This article, Part 2 of my ongoing The Problem with Education series, discusses why special “gifted student programs” makes education worse, not better, not only for the gifted student himself or herself, but also for all of his or her peers. No school should ever have a “gifted” program that separates and isolates students that are identified as having more potential from students believed to have less potential. All teachers, if they were educating their students properly and encouraging the development of their critical thinking skills and creativity, would realize that every single one of his or her students is gifted, and they would not create a false and artificial distinction between “gifted” and non-gifted students. Am I claiming that some students are not smarter and display more intellectual capacity than others? Of course not. However, I am stating that such students should not be separated from other students because the best learning environment one can offer is an environment of students with diverse learning capacities. Universities often spit out students that think in alarmingly similar terms inside of a very narrow framework instead of producing students with a diverse spectrum of opinions, thoughts, and ideas. I have no doubt that if we were able to completely overhaul our high schools, universities, colleges and graduate programs and ensure that they encouraged curiosity, creativity, critical and divergent thinking skills, ethics and real education, that every year, universities around the world would graduate 1,000 Steve Jobs, 1,000 Manoj Bhargavas, 1,000 Malala Yousafzais and 1,000 Herve Hoppenots. Even students that are funneled into the “gifted” track rarely invent inspirational products or services later in life that place them among the pantheon of innovative humans I just mentioned. Instead, traditional brick and mortar academic institutions fail miserably in their directive to educate and inspire us.
In many cases, the institutional academic institution stops innovation dead in its tracks at its most basic level, when innovation is just an idea, never granting an innovative idea the room to breathe and blossom as most teachers steer conversations towards universal consent instead of towards exploration of opposition views and non-traditional ideas that challenge the existing narrative. In most classrooms, dissent is crushed to formulate an accepted consensus among the masses, both consciously and also unwittingly. Unfortunately, innovation does not grow from consensus or an accepted methodology or narrative, but rather from radical, unproven ideas and from the ether of the unknown and the realm of the previously impossible. When new ideas and beliefs are ridiculed instead of being tested and explored, academic classrooms will wallow in stagnant waters that kill creativity and innovation. Far too often, I have observed people dismiss any idea that clashes with their own beliefs without giving any credence to the possibility that new ideas or information that challenges their present beliefs may be correct. And traditional academic education is largely responsible for this inflexible, privileged mindset in which we fail to ever challenge our current beliefs as possibly being erroneous.
As an illustration of this point, let’s briefly explore an article I wrote on a previous blog nine years ago that many academics, and especially university economic professors, ridiculed at the time I wrote it. Back in 2010, I predicted that economic conditions in America four years later would be not better than they were in 2010. As we are now five years beyond my prediction, we can now determine, with the benefit of hindsight, if I, or the university economic professors that universally ridiculed my non-traditional view of the economy, was correct. I will likely archive that old article on my new maalamalama blog so if you are interested in reading it, you can return here within the next few weeks and I should have archived that article by then on my new blogsite. In any event, back in May of 2010, US President Obama and dozens of American university economic professors stated that the US economic recovery was well on its way, and that the 2008 economic crisis was officially over. As proof, the President himself, along with career economists, referenced job creation numbers, housing start data, and the recovering US stock market as proof of the economic recovery and concluded that by the time current university Freshman graduated from university in a few more years, the job market would have completely recovered and graduating Seniors would have the best job opportunities in more than a decade in America.
In stark contrast to this delusional viewpoint, I analyzed the data that the President and economic professors were quoting to build their argument of a strongly recovering economy, found the “official” government data of key economic indicators to be highly suspect and greatly manipulated specifically to build a false narrative of a “recovering” economy, and therefore concluded the following in 2010:
“Since college students are already likely to end up living back at home with their parents after they graduate, as the job horizon will appear no better in four years than it is today (unless you believe the drivel of government officials and economists), why not spend that time immersed in self-education of how the financial and monetary systems really work? In the process, students will save their parents tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition and save themselves the fate of being a sheep led to the slaughter by banking shills like Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and Jeffrey Sachs. Furthermore, students will be much better prepared to face the ongoing global economic crisis from not only a financial perspective but also from an educational perspective [four years from now].”
I also gave a couple of public speeches about this topic in Asia in 2010 at prominent financial seminars, and I was again ridiculed for my non-consensus view of the global economy by the few economic professors in attendance. Though there were also many that supported my viewpoint, I want to emphasize that no career academics were among my supporters, and they were always the ones that offered the strongest opposition and were the quickest to insist that my viewpoints were foolish and wrong. Their blind acceptance of “official” US data that produced a consensus view that the US economy was getting much better, even halfway across the world in Asia, led to their vehement opposition of the points I made above, as their equally strong contention that a US economic recovery would lead to strong recovery in Asia as well. As I had already analyzed the “official” data, I informed them that the official data was highly manipulated to paint a picture that bankers and politicians wanted to sell the public, and I even offered to explain how much the real unemployment and GDP statistics differed from those reported in the media by Presidents, bankers and politicians.
Instead of being interested in my non-consensus view, these professors stated that my views were very dangerous, because to not believe “official” government-produced statistics was foolish. Furthermore, they told me that students in the audience might actually believe my opinion and elect to forgo university due to my “foolish” belief that the global economy was not recovering to the degree that official government reported statistics claimed. In their words, they were certain that “one of the best job markets in US history” would materialize in a few years that would also translate into one of the best job markets in SE Asian nations in that decade. These professors scolded me and told me that I would be responsible for ruining these student’s lives by encouraging them to forego school and discouraging their preparation for one of the best job markets in recent history. Since these professors clearly did not listen to my speech once I made a few statements with which they disagreed, I took the time to reiterate the advice I gave since they clearly did not bother to listen to it. I told them that my advice was never for the students to sleep all day, lie in bed and watch Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and House of Cards during all of their waking hours. I told them that my argument was that students should forego a traditional four-year university education for self-education pursuits, concentrating on learning information that would serve them and enable them to thrive in a continuing poor economy while also avoiding the burdensome debt of a university education. I guess these professors believed that they were the only ones capable of providing students with this type of real education, even though professors that teach at institutional business school programs generally teach almost nothing truthful about financial markets, currency markets, and banking constructs.
