Successful sheep? LO9849

Michael Erickson (
Mon, 9 Sep 1996 08:44:23 -0700 (PDT)

In reply to Intelligence and LO LO9777

Hello all

I too have noticed the lack of depth described by Ben Compton, in
conversations with some (not all) heavily "degreed" individuals. Like
Ben, I discovered early that school was not about education, (I never did
figure out what it actually WAS about...) and went about becoming educated
on my own. The ability to regurgitate facts on demand is not a mark of an
educated person. The ability to thoughtfully use what knowledge is
available, to think, discern, make wise decisions or plans and be genuinly
creative, is what education is about (my opinion of course...)

On Thu, 5 Sep 1996, Benjamin Compton wrote:

> When I was a senior in high school I was elected by many of my
> classmates as the most likely to fail in life! They had a point. From
> the 9th grade to the 12th grade I received 19 failing grades. The only
> way I could graduate from high school was to run 5 miles after school
> with PE teacher, as I had failed his class two years consecutively, and
> it was a required credit.
> My academic career in high school certainly was not indicative of the
> life I would live. Recently I saw a guy I graduated with (I think I
> graduated with the lowest GPA of anyone who had attended that high
> school) who went to MIT and earned his bachelors and then went to
> another school back east for his masters. We had lunch together, and,
> frankly, I found the conversation to be very boring and unstimulating.

As far as I have been able to tell, the only way to teach people to think
is to inspire them to explore and help them do something with what they
discover. . Children who get very interested in a given subject will
become extremely knowledgable about the subjects information content,
history and major players. This personal investment seems to be the
reward needed, not some grading or rating granted by an institution. If
that knowledge can be put to work in a real life way, then the knowledge
"matures" into knowledge, with milage,cause and effect, murphy's law and
all the other "stuff" that real life brings to the mix combining to create

The "wise child" is not often found, but those few I've met were certainly
something special.

Using the current education system as a basis for estimating potential
success in any given student is pretty weak. Even if a student is
successful in the pursuit of dollars, the odds of that child also having a
successful marriage, or be successful at attaining and maintaining sanity
is a whole other issue. Good math and writing skills don't address any of
these issues. The "socialization" so widely claimed as the essential
advantage in american education tends to push a child to conform to the
lowest common denominators of behavior and character - hardly tools to
build a fully attributed life around.

I also had a poor academic record, not because I wasn't into learning, but
rather, I was not willing to submit to all the games. I still don't
appreciate games, but that is now helping me rather than hindering me in
my own personal pursuit of success (as I define it for me.)

I've wondered if I should attempt to gain some sort of academic
credentials. My meager year and a half of college was spent on a "fishing
expedition" attempting to discover where I fit. The experience was NOT
particularly useful in that effort. My conclusion to this point is that
what ever actual value I have to my employer comes from the fact that I
don't have the preconcieved notions and limitations imposed by the formal
education system. I come in entirely off the wall sometimes, and it makes
a difference for the good-particularly in this new era of radical change
in the business environment. The hardest challenge some have is
overcoming the "ruts" in their mind placed there by the educational
system. (ruts=mental models)

These ruts (or preconcieved notions seem to be more the result of the
grading systems, not the theory presented in the assortment of textbooks.
(I'm not advocating ignorance) I read a lot material from academic
circles, and it widens my viewpoint. I have to conclude that it's not the
exposure to theory that is the problem, it must be the race for the grade
and the conformance to the common view that inhibits thought. The notion
that the majority must be right and to be safe, we need to join the
majority seems to be the big message in the traditional education system
(which invokes a sort of "sheep" mentality.)

So, are we trying to help sheep be successful (so they are no longer
sheep?) Or are we just successful at producing sheep?

I have the feeling that there is a real fear among the academic community
that if they started teaching their students to actually think, they would
lose control of the schools, and the education process would "run amuck".
The fear of the unknown product of all this thinking - and the departure
from the "safe" known territory may be the biggest inhibitor to genuine
change in the educational system.

So we are back to a concept. "Fear... the mind killer." (Dune)

Michael Erickson


Michael Erickson <>

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