I own a school, so I ponder the question “Why do people get an education?” quite a lot. The problem is, I can’t seem to answer that simple question. I often ask my students, “Why do you study English?” Inadvertently the answers are limited since I am dealing with kids, but it’s either social pressure (My mom wants me too) or future stability (To get a good job). I only got a few students who shrug their shoulders and just do it. Those, by the way, are my favorite students, the ones who “Just Do It”.
Since I can’t answer this question in regard to other people, I can only answer the question “Why did I get an education?” It certainly wasn’t because I wanted a good Job. I actually never wanted a “real” job, for me University education was more a postponement of having to get a “real” job. That is probably why it took me such a damn long time to finish it. It certainly wasn’t because my parents wanted me too. People were constantly telling me NOT to go to University, that it was a waste of time, especially since I was probably the worst possible student imaginable. Going to University doesn’t make you rich, but it does enrich you. This and only this is the only tenet I have on education. Don’t do it for others, do it for yourself. Don’t do it for money, do it for yourself.
There are certain occupations in life that do require education (professor, lawyer, doctor, …), but most occupations in life just need you to be able to read, talk, listen, write and … think. When people want to become a professor, a lawyer or a doctor, it is simply because they ARE those occupations. The education is just forced upon by society, since a quack in any of those occupations could have disastrous consequences ….
The problem is, kids that go to school today, that get an education for a job that exists today, might not be ready for a job that doesn’t exist today. I am opposed to learning for specific jobs, apart from those that require a deep rooted knowledge of the matter. Education needs to focus on teaching kids how to think, not what to think. When you teach kids what to think, it becomes impossible for them to adapt to the changing environment, that is only changing faster and faster.
This is probably the fundamental reason for my extreme distaste of a curriculum. Curricula teach you the “what”, not the how. Education should always be skilled based. Let individuals personal experience fill in the “what”, but let education focus on the “how”. We teach people how to write, how to read, how to listen, how to talk. Why don’t we teach them how to think?
That is easily answered when you take a simple look at society. I come from a “European” background, and have immersed myself into “Korean” culture. The difference between both does shed light on my understanding of human nature. Humans, for some reason, always try to enforce their point of view upon other people, and as a society, they want to enforce the next generation to “think” in the same way. Maybe this is the core reason why teenagers revolt against education/parents/peers. There is the underlying sense of the mind to make up it’s own mind, but the pressure from others to conform to society creates a stress, an anger, a dissatisfaction with the world. Which thus is a clear identification that teaching people what to think is fundamentally wrong.
That is why I started my school. Korean education’s focus on “what to think” is so overwhelming strong that there is a need for these kids to start thinking on their own. Group think in Korea is very strong. Social pressure in Korea is very strong. You are not allowed to be who you are, you always have to be what others want you to be. The kids that come to my school (and stick around) are exactly those who psychologically cannot withstand the onslaught of that kind of pressure. They find a freedom of thought, a chance to express their free will and be accepted for who they are. Those are the kind of children that flourish under my supervision. Those are the kind of kids I want to teach, the misfits.
Change only happens when people stop doing the same thing over and over again. If Korea truly wants to become a “Creative Economy”, it is going to have to change on how it teaches the next generation. I don’t see it happening.