Real life experience trumps school….again

As I was getting caught up on the NY Times (3 days’ worth that had found their way to the couch where I write in the evenings) I came across this article in yesterdays’ Home section about 19 year old Sam Allen. The title in the print edition was “Decorating is his Homework.”   Sometimes all the blog posts in the world cannot effectively convey the message that following interests in the real world is more valuable than sitting in school.   Mostly because the people reading the posts are afflicted with ‘school brain’ and the entire time,  said school brain is regaling them with all the reasons why ‘it won’t really work’ or ‘my kid is different’ or any number of other anti life-learning arguments.

I know, because I’ve dealt with every one of those arguments; my own school brain screaming at me that life learning is ridiculous and crazy, blah blah blah.

But you know what?  Life experience trumps school experience.  Every. Single. Time.   Sam Allen provides the perfect example.  My favorite section of the article read:

…juggling numerous clients while he was in high school was challenging. “I’m in class, but I’m getting calls from electricians who are installing a chandelier and saying the outlet is in the wrong place,”  he said.  “These are not things I could let sit for an hour.”    Never the academic type, he used free periods to catch up on his design work.  “My friends would go to Starbucks,”  he said, “and I’d run over and meet contractors.”   He spent one unhappy semester studying design and the Fashion Institute of Technology, but left after discovering that he was way ahead of his fellow students and the rigorous course load made it impossible to work.  “I was getting calls from people saying, ‘We’d like you to decorate our home,’” he said, recalling that he would think, “Oh, great, and I have this little thing called school to deal with…..”Being able to have my own clients and putting together a room, that’s the greatest schooling for me.”

And of course, rather than paying tens of thousands of dollars to sit in classrooms “learning” interior design, he has his own business, is learning by doing  and is making money at the same time.   Gee, which one of those sounds like the better gig?

I can hear the detractors saying, “Well, he is the exception.   His mother was an interior designer so he had an advantage.   Most kids don’t have a clue what they want to do.”    And of course he was lucky in the sense that he was drawn to the field in which his Mom worked.   However, this also illustrates a point. One of the reasons most kids don’t have a clue is because they are never allowed to explore and discover their own interests.   They are too busy, “with a little thing called school” and it is so demanding that everything else, their interests included, become secondary.   School is the thing.   Nothing else is as important.  This is the mantra most kids hear ad nauseum from the age of 4 or 5 until they graduate from college, at which point they are often surprised to find that they can’t get a job or don’t enjoy the industry in which they are employed, and have to start from scratch discovering what it is they really want to do.

This seems like a colossal waste of time and money.   Wouldn’t it be better to let kids discover their interests (and not just what their parents think they should be interested in) while they are still kids?   Let them try different things, spend time with pros who are doing the work they think they might like, and change their minds if they find that they don’t.   Instead of spending 20 years learning everything in theory and nothing in practice, wouldn’t it be better to turn the tables on that equation?

Take a few minutes, tell your school brain to be quiet, read about Sam, and imagine the possibilities.

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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