountains, have made little mention of the PISA results, because they know their education system is a disaster. Even their leadership have said that China’s main obstacle to becoming a true superpower is the lack of innovation that pervades their culture. Here we say the early bird catches the worm, but over there they say “the first bird out gets shot”, that its better to copy a successful model that already exists than to trail blaze.

      3. Most of that information is taken from a book I just read called ‘One Size Does Not Fit All:A Student’s Assesment If School’ by Nikhil Goyal, if you’re wondering. Unfotunately I couldn’t remember the underpinning statistics he used. You’d think after all those years of learning by rote, it would have given me a better memory!


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