Getting an education takes a lot of effort and arguably the most valuable years of one's life.
Seeing as how we all invest massive amounts of time and money into pursuing degrees, it's probably a good idea to gauge the ROI. After 22 years and a Bachelor's degree, this is what I got...
1. Life is Linear
Life only gets better, at a fixed rate over time. As long as we stay the course we will slowly accrue more diplomas, higher salaries, and better lives. Always forwards, never backwards.
2. Concepts Over Substance
It is more important to understand underlying concepts than it is to use them in practice. Constructing a trebuchet via the application of mathematics is not as important as completing exercises utilizing the Pythagorean theorem. "Work" is the completion of assignments, not the pursuit of a final product.
3. More Words Are Better
As long as our essays meet the 500 word minimum, we're in the running for a perfect grade. Using even more words is proof we really care, and utilizing big words demonstrates our vast intelligence. Concise communication is lazy. Writing with flair is art.
4. Do the Bare Minimum
Perfection is achieved by checking all the boxes. Always include a beginning, middle, and an end. Be sure to list 3 citations, and reference a quote in the second paragraph. With so many other students, quality is measured via rubrics as opposed to original thought.
5. Fake It
Millions of other people have already done whatever you've been tasked to do. Striving for the best pits you against impossible odds, so why bother? It's a more logical use of time to feign expertise than to develop skills.
6. You Get What You Put In
Hard work equates to high reward. Those who receive the highest praise are those who persist through their own struggles. Disparity of knowledge is irrelevant; the disadvantaged who expel effort deserve higher scores than those reluctant to constantly over-prove their comprehension.
7. All Skills Are Equal
You can be whatever you want to be. All skills deserve equal amounts of attention, and all have an equal chance to make you happy. This is why teachers of all subjects get paid the same salary, of course.
8. You Are What You Produce
You have a name, a personality, and a sense of uniqueness. That's what is celebrated about you, as long as you meet the silent requirement of prosperity. The value of our lives is quantifiable by letters on report cards. While it is not spoken, our performance is directly correlated with how much love we deserve.
9. Fun is a Sin
When the day is over, there are only enough hours left to finish assignments. We feel guilty when we opt to do anything but work, especially for the purpose of sheer enjoyment. Every minute where one is not "busy" is a shameful waste.
Of course, everything above is actually wrong.
In practice, life isn't simple - our ability to move forward depends on times we move backwards. Life is not linear.
Learning to code takes time, but working knowledge can be gained in a day if there is desire for the substance of an end product (like this site, for example).
All of our résumés are beautiful, because everybody is faking it.
Our world holds the authenticity of an Instagram filter, and the only way to beat the system is by doing more than expected (which is a low bar, since everybody is faking it).
Work should speak for itself... with as few words as possible.
Hard work means nothing without luck, so we don't always get out what we put in.
Success can be as simple as picking a career which will later be relevant, because not all skills are equal.
In the pursuit of happiness, the only thing that matters is having fun.
The limited time we have to live is defined by our ability to enjoy ourselves, not by what we produce.
We have a lot of odd tendencies as a society. Cravings for assurance, worship of achievement, and a preference to "get by" over learning, to name a few. It shouldn't be hard to imagine where these originated.
Our structure for teaching is not only wrong, it promotes the exact opposite values we hold inherently as human beings.
The best alternative I can offer is to learn by doing. Implementing that somehow would turn society on its head, so I'm not expecting any miracles. I might think twice before paying full tuition for a child, though.
Fixing education would solve a lot of our personal problems.
It does seem like a convenient coincidence, however, that the values we retain from school are the same values necessary to condition a population of hard-working consumers. You know, the kind of mentality that makes capitalism thrive... especially for those already in power.