Revolutionizing Education: Time to tell Obama what to do by Roland Michel Tremblay

By Roland Michel Tremblay
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
The Marginal
December 8, 2008

Barack Obama has mentioned many times he wanted to radically implement change. He boasted in his book about listening to the population at large (mostly old war widows, from what I gathered), understanding them, with a desire to change everything. Even after the elections Obama still sends e-mails asking us ideas about how to change the country (besides asking for more money, of which we have none, so stop asking!). Well, let’s start with identifying the real root of society as we know it: education. You know me by now, you can trust me for providing the most extreme ideas.

There is a real problem in this world concerning education. I will try to resume it in a few sentences. If you have no education, you will quickly find a job and perhaps even excel at it. You will immediately ensure your survival, but you will never dream of owning a house, lucky you if you even get to buy a used car plagued with problems.

If you have a lot of education, you face the exact same situation. You can’t find a job in the field you studied. Of course, thousands every year graduate with the same diploma. I hope your dad can plug you somewhere, otherwise, well, it will be difficult to even get the same job someone without an education is going for, as those are the only jobs available. One has to survive.

You will have to lie on your résumé, claim that you are in fact brainless and never achieved anything in life. You’ll be blessed if they let you wipe tables. This state of affair is very prevalent with new lawyers, most of them are taxi drivers (if they’re fortunate, and learnt to lie early on, on the way to their great career).

There was a time, before public education, when a degree meant something, and achieving it would guarantee you a great position: the three houses, the five cars, the garages, the lot. But when everyone is now an engineer, a lawyer and a doctor, well, there is no need for more, there is no need for you and your great education. It becomes meaningless, and certainly will not ensure your survival. Go back to live with mommy and daddy, they will know what to do with you, for a few months, before they can no longer stand it and kick you out for good, stating: “never ask for money ever again!”

And if you try to claim those same benefits reserved for brainless and uneducated people, even the government will feign surprise and ignorance: “I don’t understand, you have a PhD, and you cannot find a job? What is wrong with you! Are you sure you are not just a loser, and do not deserve any kind of help? Perhaps there is one good solution for you, why don’t you just declare yourself a failure and commit suicide?” That’s the answer I got, a miracle I did not follow it through.

Oh yes, higher education brings you there, the thought of suicide. When facing such an incomprehensible world, that has lost touch with reality. That a degree not only will not get you a job in the field you have studied, but on top of it, it will make sure you can’t even get a job as a street cleaner. I know.

You would then be in your right to wonder why you spent 25 years of your life, if not 30, to study. And wonder how you will ever repay this astronomical debt you contracted to achieve this degree. It is clear you will never work in that field, you will never get the salary they promised you. And hence, before you even begin your life, at 30, you can only feel despair.

Of course we are all intelligent here, we are all intellectuals, we are all educated. We can easily debate Capote, Hemmingway and Nietzsche. But don’t you see? This is not wanted in this market. Not only it is not required, it is despised, as the workforce can truly recognize the truth: education has become futile, you are useless, even most probably unwanted. Know about Kant and Descartes? Good! And now get lost! And then your only solution is to read Machiavelli, and finally understand the full extent of its true meaning.

If I had been responsible for implementing a system of education initially, I don’t think I would have come up with the system most Western countries have at the moment. I also understand that now it may be too late, it would need to be changed globally. Because if one country changes its system, none of its citizens will ever be able to work abroad, their skills would simply not be recognized. However, let’s identify the problems with education, and perhaps without a radical change or revolution, a few things could be adapted and developed along the way.

It is obvious education does not work. It is the biggest waste of resources, energy, time and money anyone could ever witness. I’ve said it before, I’ll repeat it now: how dare we have a huge portion of the population wasting up to 25 years in schools, colleges and universities, if not 35, doing nothing productive for society except learning things most of them don’t even care about or wish to learn, that nobody in the active world gives a damn about, when statistically a huge portion of these people will not even live to be 50 years old?

It is a huge waste! Have we gone mad? Is it not time to re-adjust this whole system of education? Perhaps we don’t even need such a thing at all! Certainly not to the extreme we brought it to.

Learn on the job is truly all that is required. After all, your boss is always the mindless one who had no intelligence whatsoever, no education whatsoever, but ended up at the top because he was incapable of finding a better job somewhere else. And hence, he spent 25 years working for those fools, and was eventually somehow promoted, again and again.

