Do schools stop you from actually learning?

Thanks to the generosity of my company's founder, I am able to work full-time while still being allowed to go out of the office during the day to take classes and try to get a second degree (Government). Lately, I've been noticing that most of my REAL learning comes from me just reading books on my own at night after work, and looking through posts on WSO. Most of the work I have to do for my classes doesn't really help me since I already know the information reading for fun. They take up a ton of time, adding to my already long hours.

Did you guys actually learn anything from school, or it is just something you just have to do?

Comments (73)

Mar 29, 2019

I think school helps you learn to think but only a fraction of what I learn is interesting to me.

Apr 3, 2019

I couldn't disagree w/ this more. The emphasis at most schools is on learning "what" rather than "why" or "how." When you learn "what" all you know is the "what" and nothing else is discoverable. When you learn "how" and "why" (which are significantly more interesting questions) you are capable of discovering the "what" independently.

The vast majority of college courses are predicated on memorizing useless facts/terms and/or writing bullshit papers that are congruent w/ the biases of your professors. If you're lucky, you'll take a 3-4 courses that are profoundly useful, but the majority is a terrible waste of time. Before I went to college, I thought that higher education was the most poorly constructed of the Western World's institutions. Now that I've actually gone to college, I'm certain of it.

I come from down in the Valley, where Mr. when you're young, they bring you up to do like your daddy done.

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Mar 29, 2019

I definitely have learned far more from "life" - work, reading, experiencing things, etc. - than I have at school, but school doesn't stop you from learning.

Mar 29, 2019

I'll bet you can learn more from 30 minutes on YouTube about investing than you can in an entire Portfolio Management class at college

Have you ever thought of investing in real estate?

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Apr 1, 2019
The King of Success:

I'll bet you can learn more from 30 minutes on YouTube about investing than you can in an entire Portfolio Management class at college

I'm sure Aswath Damodaran agrees with you.

Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Mar 29, 2019

In my experience, school is mainly for teaching one how to successfully manage their life before going into the "real world". Things like stress management, time management, and learning how to prioritize responsibilities accordingly. Honestly, the best thing school teaches you is the best and most efficient way to accomplish the tasks you have to accomplish - sometimes that means finding a way to do tedious tasks outside of the "rules" just as long as you don't get caught.

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Mar 30, 2019

If you chose a school specifically for the course and the teachers, yes you do learn a great deal. However, that's a super specific chain of events that leads to learning, so most of the time, it is just something I have to do...

Mar 30, 2019

for me, school was garbage
but so was i

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

https://arthuxtable.com/

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Apr 4, 2019

^This. The vast majority of 18 year olds haven't a clue what they want to be when they grow up. Hell, most of the 30 year olds I know are still figuring it out.

Apr 4, 2019

Exactly! As I was graduating high school we were all just expected to go to college right away. Yes, there were the few who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives but the majority of we millennials were going because we were expected to. My mom just told me to register as a liberal arts major until I figured it out. What a waste of time and money! haha.

Apr 8, 2019
GoldenCinderblock:

for me, school was garbage
but so was i

To this point, college would be a lot more useful for people 30+.

Apr 9, 2019

I don't think so. You should have a full life and a lot of responsibility by 30. Learn on your own time at your own pace. Sitting in a classroom is for losers.

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

https://arthuxtable.com/

Mar 30, 2019

Part of the benefit of school (and liberal arts) is that it forces you to learn things you don't like - one of the reasons self-teaching can't replace college is because when you self-teach yourself, you only teach yourself what you find interesting, and ignore things that aren't interesting but could potentially change your way of thinking.

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Apr 4, 2019

That's a good point. I guess one would have to be open to learning new things (even if they found it boring). Self-teaching could still replace college BUT you're right, you would need to make yourself aware of less attractive subjects and decide to learn things with potential benefit (even if the subject matter didn't interest you).

Most Helpful
Mar 30, 2019

Higher education is designed for 2 things: credentials and social connections

College is NOT about training for the real world, teaching significant modes of thinking, examining timeless truths, or even improving skill sets. College is simply a social club.

Knowledge and learning is on your own. It must be learned, either through experience or reading, but not taught.

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Apr 1, 2019

I so agree with that.
I am in my thirties and I've become aware that freshly out of college I basically still had "everything to learn", unlike what I thought (or had been told) at that time.
My parents basically thought that my degree was 90% I needed to build a career on and that i would be "milking the cow" during 40 years until pension.
They could not have been more wrong. Learning is an essential skill to own or develop during a career and I wish I had realized this earlier. I now take continuous learning as a cornerstone of my development and I approach it in a very structured and diligent way.

