This piece is part of our Manifesto about 7 areas of our personal life: (1) Education (2) Physical Health, (3) Mental Health & Mindset, (4) Relations, (5) Work & Career, (6) Personal Finance, and (7) Personal Development (coming up). In the midst of this COVID-19 global pandemic, where our society and our lives have come to a halt, we were inspired to write this Manifesto. For every area of our personal lives, we will challenge the way we viewed it “back then” and articulate a vision on “how we should go about it in the future”. Our Manifesto is meant to open up discussions. We don’t intend to stereotype anyone or anything, but just want to give a generic perception of our lives and society as a whole and the systems behind it.
We sent our youth – our hope for the future – to dull and poor-ventilated classrooms with underpaid teachers, educating them for jobs that hardly existed then and surely not later. We overloaded them with outdated and often even obsolete knowledge. While training them to sit still in silence.
School didn’t prepare our kids for life. We didn’t teach them what a healthy lifestyle is, how to cook healthy food, how to thrive financially, how to keep a buffer for emergencies, how to know yourself, and how to find out what you truly love to do. School didn’t help children with discovering their unique character traits, dreams, and capacities. Neither did we teach them how to deploy that amazing personal mix for adding value to higher goals. At school, we didn’t nurture their natural tendencies to act on injustice and didn’t let them just do the things they love.
Instead, we forced them to reproduce and repeat an overload of information in a one-size-fits-all environment. This caused students to disengage and see learning and reading as boring and mundane. And then teachers and parents blame them for being ignorant and lazy... Grades made success and failure look permanent, ingraining that failing had to be avoided at all costs. While we know that businesses and science are built on failure. This “culture” taught us to strive towards perfection. Turning so many of us into perfectionists - never feeling or being good enough according to ourselves.
We taught our children to be safe, to follow their lives within societal boundaries, and to be very proud when achieving traditional milestones (graduation, job, mortgage, marriage). And thus, that is what they did - they followed the beaten path. Without real introspection, our children often chose studies that were expected to give job security and a good salary many years down the line. Of course, our society needs a variety of graduates, but isn’t everybody benefiting from people that have found their true bliss in life and work? Doing something they were made to do?
Academic education was something all parents wished for their children. And what most employers required. Yes, it is the highest-rated education, but did we need such a great deal of young people in education that was designed for scientists? And if we are completely honest, how much of our academic education did we really use in our future careers? Let alone that entrepreneurship – humanity’s primary occupation over the centuries and provider of jobs – was not at all presented as a serious alternative...
After we celebrated our graduation, we weren’t ready for our next step. Wait, wasn’t our entire education system about preparing us for this moment? People before us made finding a first job look “tense” and stressful, and thus that is what we made of it before even trying. And when we landed a job, we found out that we had not learned “how to work”. Our time after graduation was often confusing and it would take several years of trial and error to find our way in our careers.
Because people missed the connection between school and work and had barely any self-insight, they ended up in environments that were not right for them. We would rather say ‘yes’ to a job we disliked than spend another insecure month job searching. Our friends did a traineeship trajectory because they found it a safe long term choice, so we followed along. Many realized their job yielded barely any more than money and status, causing them to feel empty inside and get burnout symptoms from energy leaks. Others started working overtime and overachieving, to finally get the recognition they didn’t get from their parents or teachers. Also, they ended up in burnout or something similar. In this old world, we would need a quarter-life crisis or a long world trip to get a reality check we were dying for. Only to start over again - soul searching, learning how to be more assertive, finding a suiting career match, and managing our personal energy better.
What if our education was truly a school of life, there to unlock and reach our full potential? Preparing us for all life aspects. Helping us to understand our values, dreams, and goals. Providing guidance for important life decisions such as the direction of our careers. Showing us how to live & eat healthily. Giving attention to mental health and energy management. Covering foundational skills such as presenting, assertiveness, and communication. Teaching us how to build strong relationships and how to have a thriving financial life.
School would be about getting to know our unique mix of strengths, character, passions. On this crystal clear self-knowledge, we could base the rest of your life: our career and your personal life. As learning and growing naturally makes us happy and fulfilled, this type of school would be engaging and so much fun. In this new style of education, students would have the opportunity to start a student business, grow and make their own food, do exhilarating scientific experiments, learn a variety of thrilling sports and pick up new languages in an interactive way. Learning by doing and from practitioners - people that actually walk the talk. Students would follow a custom curriculum based on their uniqueness and potential.
This new type of education would excite students so much, that their connotation with learning remains positive after school years. What if school and work were not divided so harshly, but blended over the course of our lives? Early on, kids would taste different occupations and environments so they can experience what suits them best. Hence, they would learn professional skills and test what they love to do work-wise. The older the students get, the more the balance shifts towards output – doing purposeful and fulfilling work. Consequently, there would be no graduation for this school of life – because our fast-changing (inner) world requires lifelong learning.
We didn’t learn it that way, but failing equals learning. What if failing would be encouraged, and resolving would be awarded? Not failing first means you are not operating on the edges of your abilities! Failing forward provides a reflection on how to do things differently next time. Remember the times that you messed something up, and it became your fuel to ace it next time? Let’s incorporate failure and mistakes in our future school system, nurturing a growth mindset. We won’t measure students against each other with grades, instead, we would set the individual bar higher than before.
Of course, all children would learn digital skills like programming, video editing, and photoshopping. Marketing, selling, and negotiating are needed in every occupation so that will be part of the standard curriculum as well. Education will be (at least) bilingual and would provide a solid foundation on personal finance. Schools won’t have a specific location – learning would take place online and physically in locations like company offices, hospitals, farms, political institutions, nature, and inspiring places abroad. Every type of organization will have a role in the education of our hope for the future. It takes a country to raise a generation! Yes, that costs money and yes, that needs to be well-organized. But it’s an investment that we will get back tenfold - resulting in a cohort of well-rounded change-makers, the ones our society needs for solving our most challenging problems.
Check out our whole overview page on Education, including (video) podcast here.
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Growtribute is an international community and platform for personal growth and professional contribution. Behind it are Lennart van der Ziel and Rachelle Leerling. They are entrepreneurs, speakers, and coaches.