After all, that secretary who is nothing, knows more about your case, and will help you more, than the professional who does not have the time, nor the will, to care about you, no matter how much money you spend for those out of reach services. Oh! Always trust the one without the degree willing to help you. He or she is the one who will save your meaningless existence, certainly not the expert who never has time for anything, let alone for you.

And now, see what truly happens at the end of it. It turned out that the whole goal of studying had nothing to do with teaching something. It was all about testing you, comparing you with the moron sitting next to you, eliminating you. If you turn out to be better equipped in memorizing all that crap, or simply if you had more time than that moron to do so, then you will do better in your exams. And depending on that, you may go higher, and end up in the best institutions. Though, in retrospect, maybe you did not truly deserve it. Most likely you are that moron.

I was so obsessed with studies, the day I abandoned sciences in college, I thought my life had come to an end. It certainly felt like it in my family, they all had a heart attack. I studied natural sciences instead, and then went on to study law at university. Everyone was happy again, but I was about to commit suicide. I was doing nothing I really wanted to do, I was studying the last thing I would ever have picked.

When I dropped out of law and switched to philosophy and literature, I didn’t tell my family. When they found out, they all said my life had been wasted, that I might as well be dead. Perhaps they were right after all, my Master Degree in Literature certainly never brought me any money. At least I studied what I wanted. Unfortunately it didn’t bring me a job. And so now I am as depressed as ever.

This is how obsessed society is now with studies. We all need to push our children to the brink of insanity into those universities for years and years and years, and hope that at the end of it they will get the diploma that will insure them a big income. We don’t care about what those children truly want to do, what they like, what they might enjoy doing for the rest of their life. We don’t even care if they will have a job at the end of it all, as it is now clear that they won’t.

The result is horrendous. The ones who succeed never wanted to succeed in these fields in the first place, they were bored to death and now they will be unhappy in their new cushy jobs for years to come. The ones who failed, that’s even worse, they are contemplating suicide, how a wonderful concept it all is. Better be useless in death, than go through being useless through life. You can quote me on that.

The big competition game gets to you, your parents and your teachers make sure of it, even employers and other universities, and even your friends. You need to win, you need to get to the top, and if you fail, you fail big time, no one wants to know you anymore. It is soul destroying, it leads to depression, sickness, sadness, a sense of absolute hopelessness.

So who wins in all of this? Who finally gets the job he or she always dreamt of? No one. Nothing in the education system will truly assess what you truly want to do, and expedite you on your way to become it. On the contrary, everything works against you. And it does not even give you a job at the end of it!

I think we should prevent anyone from wasting half of their existence learning something, whatever it is, on a bench in a class anywhere. I don’t believe this is the way to go. I think we should spend much more time finding out what these children want to do with their life. Then, I feel they should learn on the job, more training than anything else, less boring classes.

For example, I wanted to be a writer. Has anyone, at any time, stopped me to assess this desire, and helped me get there? No, on the contrary, I only met obstacles. After I finally destroyed all the obstacles along the way, alienating my whole family in the process, disappointing all my teachers, virtually committing social suicide by studying literature and philosophy, I was once again met by a brick wall. It turned out that you do not learn to become a writer or a philosopher when you study literature and philosophy, you just learn about a few authors and what they wrote about. Big deal!

No one helped me or did anything to point me into any direction where I could learn to write and live out of my writings. I guess I could have done more research, find out other schools or something, but by then it was already too late. I could not now abandon that degree in pursuit of this. The system had failed completely, and would ensure I would never become a writer. And to this day, I am still just but nothing.

And then I turn around, turn on the TV, and hear all these actors or actresses, or successful musicians in bands, and in three seconds flat they say: “I can’t believe I am being paid so much to do what I actually enjoy doing. I don’t think I could be doing anything else, I would be useless at anything else.” And that’s it, this is so illuminating! I only want to do what I enjoy doing, nothing else matters. If I don’t do what I enjoy doing, then I may as well be dead. I don’t even need to be paid millions for it, as long as I can ensure my survival, I will be happy, at the very least.

