Wow. I received this email today:
When I found your blog, it was like a flip switched in my head. I’ve been reasonably successful in my adult life:
1) as a software developer
2) as a musician
3) as a semi-professional line-cook
4) as a moonlighting guitar tech
But there was virtually nothing I learned in school that prepared me for any of these pursuits. Everything I know about these things, I learned on my own time.
In fact, I came out of college convinced I was permanently damaged—that I was incapable of working hard, that the only reason I could pass classes is because I was good at cramming the night before, and that the most important life skill is the art of bullshitting. I drank the kool-aid: good kids get into college right after high school, ace their classes, get degrees, and enter the job market prepared.
That I hated every second of it seemed my more my fault than anything else. I was just lazy and “wasn’t living up to my full potential.” On some level, I knew spending hours on a paper that might get 30 seconds of a TA’s attention before hitting the trash can was fundamentally wrong. But, that’s just life, right? You have to pay your dues, and your parents are shelling out good money for this, so it must be important.
Well, almost five years later, I think I’m starting to get it figured out. Ultimately, I dropped out of school, bummed around as a line cook for a while, worked my way up to a developer gig at Microsoft only to quit when I realized I hated it—all of this horrified my parents. But I learned more in those years in the private sector than all my schooling combined. I finally found my dream job (working as a developer for a Seattle startup), and I owe it entirely to my real world experience. That I make more than my parents now certainly helps my case. I only wish I had a chance for some “real-world” experience at some point during my decade and a half as a student.
Ok, so: one more victim of institutionalized education.
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