Systems engineering is interested in the way that seemingly simple components interact to create complex behaviors. A car driving down the street is fairly simple. Put a bunch of them near each other and complex behaviors arise.
I’m about to pick at the system called college. Don’t mistake these observations for an evil plot. I’m talking about the unintended consequences of attempting to systematize learning. These outcomes are the “traffic jams” of education.
If I wanted to create graduates who merely follow instructions, what would I do?
Step 1. Lock down information by convincing the crowd which information is important and which isn’t. In other words, “teaching to the test.”
Step 2. Make people who fail to comply very uncomfortable. We call this “classroom behavior management.”
Step 3: Use fear as a motivator. In other words, “grading” and “transcripts.”
Step 4: Create an enemy your followers can blame for their shortcomings. Maybe “the economy” or “the job market.”
We can’t teach it all. We need some semblance of order. We need to measure progress. We need encouragement. As an educator, my job is to try and update the system to avoid the unintended consequences of addressing reality.
But YOU don’t want to become a sheep. So keep your eyes open. And deal with this:
Step 1: If you’re asking “is this on the test?” then you’re on your way to the pasture.
Step 2: Be a rebel: not a rabble-rouser who throws rocks of negativity, but a leader who strives for positive change.
Step 3: Realize that you’re more than your transcript.
Step 4: If you’re already blaming your circumstances for limiting your future, learn to say this word: “baaahh”
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