The Bad Habits You Learn In School

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Since it's that time of the year again with kids going back to school, this seemed like a relevant article to throw up here for you to consider. Structure is one of the hallmarks of the education system. It is hierarchical. It has to be, in a sense, because most kids simply don't want to be there during middle and high school. Hierarchy keeps the order, so to speak. Even more interesting is ranking by senior or junior and the place that provides you in the system itself.

Consider first the emphasis schools have on authority. Schools are hierarchical: The teacher is the authority in the classroom. Principals or deans preside over teachers and professors. Seniors "rank" higher than juniors, and so on. In our years in the educational system, many of us become obsessed with hierarchy. We think we're leaders if we're the "boss," and if we're not the boss, we should simply do as we're told. In reality, even the most senior people in organizations can't rely solely on hierarchy, particularly given the much needed talents, experiences, and intelligence of the others who surround them. Leadership is an activity, not a position.

More interesting, is the way information and answers are handled. It's interesting how traditionally problems are straightforward and abridged to provide a certain answer. Sadly, the world isn't like this. We are somewhat conditioned through schooling to expect that great portfolio model to come out to a certain correct conclusion when many times there is one, empirically correct answer.

Finally, the last 'habit' you can fall into through schooling.

Finally, while many schools tell us to serve others, they are rarely structured to actively show us that leadership is serving others. In most educational environments, our primary goal is to serve ourselves -- to improve our individual grades, to compete for individual positions, and to maximize our own employment, college, or grad school placements.

What do you guys think of this last point? Is HBS onto something here in that it is a 'bad habit' to be self serving in maximizing ourselves in the educational environment?

I'm not convinced of that last part at all, personally, but I did think it was an interesting take on leadership and moreover the goals of leaders coming out of educational institutions.

Comments (6)

Sep 6, 2012

That's all great...except as a new graduate learn to follow. Speak when you have a great point and not just to be a part of the action, and learn which hills to die on with your fresh new ideas, and which ones not to.

Maybe I'm just a cynic.

Sep 6, 2012

Interesting post. I'm surprised this was posted on WSO though, as I think IB is much more heirarchical than schools.

As to the last point about school teaching you to be self-serving instead of leaderly - I think this is very true, but I also think extra-curriculars (sports, etc) do a good job at teaching you how to work on a team and understand servant leadership

Sep 7, 2012

Wait--you mean school isn't like real life?

Metal. Music. Life.

Sep 7, 2012

this is SOOOOO boring

How big is yours?

    • 2
Sep 8, 2012

Remind me of Adam Smith's "greed is good." Yes, being self-serving is good, but obviously there can be unintended effects.

Totally up for debate.

Sounds like more of a philosophical discussion...

Sep 8, 2012

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