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Apr 3, 2019

School is just a systematized way of cramming information into your brain. If you do not have the will power to learn, then school is definitely better than nothing. However, if you do have enough willpower, it is probably better for you to learn things on your own. However, one thing a system is good as is filling holes. You will be many more people with knowledge gaps if they self learn

Apr 4, 2019

Agreed. I met some of my best friends in college and even though I don't even live near any of them we plan annual trips together and have a blast each time. Some of my friends are spread out across the world so I have a reason to travel to some really exotic places. Regardless of tuition (the U.S. education system is still way too expensive), it was definitely worth it. However, if you want to learn, try mental models. https://fs.blog/mental-models/

Apr 4, 2019

True. But don't forget the third thing - Putting young people in debt. haha. (just kidding?)

Mar 30, 2019

With a few exceptions, college is complete and utter horseshit. The educational-industrial complex is one of the biggest policy failures in America right now.

As OP and others have said, you learn from reading and experience (and increasingly from targeted videos and classes). College is a social club for credentialing. The call for free college by some is exactly backwards--college should not be accessible to the masses. College should be financially rewarding for a narrow set of career paths (doctors, lawyers, nurses, computer engineers, etc.), in addition to accessible to the wealthy for other studies that have no financial return.

Mar 30, 2019

Seriously, what the hell are all the political science and liberal arts majors doing after college? After escaping the echobox that is this forum and realizing STEM + Finance are very small fractions of majors in college, I wonder what the rest go on to do lol

Mar 31, 2019
Pump and Dump:

Seriously, what the hell are all the political science and liberal arts majors doing after college? After escaping the echobox that is this forum and realizing STEM + Finance are very small fractions of majors in college, I wonder what the rest go on to do lol

Nearly half of people who start college don't graduate from college, which is the critical economic failure that is rarely spoken to. College dropouts incur debt and miss out on valuable years of work experience.

The liberal arts are great if you attend a prestigious university and have a career plan. A history major at Columbia is not the same as one at Frostburg State. The problem is, there are far too many kids getting pointless liberal arts degrees at average or below average universities because they are told they have to get a college degree.

Mar 31, 2019

political science majors go on to study law. In my case, I'm already experienced in Finance and Real Estate but I'm not American so it is best for me to learn about the country by doing Poli Sci.

Cash and cash equivalents: $138,311
Financial instruments and other inventory positions owned: $448,166

Apr 3, 2019

Either doing well on their LSATs and going to law school or wondering how/where it all went so wrong.

I come from down in the Valley, where Mr. when you're young, they bring you up to do like your daddy done.

Apr 9, 2019

They go on to realize that their degree is worthless because non-STEM degrees are the last thing you should *ever *load up on debt for. If you're some kid with rich parents and they can afford to send you to school for some meaningless degree without a hard financial return, then yeah, go for it, but if anyone is taking on debt for a worthless degree it's...not a good idea.

Mar 30, 2019

School teaches you stuff outside of class, like developing social skills, being likeable, forming relationships, etc. Wish I knocked that into myself early on lol. I don't get people who say "college is useless" it serves many benefits outside of taking tests and attending lectures.

Mar 31, 2019
Pump and Dump:

School teaches you stuff outside of class, like developing social skills, being likeable, forming relationships, etc. Wish I knocked that into myself early on lol. I don't get people who say "college is useless" it serves many benefits outside of taking tests and attending lectures.

This is such a narrow-minded take. You can develop social skills in countless other places that aren't college, and you don't have to go deeply into debt to do it.

Apr 1, 2019

Socialization can also be a bad thing if it leads to herd-like behaviours with no convictions

Apr 3, 2019

I won't say that that's not true; however, I will say that $250k is entirely too much pay to develop social skills/be likable. How to Win Friends & Influence is ~$10 and there are several dozen ppl from my neighborhood who will be your BFF for $10k.

I come from down in the Valley, where Mr. when you're young, they bring you up to do like your daddy done.

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Apr 5, 2019

so true. I would also add that social skills are acquired by spending time in groups of people. You will get as much of this by enrolling in a sports club or founding a rock band that drinking booze with B-School students on Friday night, also for a fraction of the price.

Apr 9, 2019

Not sure where you're getting "$250k" from.

Apr 10, 2019
Pump and Dump:

School teaches you stuff outside of class, like developing social skills, being likeable, forming relationships, etc. Wish I knocked that into myself early on lol. I don't get people who say "college is useless" it serves many benefits outside of taking tests and attending lectures.

I wouldn't refer to it as "teaching." Shoving kids together on a campus and hoping they "develop" social skills is not teaching just like shoving people who smoke weed with people who have murdered someone into prison is going to "reform" them.

