Overspecialization Equals a Loss of Independence

By Mark Angelides

Careers are becoming more specialized than ever, and with this, we as a species are losing the ability to operate and live effectively without the support structures of the existing status quo. This is a loss of independence that is only going to get worse, and the only answer, is as ever, education. But not the “pleasant indoctrination” being enforced by our regular schools.

Skills training is almost frowned upon nowadays, and even when it is not, it is specialized skills that are valued. How many of us can handle basic household electrical repairs? What about plumbing, carpentry, and even farming? More importantly, how many of us can do all of these things?

It is extremely unlikely that we will experience a planet sized EMP within our lifetimes, rendering the current state of the world null and void…but imagine if it did.

It is not necessary for one person to be able to have all of the abovementioned skills; to have one is enough to trade in a form of barter, but what of those that have skills that are far too specialized to be used independently?

The way children (and young adults) are being educated is neither efficient nor productive. The skill sets being taught are only enough to provide them entry into specialized courses that (while that particular industry exists) allow them to earn a living. In some ways though, they are hampered by the choices they make early on in life before they have developed enough to understand and realize what they really want to do in life.

The present system means that the vast majority of people are committed financially and time wise to their “career” to such an extent that there is little time nor money for outside activities or training that would allow the individual to escape their self-imposed prison.

What’s needed is a radical shake up of the education system that teaches broad skill sets.

Up until two years ago I was an educator in Shanghai. My last roll was as a curriculum developer and teacher for a high-end Kindergarten that catered to kids aged 2 through 6. I was fortunate enough to be given almost completely free reign to teach what I saw fit in conjunction with the curriculum I was developing…Do you know what I found?

Six-year olds are perfectly capable of doing multiplication, division and algebra, AND ENJOY IT! The children could read and write in both English and Chinese; they loved doing science experiments (even coming up with in class experiments themselves to demonstrate Newton’s Laws of Motion), they loved learning to read music and were thrilled to practice swing dancing.

Were these kids exceptional? Actually, not so much. There was a varied bunch. Some super smart, and others not so much, but they could all manage the work set.

What’s really missing from modern education systems is two things: The will to exceed, and an opportunity to really grow and develop.