Trained Complacency

It's no secret that the education system was initially put in place to produce more equal, compliant factory workers.

But the days of the United States as a manufacturing giant being propelled by the boom of an Industrial Revolution are long behind us.

On a day to day basis, students all across the United States are trained to sit down, stand in line, and shut up.

But, in today's changing economy and changing world, those who make a difference are those who stand up, step out of line, and speak out for something they believe in.

So, when I received a letter in high school about joining an organization whose key tenets include characteristics like "leadership" and "initiative", I was excited at what seemed like progress.

Upon closer analysis, however, I was incredibly disillusioned at what I found.

You see, what the education system considers "leadership" and "taking initiative" couldn't be further from what real leadership and true initiative actually are.

The education system tells us that "initiative" and "leadership" are primarily menial tasks like carrying out the orders of a teacher or satisfying the demands of a helicopter parent.

And, while I'm certainly not saying that these tasks can't be good or helpful, they certainly don't qualify as examples of leadership or taking initiative.

Leadership in the real world is not waiting to be told what to do.

Leadership in the real world is not asking for permission to make a difference.

If you WAIT for PERMISSION to lead, that isn't being a leader.

If you have to be TOLD to take initiative, that isn't taking initiative.

Leadership and initiative imply doing things to make the world a better place without actually being told to do so.

But that's not what the education system says.

In the Information Age, virtually everyone has the ability and the resources required to learn a new skill, put that skill into action, and make a significant impact in the lives of others.

But that's not what the education system promotes.

You see, attached to the letter I received was an application - an application with "requirements."

These requirements included appointed "leadership" positions and a certain number of hours of "community service."

The problem is, if you have to be "appointed" to lead, that's not leadership. And if your community service consists of logging the hours to get your name printed on a fancy piece of paper or to get into some sort of fancy club or because "mommy and daddy made me!", that's not true charity.

But, when I anonymously send flowers to a person who had a horrific accident cheerleading, or I donate to a friend's crowdfunding campaign to launch a balloon into space because I want to support my school's physics club, or when I overhear a classmate express how upset she is that the iPhone she had worked all summer to be able to afford was stolen from the music room, so I send her an iTunes gift card and (in her words) "restore her faith in humanity"?

According to the education system, as defined by this application? That's not "service."

When I spend months crafting a message, put aside my fear, and step up on a stage in front of hundreds of people with the goal of inspiring at least one single person to recognize their ability to make the world a better place?

According to the education system? That's not "leadership."

And when I sacrifice time with my family every day, when I'm hard at work and instead of playing video games or hanging out with friends, I sit in front of my computer and try to help people from every corner of the globe create better lives for themselves through internet entrepreneurship?

According to the education system? That's not "character."

I've yet to submit my application in response to that letter.

I think I'm going to submit this instead.

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