Why We Are All Going Back to School

Why We Are All Going Back to School

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I look at my almost 3 year old son and I see that he is already where he needs to be.

For him, everything is fantastic! He lives in the moment, has no problem being himself, doesn’t care what anyone thinks, and he will try anything. The bottom line is – he loves life. Forget about me teaching him – he is currently teaching me! From him, I am learning  how to be.

So I ask the question: what is it we do to our children that takes them away from that place we long to reach? How has the combined wisdom of the entire human race only managed to destroy, rather than build upon, such a great start?

I often talk about shifting my life towards travelling more with my family. The first question I often get is ‘Sure, but what about when your son goes to school?’

I just don’t believe he will be missing much. I have a big problem with how education works today. I just don’t think it is delivering anywhere near what it is capable of. I have spent years studying and exploring the limits of human potential. To my mind, even the best schools on the planet focus on delivering the wrong things in the wrong way. That is why I travel the world, visiting innovative educational institutions and meeting educational thought leaders.

We still have an education system that was designed in the Victorian era, based on the need to produce factory workers for the Industrial Revolution, rather than the needs of today and tomorrow. It may work for some people, but it does not work for everyone. It won’t work for the future.

It is in this context that I think about my almost 3 year old son, and his future. I shudder at the thought of sending him into a curriculum-based one-size-fits-all system of education, given the challenges ahead. When he leaves the nest, the world will be unrecognisable, compared with today. If I thought that the education system was unfit for purpose when I was growing up, that gap is only set to widen as we move forward. By and large, we are just warehousing kids, teaching them things they can teach themselves, and even more disturbingly – teaching them things that they don’t need to learn.

And something is very wrong. There is an explosion of mental health problems right now. Stress, anxiety, depression, and addiction are all increasing off the scale. There is a complete disconnect between how we are educating society and how society is coping with the world around us. The education system is failing us more than we realise. Not only is it not preparing us for work, it is not preparing us for life.

Education is rapidly becoming a problem for all of us – not just for our kids. We must all cope with a future that is accelerating away from our past. Everyone, of any age, has to unlearn what we have learnt, and instead,  learn how to adapt to a completely new environment. In many ways, kids have a distinct advantage over adults, since they get to start from scratch. Unless they are constricted by outmoded educational systems.

That blue collar industrial economy that our education system was designed for has already been decimated in the west, through automation, or through industries moving to countries like China and India. All those workers are rapidly being replaced by robots. There are literally millions of robots coming online in manufacturing in the next few years, which will put millions of people out of work, all over the world. So the current system has no place anywhere, let alone in the west.

It doesn’t stop there, though. The knowledge economy, acclaimed as the ‘new future’, is about to be destroyed in employment terms by the onset of cognitive computing, crowd platforms and artificial intelligence. Doctors, accountants, bankers and lawyers will all experience unprecedented pressure for jobs in the not too distant future. It is suggested that computers will be smarter than humans by 2029. Think about what that means for jobs, businesses and education!

It will be astonishing to see how fast old careers will disappear and new ones will be formed as a result of these rapid changes. To survive and thrive in the future we have to learn to adapt to this new, rapidly changing environment. Which means we have to be permanently learning. We must all go back to school in order to face the challenges of the future.

We should not evaluate the success of an educational system by the percentage of people achieving high grades in things that won’t matter in our rapidly changing future. We should evaluate education by how it prepares people to thrive in life.

It is my belief that we should quantify the success of education by the mental health or happiness of the population. At the end of the day, these are far more relevant than current educational or economic measures. A thriving community will be the key to creating a thriving economy. Wherever the most creative, talented and adaptable minds live, prosperity will follow.

Looking at a community that is getting it right, like Downtown Las Vegas, I see how co-learning is becoming part of the DNA of the entire community. From starting a new school from a blank sheet of paper, to inviting people to come and speak from all over the world to share ideas, they are truly living up to the strapline – ‘Downtown Makes You Smarter’.