It could have been worse, I could have thought that my long life ambition was to have the simplest life there is, picking up garbage for a living. Funny, I often think that this is my destiny, and that all would be so simple and easy, if everyday, all I had to do, was to pick up your garbage. As ironic as it may sound, I have considered it, and may still consider it. How low does one needs to go in order to find happiness and to free himself or herself from all this crap of education and responsibility you can’t never truly achieve?

And what fries me the most, after spending 25 years in schools, colleges, universities, in no less than three different countries, I still know nothing! I am still an ignorant bastard! I barely read 100 books in my entire life. I know a few authors, I remember vaguely what they wrote about, but that’s it! That was however enough for me to sustain any conversation about French literature, whether I was in Ottawa, in New York, in Paris or in London. Because internationally we all studied the same few authors, the same few books, and nothing else.

In the end, I understand, no one who studied anything knows anything about anything, except the main lines of it, a few classic authors and movements, and yeah, they may remember a few books they read. I bet they all know about Samuel Beckett and his “Waiting for Godot”. If I hear one more student in literature mentioning to me Samuel Beckett, I will scream so hard, the whole world will hear me. That book was shit, just like the author who wrote it. And that’s the end of it. That book certainly does not deserve to be studied worldwide. Who decided this? Why is every single student in French Literature worldwide will eventually get to read and study this book? It’s crap! I’m sure anyone in any field of study, economics for example, could easily identify that author and that book who are the classics which need to be eradicated from the curriculum.

Like Dangerous Liaisons of Choderlos de Laclos? At least that book was great, I did my thesis on it, but you won’t read that thesis any time soon, it is the worst thing I have ever written in my entire life. That was my big contribution to the world, after 25 years of hard study. A miserable fifty pages that never got out of some drawer somewhere, and that I am too ashamed to show the world. I wrote the damn thing in one night, to get the diploma, and that was it. But just wait for my PhD thesis on Agatha Christie, that will be something! And I suspect it is the same for everyone else. Complete waste of time and money.

So, in résumé, the problem about education is that we are spending too much resource on it, too many young people waste way too long learning useless things they will never need and don’t even want to learn. In the end, not many people will end up leading happy lives, because not many people will be doing what they truly want to do. No job is guaranteed at the end of it.

The system of competition has become overwhelming, cause too much pressure, for little results other than comparing and eliminating students, when perhaps there is not so much a need to compare them to that extreme over the idea that they should learn something productive to society, whilst actually enjoying the process.

What sort of society can afford to have half its population studying things for 25 years if not 30, doing nothing productive for us all, whilst the other half is basically either retired or about to retire if not dying? So, who’s doing all the work then?

Silly me, all the vegetables of the world are being produced in some weird country by a handful of slaves, and many machines. And our electronic equipment is being built by children in Singapore, and our clothes by babies in China. They’re so good at it! Does my bum look huge in this? Yes, enormous! Those babies know nothing about fashion!

I understand now how we can afford to spend our lifetime studying, we have our slaves working for us in the Third World. This should give us enough time to think then, think about how to make this place livable. However, there does not seem to be much time for that in between 20 exams and 20 essays. And once you start to work, they not only want your life, they also claim your soul. 60 hours a week, against all laws, is what you can expect. And so, thinking? Maybe these things are better left to the slaves of the revolution. Our salvation will come from elsewhere, the revolution of the working babies of China perhaps, one day.

Have I mentioned somewhere that education should be free and accessible to everyone? No? Oh dear, I’m losing perspective. I guess I did not see the point of that, if we could not first guarantee a job to everyone at the end of it all, you see?

Many countries offer great education for free, it might explain why our market is flooded and saturated with foreigners from all those weird countries. More competition we could never hope to overcome. How we have become totally useless, us, the very sons and daughters of our nation.

Might have something to do with the fact that any foreigner pay so much more money to study here than our sons and daughters, and as such, only they, are guaranteed entry in our great educational system.

God only knows where they get the money from, their entire family it seems, knowing full well the future of this entire family will depend on the success on that son or daughter in a foreign country. Our parents? No way would they finance our education, whilst the government still somehow believe they have a duty to do so.

Those foreign students, you meet them in university libraries. They have gone half mad, cleaning the inside of their nose with their two hands, in front of everyone, without realizing they are doing something astonishing. So much depends on their success, you see, they don’t care anymore about the quirkiness of upper society.

