Real World 101

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Is there anyone who is truly well-prepared to enter the real world?

Take the average American, middle-class, suburban person. They have both parents (or even one parent, whatever), a few siblings, a few hundred dollars from birthdays in their savings account, and let’s take a look at a brief synopsis of their life.

This person goes to public school. They go to a middle school that is just trying to prepare them for the “much-harsher” high school. They get through high school, with the goal of getting into the best college possible. They have this notion that their SAT scores are everything. They have to become an outstanding student, take AP and honors courses and get all A’s. They have to get into National Honor Society, join clubs, be President, and run the Prom committee. All because they have to improve their personal chances of getting into the best school.

So they graduate high school. They’ve gotten into colleges and they make their choice. They decide what will be best for them. They take into consideration what they want to major in, where they want to live, whether they will play sports. They weigh the merits of each school, the pros and cons. They make the best choice to further their education. And then their last days of summer are behind them and they’re walking the campus and taking 8 AM classes.

Now, they get good grades because it will help them get a job. They are trying to improve their personal rankings in the long line of graduates seeking the exact same jobs. Again, they join clubs, they learn skills, they discover their talents. They make themselves better people, because it’s all about them. It’s about them getting somewhere. It’s about how they will live the rest of their lives.

It’s all about them.

And then they get that job. Whatever that job may be, good or bad, high-paying or minimum wage. They get it. Congrats.

And then suddenly, it’s not all about them anymore. It’s about the company. It’s about keeping the boss happy. It’s about communicating what you’re doing in your daily tasks with the other people who are doing their own daily tasks, all in the attempt to make the company or organization or business better. It’s about anticipating what others will need before they have a chance to yell at you. If the company goes bankrupt, loses money, has to lay off workers, then you are losing money and/or out of a job.

It’s not about you. At all. 

So where did we go wrong? Or maybe the question should be, why?

Why are we told from the very beginning that it’s all about us, that we are individuals and we will succeed or fail alone, if in reality, it’s about the company and the group and the collective?

If you don’t turn your homework in, you fail the class. You get a bad grade. Your GPA drops. Your class rank falls. You fail. Your poor work ethic doesn’t hurt anyone but yourself. 

But if you don’t finish the project that you’re working on at your job, if you don’t close the deal, it is the company that pays the price. The sales drop, you lose a client, you lose money. The fault might be yours, but the consequences affect the group.

How did we come up with this backwards way of teaching children and educating the young workforce? What if we had told students that if one person was failing, none of them would get an A? Don’t you think everyone would do everything they could to help that kid get his homework done? Maybe that sounds too much like socialism. People don’t like socialism. People like to know that if they do a good job personally, that they will be rewarded.

Usually that’s the way it is in the workplace. People who excel at their jobs get promoted. But you can’t excel at your job if you’re not looking at the bigger picture. If you don’t see the work that everyone else is doing and if you can’t align your needs with the needs of the organization as a whole, then your disconnected way of thinking will never get you anywhere.

Somewhere along the line, someone came up with this “me, me, me” attitude towards teaching in schools. But then kids get to their jobs in the real world and they aren’t prepared. They aren’t prepared to write someone else’s to-do lists and manage their boss’s schedules and book flights for their co-workers and file paperwork that doesn’t belong to them. It’s this whole new way of thinking. When all you have to do is worry about your own life and your own schedule, life is easy. But put the needs of ten or twenty or a hundred other people onto your to-do list and suddenly your public school, college education just went out the window, because you’ve never had to do that before and no one prepared you.

Real life isn’t sitting in class, taking notes and passing a test. So why do colleges think they are preparing us for our careers?

 

 

(photo via)

Pray for Innocence

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I’ve never seen a gun up close. I’ve never seen one fired. I don’t personally know anyone with a mental illness, but I’ve had classes with some. In high school, two girls got in a fight and one was pushed against a locker—that’s the most violence I’ve seen in school. My classmates and I went through the motions of fire drills and nuclear bomb drills like they were games—a chance to drop the textbooks and chat with friends. I don’t have any close friends who have died and I’ve never seen someone killed right in front of me, the light fading from their eyes. In these respects, I’m as innocent as the children at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. As innocent as they were.

I was working all day on Friday. The words “twenty kids shot at an elementary school” reached my ears at some point, but a Friday at a restaurant is a busy day. I didn’t have time to slow down and check my phone. On Saturday, my family drove to Ohio in the morning to visit family. We went to church, where, during the homily, the priest asked and answered the question, “what do we do?” with respect to the shooting. “We pray,” he said. I didn’t get any full information until Saturday night. And when the names of twenty first-graders and six adults were shown on the television screen, my family wept.

No child goes to first grade with any thought that this tragedy could happen. No parent sends their child to school, thinking a shooter might come into the building. We believe schools are a safe environment, a haven with friends and mentors, full of knowledge and promise. I loved school as a child. I loved my teachers and textbooks and the feel of a newly sharpened pencil on a clean sheet of paper. I loved reading, writing, and learning. What will these children love now?

The biggest shock to the nation is that these victims were children and teachers. Twenty young lives, who haven’t even seen the world or know what amazing things are yet to come, were sitting at their desks eagerly soaking up knowledge. Six adults, trying to mold young minds and teach children to be the best they can be, put themselves in front of their kids, trying to protect them. The questions going through everyone’s minds: Who does this? Who shoots innocent children in school?

Like the shooting in the Colorado movie theater, this tragedy brings up so many questions and issues. People take sides, they fight for their beliefs, they write articles, letters, and blog posts. We desperately search for the reason why this happened, in our effort to find a better way to stop it. Is gun control the issue, or is it school safety? One mother of a mentally ill teenager writes that we must examine mental health and the care that is available for people who have special needs. But perfectly sane people can still buy a gun and shoot someone. If it’s a combination of all of these things, can we ever truly solve this problem?

Once again, the nation grieves for a community that has been torn apart by violence. We light candles, hold vigils and send teddy bears. We can’t unwind the time that has passed, or bring the children we love back, but we can send our thoughts and our hearts to those who are grieving. And we can pray. We can pray for the families of the victims and the shooter, and we can pray for action.

I hope there are more children like me, who stay innocent for as long as possible. I hope there are children who don’t know violence, who have never seen a gun, who feel that their  school is a safe haven. I hope children take their emergency drills seriously, but never have to put them into action. I hope children who need special help, get it, and I hope this never, ever happens again.

I pray for innocence.

(photo via)