This article will focus on a particular aspect of the schooling experience – indeed one of the most meaningful parts of any true education – namely, mastery.
To make my point crystal clear I’ll state it at the outset of this article: schooling does not facilitate the development of mastery at all. This has dire consequences which the rest of this article explores.
The 10,000 hour rule holds that 10,000 hours of practice in any field leads to
professional mastery. While the merits of this rule are still debated, it reveals something profound about the nature of the learning process and career/vocational development:it is in our personal private time spent l earning, making mistakes, and growing that we most develop as humans.
Talk to any concert pianist, world class athlete, and acclaimed artist and they willall likely reveal some interesting (and somewhat obvious) similarities: they started their craft super young, were able to identify their particular gift at a young age, were superpassionate, spent a lot of time a lone (or with a coach, mentor, tutor/teacher), and overtime developed creativity, confidence, and ultimately, mastery.
Think of most of modern schooling for a second. How much of it is inspiring, passionate, interesting? When are you coached/trained/mentored by a specialist in afield who recognizes your unique gift and talent? When do you develop mastery in anything?
I, mean, is the “talented and gifted program” only reserved for a fortunate few born with superior genes? Is human genius really that uncommon that only a special caste of people are able to showcase their diverse talents and contributions to the world?
Or it could it be that the school system, in its well-intentioned effort to school the masses, is actually stifling the creative energy, genius and potential already in us?
I argue, of course, the latter: the system is designed in a very damaging one-size-fits-all fashion. From its early industrial purpose to create factory employees the school system has not changed its design much. In such a system, sameness, uniformity, and unthinking obedience are prized; individual talent and contribution – and the necessary mastery and discipline needed to truly thrive in your particular craft/art/service – is
The school system does not follow what I call the personalized “blueprint model,” where students not only receive individualized attention, instruction, and mentorship but are given the freedom and responsibility to pursue their own interests and passions.
Students should have a blueprint for success. The adults tasked with educating them for more than a decade ideally would serve as “builders” in such a model, helping shape the mind, character, and talent of their respective student (s).
In a system where the only constant is change—change of classroom every 45 minutes, change of teacher every year/class, change of grade level every year, change of subjects every day, varying degrees of different homework assignments, not to mention other drastic personal and family changes, how does a child develop a strong educational foundation, deep meaningful community roots, intellectual growth, and personal mastery?
Taken a step further, is it any surprise most students come to dislike school from a young age and remain mostly disinterested about education for most of their adult life? How are you to develop mastery in anything if just when you may be on to something a bell rings telling you to stop and move on to the next station?
Tragically, most of the “learning” that happens in school is a carefully constructed industrial-like system to be followed: read, memorize information, take an exam, earn the highest grade possible, please all your teachers from where are self-esteem and worth flows, and do it over and over again up until you graduate from college and enter your chosen career.
Any deviation from this standardized system and you get labeled “not college material,” “special ed,” “learning disabled,” a wide spectrum of psychological and behavioral disorders, or forgotten about entirely. Its much easier to consider the kids failed by this impersonal, industrial prison-like system collateral damage of benevolent experts.
Just when education should actually be beginning for many students – at that point when they enter the real world the first time – for many, it ends. They did their school, they mistakenly believe, by taking a bunch of periodic exams, studying for quizzes, and doing homework. How wrong they are.
What is true for the pianist, athlete, and artist ideally should be true in
educational systems and career/vocational development. Students need to master an area of knowledge to be truly competitive and compensated.
That is what the real world of work and adults will demand from them, the real world that, again, they are isolated from for roughly 18 years. They will be rewarded financially, professionally and otherwise according to their level of competence, confidence, execution, and discipline.
How did childhood—what once seemed so free and adventurous, even risky and painful—become so uniform and mechanized? Children’s brains are sponges, natural incubators of knowledge, behavior patterns, language, manners, etc.
If all they learn in their most formative years is to conform and please everyone but their own innate ability and passion, they will later morph into the proverbial stressed out professional feeling like he or she missed out on something more meaningful.
Students should strive to reach what Sir Ken Robinson, a world-renowned expert on creativity, innovation, and human potential, terms ‘The Element,” “the place where things you love to do and the things that you are good at come together,” the state that refer to as “flow,” what pop culture refers to as “doing what you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
One of my all-time favorite education quotes is, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” How true this statement is!
The human mind is powerful beyond belief, capable of mindboggling feats, and as the quote implies, needs to be kindled, not forcefully filled. Schooling, again, is forced, compulsory, almost prison-like.
Forcing education on students doesn’t work. No fancy pedagogical theory will override this human reality. It is no wonder the most common question you will hear in many classrooms is “Will this be on the test?” Students have been taught to take tests, not develop mastery in their particular strength/skillset/passion/talent/vocational calling.
Only when you take full control of your education, starting with an inventory of your particular strengths and weaknesses, can you get on the path toward true fulfillment, accomplishment, and purpose. Education begins inwardly.
Stay tuned for the next article on the importance of mastery and how necessary it is for learning process and lifelong achievement.