Why Education Is Not Innovative

My friend in grad school called me fuming. “Lauren,” she said. “I’m sick of this.” I could hear her pacing up and down the corridors of the library, her boots echoing, the faint buzz of school chatter pulsing in the background.

“Should I write my final paper on the bullshit that I know the professor wants and will get me an A, or should I write it on my idea that I believe in, that is different, but will probably get me a C.”

I leaned back in my chair. “Well.”

And I thought abut grad school which often isn’t a lofty quest for knowledge since most masters programs are cash cows for universities and a box to be checked by professionals clawing their way to the top. They're also a repository of  confused twenty-something year olds.

“Why are you in grad school, anyway?”

“To make my resume look more legit.”

“Are you trying to be a thought leader?”

“In my profession”

“In academia?”


“Then start a blog.”

I told her about my anthropology professor in college who got tenureship and stopped publishing, just blogging

“You’re right,” she said.

“Am I?” I questioned.

“I don’t have time to play their games anymore.”

And I understood her.

Because In many ways I have spent a good part of my post college years unlearning education.

You see, in your entire life up until you graduate from college you are taught that learning happens in a classroom. Your education is guided by a teacher, hopefully wise, who tells you what to read, what to write, what to produce, and how you will be judged.

In many ways, succeeding in school is paramount to succeeding in checking boxes, understanding what someone wants and then producing that exact thing.

Which is fine. You can still be smart there, within the boundaries. This system of clear expectations is relevant to entry-level jobs.

But it is entirely irrelevant to jobs that are now becoming increasingly valuable in our economy: thought based jobs, where you’re paid to be a big giant brain floating around your office, spewing brilliance and making a vision that has never been seen before come to life.

Perhaps that’s not the point of academia anyway - to be forward thinking. Academia is about observing, synthesizing, evaluating carefully what has happened  from a safe distance away. I can recall hours of my life in college spent cloistered away in a library writing papers about things that I would never experience.

I assume this is different from the sciences, but I don’t know. Does most innovation in the sciences happen in universities or in giant labs owned by corporations? Probably both - the corporations fund the universities. Tell me in the comments below, I would love to hear

Anyway, my point is this: it’s important to be different and brilliant, but it’s important to know where that needs to be and where it will count. And I’m starting to think that academia may not be the place.