In 2015, five years after I wrote the above article and delivered my speeches that the global economy would be not better than it was in 2010, here were the facts. David Pasch of Generation Opportunity, a non-profit organization that promotes economic opportunity in America, stated,“If you look at the numbers starting in 2009, we’ve been in the longest sustained period of unemployment since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting their data following World War II. This misconception that [the millenial generation] doesn’t want jobs or that we’re lazy and entitled is nonsense.” Pasch stated that millennials in 2015 earned lower incomes, in terms of media income compared, versus people of the same age demographic from a decade prior. Furthermore, the reality of lower median incomes for the millennial demographic in 2015 versus 2005 is actually much more horrifying than reported by Pasch, because Pasch only compared the nominal amounts of median incomes and never even properly adjusted the 2015 median income for inflation to provide a valid comparison. Had he done so, the median 2015 income for millennials would have been significantly lower than the media 2005 income earned by millennials. Pasch continued: “We find that because of the difficulties facing millennials, they are delaying these important life decisions, like getting married, buying a home, starting a family.” A Newsweek magazine article reported the same job difficulties facing graduating students in America in 2015 as well. A Newsweek journalist interviewed a 25-year-old American woman, recently graduated with a master degree, that was waitressing and sharing an apartment with a friend in Washington, D.C. She told Newseek magazine “It’s hard. They don’t want to pay you extra for your master’s [degree]. There are enough people with master’s degrees that they can require them.”
In 2015, the staff at the Carnevale Center at Georgetown University in Washington DC stated that having a high school degree used to be enough to make it into the middle class, but that the bar was being set much higher. They stated that today’s generation was “the first generation that needs to have a college degree and experience to compete, before they even enter the workforce.” Back then, I highly disagreed with this statement and I continue to highly disagree with this statement today. The younger generation does not need a college degree to compete at all, even as global economies in 2019 are mired in recession with greater recession ahead. The younger generation does not need MORE institutional classroom education of low utility, but it is in dire need of the right education that provides skills that translate into real world competitive advantages to compete in the uber-competitive job market that existed back then and that still exists in 2019. But it is not just the younger generation that is in need of real knowledge to survive. The older generation also needs the right education to understand how to properly preserve and grow the wealth they’ve saved as we enter a period of time in 2019 in which the top 0.1% of wealthiest people in every nation are hoarding an increasingly greater and greater percentage of their entire nation’s wealth. The older generation needs the right knowledge to know how to compete in a system that is rigged against them from the very start.
Thankfully, one aspect of the global hiring process that has changed dramatically for the better in 2019, as compared to 2015, is the fact that many employers no longer require MBAs or even lower college and university degrees as a prerequisite to be hired into top positions within their companies. Many human resource departments of large global corporations have recognized that self-education and intellect trump academic achievement 100 times out of 100 times in predicting employment success of their hires. Consequently, increasingly more and more global companies now only require well-educated employees as a condition to be hired, regardless if applicants acquired their education through traditional or completely non-traditional means. For example, whether one believes the massive propaganda about a recovering global economy narrative, whether that narrative was told in 2010 or is told again in 2019 completely depends upon whether one blindly accepts “official” government economic data that is specifically designed to deceive us, or whether one is willing to challenge official narratives by studying the methodologies by which such data is derived, and then independently concluding if the data is valid or not (It is not).
Finally, if these professors truly believed that the only classroom that mattered in a person’s educational life was a brick and mortar classroom, then they should not be teaching. Tell William Kamkwamba, a kid that grew up in a small Malawi African village that was completely off the grid, who built 3 windmills by gathering adhesive from blue gum trees and foraging public dumps for PVC tubes, car and bicycle parts to complete his project that the only classroom that matters is a traditional one. For William Kamkwamba, the most important classroom was a virtual one that existed in his imagination. The three windmills young William built, despite having no formal institutional academic training, aptly illustrates how self-education pursuits can easily trump a traditional academic education in utility. By building three windmills, before William even became a teenager, he was able to improve the quality of life for everyone in his Malawi village by granting his villagers enough electricity to light homes, power radios and a TV, charge cellphones, and pump water for both residential and agricultural purposes. Like young William, by a wide margin, the greatest amount of my real learning and education occurred outside of, not inside, the brick and mortar classrooms of universities.
About the author: J. Kim is the Founder, Managing Director, and Chief Education Officer of skwealthacademy, the culmination of a ten-year long passion project consisting of a complete online academy of 20 courses that specifically address essential pillars of education absent in modern academic classrooms today such as reasoning and critical thinking development, how to apply knowledge in the real world, and the consideration of humanitarian, holistic perspectives about wealth and success. Among the elements critical to education, largely absent in academic classrooms, addressed by skwealthacademy, are the following: (1) critical thinking development and ethical responsibility in how corporate profits are pursued; (2) understanding of the differences between unsound fiat currencies and sound money, and how this misunderstanding contributes to the persistence of great suffering in the form of global poverty and hunger; and (3) the elevation of life purpose as a viable goal to grant meaning to life and to replace materialistic pursuits that create elevated levels of loneliness, anxiety and opioid dependence.
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