One would think that the best thing any educational institution could do is fire up their students so they go out into the world bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready to get on with the job of innovating, and making money for themselves, the organisations they work for and their country.
That goes for primary schools, high schools, TAFEs and universities. We want students to graduate inspired and motivated to successfully make their way in the world. Regrettably this often doesn't happen. By the time students have been squeezed out of the year 12 sausage machine, the stuffing has been knocked out of them. All they can do is go and get a bloody job!
Arguably the most successful graduate from the high school I went to left at the end of year 10. His burning love of cars took him to the highest echelons of world motor sport, both as a driver and a manufacturer. He left the education system before someone could brainwash him into becoming a teacher, or lawyer, or doctor. He knew.
I heard a story about one of Australia's greatest tennis players being encouraged to finish of his Matric so he had something to fall back on later. This is a kid who could buy and sell most of us before he turned 21. He was strong enough to ignore their advice and follow the swoosh of his own racquet. Most people would have buckled under, stuck with pennants on Saturday afternoon and gone on to do something “steady”.
Our educational institutions, far from promoting innovation are more likely to quash it.
These days it's considered smart to coop children up in cages doing theorems or force-feeding them slabs of Yeats and Milton in the quest for an exam pass, instead of encouraging them to get out there and have a go. This applies particularly to children who don't have a mathematical or literary bone in their body, but are physically, artistically or musically adept, who have magic in their fingers, who can fix things, build things, who are as sharp as tacks in thousands of other ways.
You'll know how innovative an education system is by its graduates. Regrettably too many kids who start off as keen as mustard graduate fat, weak and depressed. They lose the will to look after and nurture themselves, let alone be of the mindset that want to change the world.
It takes an exceptional talent to get through this system unscathed. More than anything it takes spunk, and we don't have courses in spunk in our educational institutions - or ambition, or success, or imagination, or wit ...
Our education system stifles creativity and innovation, doing its level best to herd everyone through the same maths I, maths II, physics and chemistry gate into fields of mediocrity. While no one ever became more intelligent by going to university a lot of students ended up dull and steady by the time they escaped. Three who come to mind who escaped before the rot set in were Gates, Ellison and Jobs, the holy trinity of computing.
Instead of focusing on the research efforts of a few people in universities, an essential aim of our education system(s) should be to let millions of flowers bloom at all levels. Too many children are turned out of schools without passion, not knowing what they want to do when they “grow up”. At 45 they still don't know what they want to do. How much innovation is stifled by an education system that does that?
Look around you and you'll see the effects of a lack of passion and spunk - a $150 billion welfare budget.
As for the researchers in our educational institutions, if they were doing a half decent job at innovating, the institutions would be wealthy beyond measure from the royalties flowing from their inventions.
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