Sunday, January 27, 2013

Education is teaching the love of learning

When I finished my graduate school and joined a startup, I thought I was off to a good start.  I thought my degree afforded me to push my idea.  I thought my graduate degree was a proof that I could think analytically and gave me an endorsement to pursue my ideas with little or no collaboration.

I was dead wrong.  Not only did my degree mean very little in terms of working at a startup, but also I realized that my ideas were often wrong.  And it took me repeated failures over many years to see this fact.

Now that I look back at my first 15 years of my career, I can say that one of the biggest mistakes that I made many times was not collaborating more with people around me.  Somehow I had mistakenly thought that the most creative thoughts happened when I was alone sipping my coffee at my desk.  Wrong again.  It turned out that creativity and innovation are a collaborative process, not a light bulb flash by single stroke of genius.

Where did I go wrong?  Why did I have to relearn to work with my coworkers?  It was simple.
Because I was never taught to collaborate with others as equals.

Although I studied in a group or had to do group projects, it was always in the context of competition.  Competing with other groups was given, of course.  But I also competed with other group members to be more influential over others.  Studying was about acquiring knowledge, but measurements were based on letter grades often graded on curve.  Everyone knew whether they were doing well or doing poorly.  And that reflected on everything that we did, including collaborative group projects.

I had been trained through out all my academic life to differentiate my peers based on their letter grades.  No wonder it continued into my career.  I had been acting as if I was at work to compete with my coworkers.  Wrong.  I should have been there to help coworkers and ultimately customers.  I should have been collaborating as equals to common goals all along.

I believe our education system is the root of this problem.  Competitive education system is causing greater harm for our graduates than spurring more learning.  I would argue school is not the place where students learn new things.  That would mean unless we go to school, we will stop learning.

No, that cannot be it.  Instead school should be the place where love of learning is taught.  And I don't see intense competition as the right environment where it can be taught.  School should be where students can try new things, fail and try again to learn what it feels like to succeed.

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