Your community is now becoming your school. If your community is not learning in its entirety, members will fall behind and struggle to adapt to what lies ahead. The communities that go beyond fixed mindsets and start pursuing education for all, regardless of age, will move forward. They will become better places to live.

Next week, in my own island community of Guernsey, we are shifting towards building a new type of learning community. As part of the Dandelion Project we are holding TEDx St Peter Port , bringing people from all over the world to discuss how we can improve the quality of life in our community.

Now, shouldn’t that be what education is all about?

Wish us luck!


P.S. Your insights and feedback are welcome, as always, in the comments section below.

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  1. Rachel Sharp says

    Marc, that has reminded me of this question……What happens more often, learning without teaching or teaching without learning? I think your 3 year old could answer that one!!

  2. Best of luck Marc! Every time I read things like this they ring so clear and true and the challenge to rework, reconfigure, MAKE CHANGE is so overwhelming and yet it needs to be done. Nobody involved in education that I have ever spoken to (and I am talking about those working in it) say it is working and yet it continues. I will look forward to following all that unfolds in Guernsey as this is without a doubt a challenge near and dear to my heart with young children and general concern for humanity at large!

  3. Richard Roberts says

    Love it, Marc! Reminds me of one of my favourite quotes, from the US progressive education reformer John Dewey: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

  4. Oh man, you speak so eloquently to something I sense as a healer in many many people. People are not prepared to thrive in life by earthly credentials. Thank you for speaking to this, and best of luck with Tedx, Cheering you on from across the pond!

  5. Good luck, Marc! I’ve been thinking a lot about local communities since we talked. Please keep us updated on how it goes.

  6. Ross Murphy says

    So true. So many people go to work and then just think they can ‘clock off’ doing the same thing over and learning no new skills. No learning = unemployment

  7. I hear echoes of Sir Ken Robinson…
    Anyway, while I agree with you that things that are taught in school are mostly not very important or can be learnt outside via books, community and the internet, the social skills and ability to network and form connections that can last decades beyond graduation start from a school-environment. Not just any school though. I am not keen on the Chinese-type schools in Malaysia where discipline and scoring as many A’s as possible are de rigeur. Nor on the other national schools where you’re pretty much left on your own and the main fruit of that system is apathy. That leaves me the option of the lesser evil – international schools, where the method of teaching is still the same Victorian factory one you mentioned but at least there is more attention (due to smaller classrooms) and less emphasis on scoring A’s. More importantly, I look forward to my children forming the network that they can continue to rely on when they progress through life and their careers.

    • Hello stranger! I am so chuffed to see that you read my stuff.

      You have more options than taking the lesser evil route. I struggle with lesser evil acceptance anyway because implicitly I would teaching my son to compromise on his dreams if I accepted that. For me we have to lead our children and be the change that we want to see in the world. If you are worried about social skills and networking then be deliberate about sourcing those skills. Schools do it by accident not with purpose. How amazing would kids be if we taught them this stuff on purpose?

      Sir Ken and I have had lunch… 😉

  8. And the world needs a new generation leader like you Marc. For some like me it is easy to follow just by being inspired.

    Thank you for sharing

  9. Krishna Kodoth says

    Given the current state of mankind being involved in a rat-race, this article is very appropriate and I wish this should reach as much people possible.

    In my opinion, all these started with our ambition to beat time thus forcing us not to live in the present, giving birth to materialistic mind set. End result, day by day we are inching towards ‘The Brave New World’ envisaged by Aldous Huxley.

    I promise that I’ll do my bit to stay away from this and encourage people to do the same.

