15 March 2019

"Over the years of the ever-evolving educational systems around the world, we have all agreed to subtly, or maybe even overtly, accept a formula for the good life or successful life."

There is an attribute to being human that impacts us in subtle but dramatic ways. As humans our brains are constantly trying to cope with the complex world and varied environments around us by simplifying it whenever it can. For example, a lot of what is happening around us automatically gets filtered out of our consciousness. If you are in a room right now, you have filtered out the sound of the air conditioning unit or fan that is on to keep you cool. Of course now that I have mentioned it, you are aware of it again. But not for long.

This trait or tendency of the human experience is not just for the mundane. We do this with how we see the world as well and when making important decisions for our lives. This is seen in politics, culture, media, and in all areas of our lives. We want the complex world to be simpler so we often will simplify it with very little thought or contemplation. We do this by using simple ‘rules of thumb’ (e.g. the opposition is always wrong), following advice of the people we respect, and or conforming to the beliefs and or attitudes of whatever group we have chosen to belong to. We do not like uncertainty in our lives so taking the complex and making it simple takes some of that and hides it from us.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because I want to talk about something I am going to call “the formula”. Over the years of the ever-evolving educational systems around the world, we have all agreed to subtly, or maybe even overtly, accept a formula for the good life or successful life. The formula goes a little bit like this:

Good Grades > Good University > Good Job (money) = a Good Life (happiness)

The idea of what makes a good life or a successful life is incredibly complex. This is because there are so many variables and circumstances involved, including the infinitely numbered variables of the human experience. Yet to simplify this complexity, and to help us as adults to guide our children, we have agreed to, and bought into, a simplified formula that starts with good grades in school, which leads to being accepted by a top or elite university, which then results in getting a really good job (with lots of money), that ultimately culminates in having a good and happy life.

Over the coming weeks we are going to take a closer look at this formula to better understand all of the complexity behind it and to see that it has some validity, but at the same time many shortcomings and wrong assumptions. This will not be an easy topic as we will fight against the idea of taking our neat and simple formula and allow it to become complex again. Some of you will not agree with the discussion while others will be happy that someone is finally asking to see what and who is behind the curtain. I am hoping that this discussion will ultimately help us figure out where to find the proverbial yellow brick road.

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.

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