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What You Learned In High School Was Priceless

In defense of a general education

Once upon a time, I ran large tech teams in the corporate world. In doing so, I’ve found that very career specific educations put blinders on employee growth, while a general education prepares employees to adjust to inevitable changes. They pick up on all current trends, communicate more effectively and generally outperform specialists in the long run.

As an entrepreneur, I now see that the effects are exponential. Change happens faster, adjusting quickly is required and communicating well is more vital than ever.

In today’s fast paced, instant gratification, “now, now, now!” world, the whole idea of the general education you get in the typical American school system seems a bit out dated. If it isn’t immediately applicable, we call it nonsense and throw it away.

The thought is you spend so much time learning things you’ll never use, like dissecting frogs and reading classic literature like Of Mice And Men and Hamlet, but you don’t know how to do your taxes, start a business or feed yourself. All of this knowledge, but no practical skills to succeed in life today.

I’ll be the first to admit it: There is some serious truth to it all.

Doing your taxes, paying bills, taking care of yourself and earning money are some serious life skills that we need to have as adults if we want to succeed. And when you look at subjects like American history, trigonometry, earth science, biology, chemistry and classic literature, you can easily see how your time is being wasted in those crucial early years.

How misguided….

You read Shakespeare to learn how to communicate like a sophisticated person. To see the world through another set of eyes. To empathize with characters in unique situations.

You dissect a frog to learn the basics of biology, which is pretty damn important being a biological being. It’s not absolutely the same, but that’s kind of how our bodies work too.

You take history to learn about the failures of old that we should avoid, and the accomplishments of the past that we can build on. What a world we would live in if everyone forgot the lessons learned in the wars of old…

You learn algebra and trigonometry to prepare you for a world that requires some basic understanding of math to do anything. Blue collar, white collar or no collar — you’re going to need some level of math skills to survive.

You learn science to understand logic, reason and how to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt so public policy isn’t guided by the same uninformed morons that brought us into the dark ages all those years ago. I know it’s not really “cool” for career politicians in America to even believe that science exists, but it does and it helps us thrive as a society.

It’s important.

These are all invaluable life skills that set you up for everything you need to be a successful adult. The liberal education that teaches you how to learn what you want and what you need. The general knowledge that helps give you a baseline to further our place as a species. Hell, most of these topics form the basic tenets of being a civilized human being.

The point of a general education is to prepare you for more.

More learning later on in life. More skills to compound on top of this basic and general knowledge. Freedom to succeed, driven by whatever you define as “success.”

I’m not saying there aren’t better ways to teach children… but science, math, literature, technology and arts must be requirements. These are core subjects that are the basis of an advanced society, and it’s in our best interest to advance society while remaining civilized.

You can’t just teach app entrepreneurship or single-minded life skills. Factory life is dead, and entrepreneurship doesn’t work without some core competency top build a business on.

We can’t advance as a society if we all learn specific trades and become pidgin holed into one line of work for the rest of our lives.

It’s true that its necessary for a portion of society. We honestly need plumbers, electricians, carpenters and an innumerable number of valuable trades to stay alive and well — but those are choices to make after you form the basis of knowledge that is required of society.

We should be raising the bar, not lowering it.

And that’s exactly what happens when you skip out on what I’m coining as “civilized learnings.” You lower the bar. For conversation, for the advancement of our race, for business and for society in general.

If you call yourself a civilized human being, it’s your job to make sure we give our children the best chance possible to do better than we did.

If you call yourself a productive and positive member of society, you need to give yourself every opportunity to advance your cause — at work, at home or anywhere else.

If you call yourself an entrepreneur, your sole purpose is supposed to using your unique skills, passion and drive make the world a better place.

How can you expect to make the world a better place if you don’t understand it?

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