  10. HI Marc,
    Thanks for writing so that questions and helps us shift from where we are “at” in education right now-we know we need reform, but since the reforms just keep happening within the same confined box that is marked education on the outside, we get seemingly smaller and more confined reforms each time – but somehow this is not recognised or not examined in real ways that matter as long as the right boxes come up showing that more progress has seemingly been made and the targets met…

    Problem is we know there are problems. So it is not reform that is needed but a whole new foundation for education -what foundation?- well it really includes what you have said Marc-if we are not happy how can we learn or add benefit to society and the universe we live in – we end up having to be takers and people giving to us, to fix our sadness, even our sickness and so on…

    For me too (as you share Marc) – another essential part of the answer to this puzzle is family-family is important and where we learn to be little creators – I believe we are born little creators made to explore this amazing universe and more. When we are really small, we find our about belonging ideally in the safe boundaries of family and start to know we are not the universe to be revolved around. I believe school (or places ideally where children meet together centrally in communities to learn alongside adults about our world – doing learning projects together – Marc your child is 3 -so cool to share he is full of learning and life!!! Cute I expect too!!!!!!!

    I have seen 4-5 year olds do the work of even 14 year olds on bridges and the planets when they want to learn as class groups out of their own inspired interests – yes amazing but true!!!) Such classrooms or learning centres are where we learn how to explore the wider family and learn how to belong in society as well as continuing to explore our universe and the place to narrow down what we are made for -the things we really like doing and then in the end want to repeat in a contributing to our societies in ways that benefit us and those around us positively – meaningfully…Roll on transformation and new models for education…come on let’s be more creative…and know that we are…made to be…and have fun learning by ourselves and with others…exploring life not just being talked at about it…Thanks Marc for sharing once again…

  11. [This day and age we’re living in
    Gives cause for apprehension
    With speed and new invention
    And things like fourth dimension.
    Yet we get a trifle weary
    With Mr. Einstein’s theory.
    So we must get down to earth at times
    Relax relieve the tension

    And no matter what the progress
    Or what may yet be proved
    The simple facts of life are such
    They cannot be removed.]

    You must remember this
    A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
    The fundamental things apply
    As time goes by.

    And when two lovers woo
    They still say, “I love you.”
    On that you can rely
    No matter what the future brings
    As time goes by.

    Moonlight and love songs
    Never out of date.
    Hearts full of passion
    Jealousy and hate.
    Woman needs man
    And man must have his mate
    That no one can deny.

    It’s still the same old story
    A fight for love and glory
    A case of do or die.
    The world will always welcome lovers
    As time goes by.

    Oh yes, the world will always welcome lovers
    As time goes by…

    What the future brings? Nobody knows, but for sure some things will never change and those are the ones that our kids need to learn. All we can do as mentors is give them a framework for survival, prepare our kids for the road and not the road for our kids.

  12. Excellent.

    Nothing more i can add.

  13. Dyrke Schaefer says

    Hi Marc,

    Love the insights. Most of what you are touching on are things that I often think about. I really wonder if the current educational system is going to prepare my kids for the world in which they will be living. But, I have the sense that the changes to society that are coming could be so grossly different to anything that many can even imagine, at the moment. It is also easy to imagine that educators are often pulling their hair out trying to decide in which direction education needs to go. The economics of our societies will also need a major overhaul to accommodate. It’s all pretty daunting, to say the least. I, for one, certainly see the necessity of continual learning. That is also something that I have put off for way too long. As one of the many, many “re-organised” workers of the world, I have been forced to take stock. The stress of longer term unemployment isn’t fun, but it has given me the opportunity to look at what steps I can take to at least try to find a place in the future and I’ve started to learn computer programming to give myself a better chance.

    Keep up the good work.


  14. Great teachers are also great learners! We should never stop learning & reflecting.

  15. What’s Taking place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve discovered It positively usefhl and
    it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & aid other users like its helped me.
    Good job.

  16. Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking the time and
    actual effort to produce a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate
    a lot and don’t seem too get nearly anything done.

  17. Awesome blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

    Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed ..
    Any suggestions? Appreciate it!

  18. Mind blowing and insightful. I was screaming while reading your points. They absolutely got me subscribed to your school of thought. In Nigeria, which is obviously a developing nation, we already have some machines replacing manpower. People no longer walk into the banks to withdraw money, paying into another account also have a machine. Then there is internet banking. Many people are being retrenched in the banking industry. Nice work Mr. Marc Winn

  19. Hello, i feel that i saw you visited my blog so i came
    to return the want?.I am trying to find issues to
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