MANY schools have, as part of their mission or vision, a goal to produce leaders. But the way schools are traditionally structured does not encourage students to be good leaders, but rather, good followers.
Part of the reason is that teachers are usually those who do well as students. Because they were so good in following the system, they now perpetuate it, and more so later on, if they become administrators.
Many of the entrepreneurs and trailblazers I know were those who got into trouble while they were in school. Two of the biggest brands in technology for the past three decades -- Apple and Microsoft -- were founded by college dropouts.
The world has transformed beyond the concrete factory walls of the industrial age into the boundless reach of the information age where even outer space is no longer an unreachable goal.
Yet, we remain fixated on the idea that adults know what sort of “basics” to teach our children. Adults today who probably never dreamed that we would see the day that we would hold in our hands a device that can help us communicate with people on the other side of the world, where we can fit an entire library of books, and music, audio clips and videos, and even play games or take and store photos.
How can we know what material our children need for their future when we cannot even predict our own? How dare we presume to want to fill their heads with what we think is important and what we think is essential?
No wonder many kids today find school irrelevant -- even those who do well. I used to do very well in school but I thought a lot of the stuff I was memorizing was useless. And I was right. I never really used around 90 percent of what I learned and a lot of the things that I found useful in life I learned elsewhere.
And guess what? A lot of teachers I talk to also feel this way, yet they hardly do anything about it and just go back the classroom doing what they have always done. The inertia of tradition, of doing what has always been done, is almost impossible to overcome. I know because I've been there, having been a teacher for a total of around 10 years.
This is not to say that teachers do not work to improve things. That would be unfair because they do (at least the good ones). They look for more effective methods of teaching. They prepare better materials. They improve their own skills by taking public-speaking lessons or learning how to be humorous.
But all these are still done within the system and it doesn't matter what you do within it, you still end up with followers. You cannot produce self-directed individuals by directing and dictating to them what they should be doing every hour of their lives. They need time and freedom to figure that out by themselves. They need a new, and different kind of school.