Having spent a little too much time in post-secondary education I can recall sitting in an auditorium classroom for a sociology class, ironically enough, thinking what the hell are we all actually doing right now? Is sitting in classrooms for the better part of your young life, really the best preparation for what is to come? Our trajectory through education is so narrow and automated it’s little wonder that so many young people have difficulty standing out. Job searching and hiring are becoming more automated, with online job banks and companies that use candidate database software. According to a 2012 report by The Atlantic, 53 percent of college grads are jobless or underemployed. This is not an encouraging statistic; you may have a slightly higher chance of staying in your marriage. Even with this grim reality in mind there’s little doubt that Canadians still value education, and there are honour role bumper stickers to prove it.
“Education is important” is ingrained in most of us, yet few want to acknowledge a glaring problem in education, and that is: why are so many children being prescribed psychoactive drugs? According to The New York Times, three million children in the United States take drugs for focusing problems. Children are not the only ones being medicated. According to a PBS report, the use of psychotropic drugs has increased anywhere between 300 and 700 percent in the last ten years. So who is to blame? Corporate greed from big pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson and their lobbies surely are part of the problem, but that’s not the full story. Like all complex problems there’s no one source to point the finger at, as tempting as it may be.
Perhaps, it’s our increasingly automated lives that are prompting us to treat our psychological problems in a mechanical way. On the surface popping a pill to treat your “chemical imbalance” is much simpler than addressing major life issues that are causing mental distress. Certainly there people who stand to benefit from psychotropic medication, but we have to keep in mind the trade-off. Apart from the well known side effects of antidepressants, they also limit the emotional range and in effect limit our very humanness and imagination.
As “grown-ups” we tend to easily dismiss imagination. Yet virtually everything you see around you began in someone’s imagination. We even dismiss imagination with insults like, “They have a lot of imagination.” One person accused of this is renowned conspiracy theorist and author David Icke. Icke was once widely received as a laughing stock for his theory on reptilian shape-shifters that rule the world through their secret society he calls the “Babylonian Brotherhood.” Icke maintains that this secret group of ruling elites are in fact from another dimension. This race according to Icke, is incapable of creative thought and imagination. Their goal is to slowly mould the world into a streamlined machine, in which they have total control and in effect destroying the very things that make us human: creativity, imagination, love. Sound ridiculous? It’s interesting to note how far David Icke has come. From laughing stock to mass appeal, Icke managed to attract 5000 fans to Wembley stadium last October. Whether or not you believe reptilians are at the top of it, it’s hard to deny pervasive feelings that we’re becoming more like machines and less like humans. To paraphrase self-help guru Tony Robbins: “You wake up in your box apartment, get in your box car, to work in your box office, settle down for your box dinner in front of the TV box.” No wonder no one thinks outside the box. Things were not always this automated.
From a historical perspective formal education is still a new phenomenon. It wasn’t until the 1940s that half of U.S. students earned their high-school diploma. Ask your grandparents, were they worse off for their “lack of education” or did they just learn differently and get more of the “hands-on” experience that is being sought after today.
Whoever said learning is limited to a classroom? Consider a high school grad who has the ambition to open up a business. Would their time be best spent going to university for four years learning about business theory in a classroom? Instead of university, those four years could be spent actually jumping hurdles to bring their vision to life.
There’s no clear map for your own intuition in a textbook and learning comes quick when your business and your livelihood are reliant on it. It should be little wonder that history has so many notable dropouts including: Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson. Their accomplishments are so big only a child would dare imagine them.
Almost all children know what they want to be when they grow up and it’s never a customer service agent or a waitress. If you’re not around children often it can be startling to realize how much of their world is imagination and naturally they dream big. Yet we attempt to keep them in line. When did an energetic child become unhealthy and why are there so many “troublemakers” in the classroom? Perhaps innately children know that education and the life they’re being subject to is not in line with their true potential, like those notable dropouts.
It is a loss for humanity if we continue to subject children to an educational process that suppresses their unique potential with Ritalin and sitting behind a desk hours every day. Who knows what they stand to dream up for us.