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Mar 31, 2019

Did learn a lot of things from ex-BB profs in finance classes. But other than that, there are many meaningless classes, total waste of time.

Apr 3, 2019

i drank a lot and had sex with a lot of girls. that was about it.

Apr 3, 2019

I kind of feel the opposite. I update excel spreadsheets and powerpoints all day whereas in school I learned about scientifically, culturally and historically important topics
EDIT: But I didn't study finance!

Apr 8, 2019
imsurance:

I kind of feel the opposite. I update excel spreadsheets and powerpoints all day whereas in school I learned about scientifically, culturally and historically important topics
EDIT: But I didn't study finance!

Topics like how not all women have uteruses or how Western culture was uniquely evil or how capitalism doesn't work or how segregation from white people is beneficial or how...?

Apr 9, 2019

More like got to watch movies, read books, and do science experiments instead of Index/Match and aligning objects in ppt.

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Apr 3, 2019

Depends what you want out of life. It was a total waste of time for me and I regret not dropping out sooner.

Apr 4, 2019

When I read stuff like this it makes me sick but I have to laugh because I know it is spawned from ignorance. Education is one of the most important skills someone can acquire. Whether you acquire an associates degree from your community college or a PhD from Harvard it is an accomplishment. It shows you set long terms goals and achieve them. It is good for the economy and it is helps everyone.

Reading WSO and watching a coupla YouTubes < Accredited University Curriculum

Apr 8, 2019
WolfofWSO:

When I read stuff like this it makes me sick but I have to laugh because I know it is spawned from ignorance. Education is one of the most important skills someone can acquire. Whether you acquire an associates degree from your community college or a PhD from Harvard it is an accomplishment. It shows you set long terms goals and achieve them. It is good for the economy and it is helps everyone.

Reading WSO and watching a coupla YouTubes < Accredited University Curriculum

To heavily paraphrase Ronald Reagan, it's not that college graduates are ignorant; it's that what they know just isn't so.

Apr 4, 2019

Nursing, Healthcare, and other professional licensed/skilled work (STEM, etc) college is a place that needs to be able to filter and weed students out so only the best can care or work for the masses.

In terms of liberal arts, etc., it varies. My friends from foreign countries were sent here to get a check box off their list and go back home to work for their family's company.

College taught me both social and learning skills.

@TechBanking - you're not wrong there. There are plenty of ads online and on college campuses where people can pay to get their essays done. These days professors will tell you to submit stuff online.

No pain no game.

Apr 4, 2019

I do agree with this. Those being trained in a skilled profession need training and yes, there has to be a way to weed out those not fit for the profession.

Apr 4, 2019

Lant Pritchett research shows that university education has zero impact on productivity... so yeah.

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Apr 4, 2019

[deleted]

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Apr 4, 2019

Agree 100%. Schools were invented at a time when it wasn't as easy to learn on your own. Not only was there no internet but also fewer books which meant lower quality books. Now the ability to self-teach is 100x what it used to be and schools are fighting for relevance.

Fortunately for the schools, society has built a system that places great reward on brand name degrees. So people will pay out the nose to attend schools just for the name on the resume. You'll notice nobody tries to sneak into college classes without paying, because nobody values the learning itself.

Eventually people will value degrees less as well, and that will be trouble for the schools.

Schools have an opportunity to adapt and add more value to the learning experience, but instead they seem to be waiving the white flag by expanding their degree programs dramatically in an attempt to grab all the last nickels and dimes while they still can. Seems like everywhere I go these days, I see prestigious schools advertising continuing ed degree programs in online and short-course format on subways, online banners, etc. Columbia is the new University of Phoenix.

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Apr 5, 2019

Here's a banana - those throwing shit are VERY ignorant about the state of higher education. Higher education is mostly a disgusting cash grab by greedy lazy entitled professors who sells their textbooks to poor students at $300 a pop.

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Apr 5, 2019

Thanks! The MS actually cracks me up. People have way too much of their heart & mind invested in where they went to school.

Apr 9, 2019

Cool. So college is useless, what's next then?

Apr 9, 2019

Cool. College is useless, so what do I do next?

Apr 5, 2019

In this day and age, nothing's stopping you from learning on your own, but it's easy to be trapped in the same line of thinking. I think schools' purpose should be to challenge you to consider views other than your own, but I must admit that that's not an experience I've had with most of my classes.

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Apr 5, 2019

Maybe 1/3 of my classes at university helped me prepare somewhat for a finance career. In particular, financial accounting, intro to law, and real estate fundamentals have been useful. Financial accounting and basic law concepts are hyper critical to success.