Ah! Foreigners! No manner whatsoever. We should create a special education for them, to teach them our ways. I bet it would be a failure, whilst they only think and succeed in taking advantage of our policies.

As long as you pay the price, you can take the place of our sons and daughters. This university will survive, no matter the cost, since the government will not help, since society does not value education. And why should it? In the state it is in, we all agree that at any rate, education is totally useless.

I invite you to study the French educational system. At first it seems crazy, irrational, unthinkable. It does not end with education, it is all interlinked with the productive world. The government will not only ensure you will get a free education, it will also ensure you will get a job in your field at the end of it. The government will find you a job, and until it does so, it pays you the salary you would expect from that job! And somehow it works. Study it carefully, it might be the solution we are all seeking, even if none of it makes any sense. A sure sign it might be the solution, we certainly require a radical change.

We need to reassess our priorities. We need to take every child aside and make sure we know what they like to do, and give them the chance to do it, get experience first hand in training in the real world. Or at least get the right school, college or university where they can really learn what they want. We need to terminate this obsession with producing more and more doctors, lawyers and engineers. It leads to too many unhappy lives and probably many suicides.

Right now I would like to study some more, yeah, you heard me, as if 30 years was not enough. I want to study theoretical physics, because it is my passion. I don’t have the money, I need to work. I abandoned the idea after I registered and actually started at the University of London.

I now want to study to become a teacher of literature, apparently in Britain there is a huge shortage. My Master Degree is insufficient, even though it is from England. I need to study another two years, they would even give me 6000 pounds every year to study it, but that’s not enough, and so, I won’t become a teacher, neither a theoretical physicist. I won’t be revolutionizing Einstein by destroying him any time soon. We all know by now he is completely wrong and that he was never a genius. It remains for someone to prove it. Your daughter maybe? Fat chance.

And oh yeah, my dream of being an author, I still have it. Could I study some more to become a writer, a journalist perhaps? Where do I start? Where do I find the money? How could I sustain myself? And thank god I have no children, then, there really would not be any hope. No help there either.

You have failed with me, miserably, just like you fail most of us. Get back to the drawing board and redesign a new educational system that will show more promise, one that would at least give us some hope for a better future! Or at least, some sort of future. Should all be done and planned in parallel of work, of a job, a career, right from the start.

A future connected with the real world, some productivity to help us all survive. Let’s see… what are again those most basic needs, or did you have time to forget? Food (including water), shelter, and clothing. Oh… no jobs on the market at the moment are even remotely connected with any of those most basic needs. I think I just identified our main problem with education.

Before long, we will suddenly understand it all. A simple prediction of the future, we will forget the wonderful world of marketing and sales, we will get back to basics, out of necessity. I so wish it was not true, whilst we continue to hope and never achieve this wonderful American Dream. After all, we have been disillusioned for so long, could it not continue until at the very least we all die?

Just as I said, my life long ambition now, for the simplest existence without any kind of worry, has always been to pick up your garbage. So simple a life, after all, it could have been and still could be, as this does not require any education, and would have spared me so much of your exasperating and nightmarish educational system.

As long as I can ensure my survival, I don’t care what I do. I have just applied to become a street cleaner in Central London. This is actually true. Above all, my freedom! At the very least I would be outside, breathing without any line manager sitting on my lap, bullying and harassing me, instead of suffocating in an office at the bottom of the hierarchy.

I lied on my 98 pages application form, I stated I had no education whatsoever. Oh dear! I just hope and pray to God that I will get the job, before it disappears, and I’m just hoping that I will not be prosecuted for so blatantly lying on my CV! Who’s to prove I studied at all? My references? I provided none.

Have I mentioned that we are losing our mortgage, our apartment? So much education, so much intelligence, so much success overcoming so much competition, I thought that we were worth it. We are losing everything, we were worth nothing after all.

And it kills me to see that those mindless morons of my childhood, who have no education whatsoever, not only have such a great three floor house made of white bricks, but the economic depression does not seem to affect them at all. They are happy, thriving on our misery, whilst we are dying.

Is it possible that too much education kills? That perhaps even, education guarantees your misery? Could those morons somehow succeeded in achieving the easy and successful life I was promised but never got?

I am getting desperate to survive and escape, struggling to even eat, banging my head on the walls wondering where I went wrong. Just like the rest of us all.


“Without irony, this life would hardly be worth living.” RM

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