School terrifies me.
I reveled in the competition between my peers through the cycle of homework, essays, and tests. I loved it. Every year was another chance to get the highest grade point average.
But standing on stage to receive my rewards, I was empty.
Only second this year? Guess I didn't try hard enough. Why do my peers have to get in the way of my success?
I was a machine built to compete with my peers for the best spots at the top colleges. I had no curiosity or love for learning. I worked only to see my mystical GPA rise higher and higher. This is not what education should do.
I believe the purpose of education is, most notably, to instill a love for learning in students. Students often only have one year or a semester with a teacher. If students don't love learning, they won't learn outside their classes.
The average American middle and high school student spends 13% of their waking hours in school by age 18. 87% of waking hours are outside school.
Many middle and high school students dislike or worse revel in the competition between peers because of school's endless set of obligatory activities without any self-projects. They are forced to read for English class so they can write essays they don’t care about.
Arguably worst of all, the average postsecondary education system neglects to teach us some of life's most fundamental skills like cooking, philosophy, exercise science, and the making of happiness. Instead, the COMMON CORE curriculum has us learn Calculus, Chemistry, and other advanced classes before these fundamental skills.
American society cultures us always to look to the future.
Do good in middle school so you can do good in high school, get into a good college, get a good job, save way more money than you need for retirement, and die hoping you had done much more with your life.
Many schools teach us to compete with peers rather than collaborate. They teach us most of the world has been discovered. Some of the most driven, talented, and smart students get pulled to generally low-impact jobs like management consulting, investment banking, and law; these jobs can be high impact, but they usually aren't.
We lack curiosity and courage, not genius.
What’s the secret? Reconnect with your childhood curiosity. Many kids I know have unbounded love for exploring the world around them. They learn not because they have to but because they want to. As children, the world was one vast unexplored place, and we were its explorers.
There are still secrets to uncover.
Some are small and incremental. But the most valuable secrets are big enough to shake the world. Like Easter Eggs, they hide in the books and places no one cares to look.
Start reading outside of class. Don’t compete with your peers. Create and follow through with your own self-projects. Follow the four pillars of an effective reading habit.
Uncover the secrets hidden since the foundation of the world.
Thanks to Ian Helfant for the conversations which helped form this article.