The classes that were more useless (maybe surprisingly) were many of my upper level business courses. Our advanced financial theory professor barely spoke English and has never worked in the private sector. Absolute bullshit - I understand more in one year out of school than she ever will...

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Apr 6, 2019

It's just credentialism. Nowadays, the point isn't really to learn, the point is just to play the game and get the grades.

Nothing at a liberal arts school is directly relevant to what you'll need to know on the job, aside from maybe a couple basic, introductory courses. Learning upper-level economics won't help you anymore than taking a history class on the fall of Rome. I'd actually argue the latter will help you more, because at least the class teaches you how to think critically, give good presentations, and discuss with your peers.

Apr 9, 2019

You get out of what you put in. Its possible to learn at most colleges, even ones that aren't as highly regarded. But it takes discipline and dedication to actually wanting to learn.

All too many college students just cram useless facts because that will get them a passing grade in the easiest manner, instead of stopping to think about why what they're learning is important. That isn't surprising - many universities don't do a good job of forcing you to think. But much more importantly, college is the first taste of out-of-the-home freedom most teenagers get. Access to drugs, alcohol, and a huge new group of peers also discovering all this freedom means that actual learning takes a backseat to enjoying a new lack of structure in your life.

You're finding that book learning is great, later in life, because you are dedicating yourself to it. It's not as if all those books didn't exist when you were in school (well, presumably some weren't published yet but you get the point). So what is the difference? You are more responsible, more settled, more interested in learning now. Can you imagine if you had another 4 years with this attitude, where you had a universe of experts on a wide spectrum of topics to discuss some of what you're learning with? You'd be absorbing information and complex concepts at a MUCH faster rate.

TL;DR - nothing wrong with school, or school learning. Just that most people aren't at a place in their lives where they have any interest in learning when they're in their teens, and it's much easier to blame a school system for not forcing learning, instead of being self-reflective enough to understand that most high school/college students are actively avoiding the parts of school which encourage learning.

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Apr 9, 2019

It depends a lot on the field. If you go to school for math/CS/engineering/hard science they will train you to think logically and it will teach you a lot of problem-solving skills.

Not all academic disciplines do that; some majors are little more than digesting and regurgitating propaganda

Apr 10, 2019

A lot of good points both for and against college on the thread; as far as actual learning goes most people seem to value hands-on experiences ("how and why") vs fact memorization ("who, what, when"). I don't think schools stop you from learning, they just primarily focus on the latter rather than the former.

I guess the "value" you attach to your college experience will vary significantly based on, a) you majored in a hard science or a liberal arts program; b) the quality of your social experience(both interpersonal relationships and things like clubs/frats/sports); c) the "name brand" or lack thereof ascribed to the institution that was on your degree.

I guess my confusion also lies in how people don't understand that you can basically get the same value out of college as described in my second paragraph above by going to school in-state and spending a moderately priced cars worth on your education, hell if you do CC for 2 years most states guarantee admission to any of the other universities in the State with an AA degree. How any person at any level comes to the decision that they should literally finance a house-worth of debt for a degree (without a very clear idea of what they want to do with their life) kinda blows my mind. Or that the gov't would willingly subsidize it but not subsidize the same amount of debt for said person to purchase an actual home.

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Apr 10, 2019
dr_mantistoboggan_MD:

A lot of good points both for and against college on the thread; as far as actual learning goes most people seem to value hands-on experiences ("how and why") vs fact memorization ("who, what, when"). I don't think schools stop you from learning, they just primarily focus on the latter rather than the former.

Worth asking whether this dichotomy is inherent to college or is the way most people experience it. To paraphrase my earlier post - most 18-22 year olds aren't all that interested in focusing full time on learning. The partying, the social life, all that - that stuff is very attractive and ends up being a focus of most people's experience. Which means that they do the minimum, or close to it, to pass. Which is rote memorization. If you want to learn how to think critically and analytically, it's absolutely possible to do that at college. But not if you're out partying 2+ nights a week. How many people did you know who were taking 2 or 3 more credits a semester than they needed? Very few, in my experience. That isn't a fault of the schooling, it's a fault of the student.

Sep 5, 2019

The real reason you go to school is for the accreditation, not the knowledge. Sure, you will have a few classes that give you an introduction to the industry you want to work in by exposing you to the theoretical side of how things work - but most of that will not be practical, actionable knowledge. Most team projects are usually a joke because a bunch of 20 year olds have no real life experience to apply to a case study or research work.

At the end of the day it's all about the diploma to get your foot in the door for interviews, and the friendships you build with other students, who will go their separate ways and may or may not yield benefits many years later.

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Sep 5, 2019
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Sep 6, 2019
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Currently applying to medical school.