Take the right classes in high school. Get excellent grades in those classes. Do that so that you can go to the best university…where you will need to take the right classes and get excellent grades in those classes…so that when you graduate, you will have employers at top businesses actively recruiting you for high-paying jobs.
That advice has been deeply ingrained into American culture, at least since my parents’ generation. I’d be surprised if there is anyone in this country who hasn’t heard it. I’d be surprised if there were very many parents who weren’t repeating that advice to their children. I hear it all the time, even in the homeschooling community.
I’m not one of them, though. I know, it’s heresy. I’m giving my own children completely different advice. Why? Because that advice is antiquated. It’s a relic of the Industrial Age, where it was most definitely solid, sound advice. We don’t live in the Industrial Age anymore, though.
Here’s what I’m telling my children: Don’t be afraid to reject conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom leads to conventional results, and right now, those conventional results are college graduates who are unemployed or grossly underemployed in fields that have nothing whatsoever to do with their majors, while they’re saddled with staggering amounts of debt.
Instead, find a problem to solve, figure out how to solve it in a way that energizes you and fills you with purpose and enthusiasm, study it, practice it, follow it down the rabbit hole. Become an expert. Explore those winding tunnels. Make connections with the movers and shakers in that field of interest. Craft a long-term vision that is values-centered for your lives, internalize it, and revise it as necessary. Learn what you need to learn in order to be who you want to be right now and who you think you want to be next.
I am not anti-college. I just don’t believe in university as the holy grail anymore. I tell my children to go to college only if what they want to do with their lives requires a college degree, and if what they want to do pays well enough to justify the expense. Otherwise, it’s time to get creative, and fortunately the advances on the internet have led to an explosion onto the scene of alternatives for both acquiring knowledge, skills, and experience. The pioneers right now are blazing trails to success without Bachelor’s degrees from prestigious, expensive universities.
I want my children prepared to follow in the footsteps of those pioneers or become trailblazers themselves. Preparation for that is different than preparation for a good college and a high-paying job. It requires a complete paradigm shift in the way you view education.