beyond the lessons

For most of my life, I thought the purpose of school was to educate students and prepare them for their careers. However, it was not until many years after graduating that I truly understood how education had shaped my approach and mindset.

Like other dedicated students, my primary focus in college was on achieving good grades. I studied hard, poured over notes and textbooks, and adequately prepared for tests and assignments. Though genuinely interested in my courses, the measurement of my learning and success was entirely dependent on my grades. Tests in particular dominated my attention, as passing them was necessary to move forward.

It never occurred to me that this emphasis on grades may not truly reflect learning. Exams test short term memorization more than long term understanding. Students learn which topics and facts are most liable to appear as questions, ignoring interesting tangents. Previous tests are often shared, reducing exams to regurgitating memorized responses rather than demonstrating broad skills and knowledge.

Professors have their own priorities too. Some assess based more on agreeing with their personal views than mastery of the material. The system is so dependent on grades that alternative paths, like depth of independent study, are not viable options. Students are left with no choice but to focus on gaming the system if they want good careers and opportunities after college.

It was not until reflecting on my own experiences that I realized the insidious effects of the education model. When facing challenges, many approach problems by trying to “hack” solutions, looking for shortcuts and tricks rather than doing quality work. There is a tendency to think success is found through loopholes, not by creating genuine value.

It dawned on me that school had unintentionally trained us all to “win” through exploiting flawed assessments, prioritizing grades over learning. This mindset permeates society, encouraging artificial and harmful behaviors. However, the link between careers and such proxies is weakening as new models emerge.

In startups and many fields, the true tests are served by customers and the marketplace. Success depends on producing something great, not ticking boxes for authorities. As more work adopts this user-driven, authority-free approach, talented people will migrate away from rigged systems. Eventually, education may evolve to cultivate passion for subjects rather than gaming metrics.

Realizing how our conditioning shapes us is the first step to an important societal shift. With awareness, individuals and institutions can rethink priorities to focus on meaningful learning rather than proxies. There is light ahead as we collectively unlearn hacking tests and instead value work with integrity and purpose.

Discover more from The Border of a Mind

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading