What to unlearn from school? Certain school lessons don’t hold their weight in the big world, and I’m going to show you why.
So let’s zoom in on six lessons that the U.S. school system may have shoved into your head, whether you liked it or not.
These so-called ‘lessons’ can throw a wrench in your adult life and slam the brakes on your journey to becoming a badass engineer.
#1 Question authority, don’t just nod along
Imagine this: some top leaders and big-brained scientists swear up and down that the Earth is flatter than a pancake. But their reasoning smells fishy. Do you just swallow it hook, line, and sinker? Hell no!
Remember, teachers, bosses, bigwigs – they’re all prone to goof-ups, ’cause guess what? They’re human. No one’s infallible.
Throughout your career, you’ll run into folks who deal in absolutes, hollering ‘my way or the highway.’ When that happens, channel your inner maverick and challenge the norms. That’s your ticket to personal and professional growth, and who knows? You might even nudge humanity forward a bit.
Think about it, independent thinking is the gasoline that fuels human progress. So the next time you’re tempted to just nod and smile to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb, hit the brakes. Engage that big brain of yours, especially when you hear someone parrot,
“Just trust me! This is how it has always been, and I know it’s right!”
By doing this, you’re not just helping yourself but also steering others clear from potential harm.
Take it from me, I had a couple of ace teachers who’d purposely make mistakes in their work, hoping some smarty-pants would call them out. They wanted to drive home the point: don’t just accept authority blindly.
#2 Respect fact-based opinions
Sure, school might’ve fed us the line that every opinion counts, but let’s get down and dirty with the truth: only the opinions grounded in facts and data truly pack a punch.
Opinions are tricky beasts. They often come up short on substance and can be hatched without much thought or understanding. Just consider the flat Earth theory: folks can be hell-bent on it without a smidge of proof.
As an engineer, you’ll run into a tornado of opinions, even from the seemingly infallible—the distinguished dudes with a ton of experience, a degree longer than your arm, and that dignified, grey-haired vibe. But here’s the kicker: without sturdy facts and sound reasoning, opinions are just a bunch of hot air.
So, don’t shy away from scrutinizing others’ viewpoints in engineering. I mean, isn’t it better to ruffle a few feathers than to birth a design that could be a ticking time bomb?
#3 Understand, don’t just memorize
Alright, here’s a wake-up call: simply memorizing facts to clutch that shiny “A” grade is as effective as a chocolate teapot. Especially when you don’t really wrap your head around the stuff.
Imagine this: you burn the midnight oil cramming for an exam, score an “A,” but forget the material soon after. Without a firm grasp of the concepts, your problem-solving skills will be as flimsy as a house of cards. In the big, bad world of work, mastering the fundamental principles is the secret sauce for delivering killer results and kicking ass in your field.
Take a page from my book: In college, I used to cram when time was short, but I only truly grasped the concepts when I revisited them on my own. Just remember, a good grade might make your transcript pretty, but it won’t turn you into a 10x engineer or even a half-decent one.
It’s worth chewing over that our screwy education system often pushes memorization like a dodgy used car salesman. So, if you’re caught in this memorization trap, make sure to double back and really sink your teeth into the concepts later on.
#4 Carve your own trail, don’t just fish for approval
Sure, we’ve all felt the urge to just agree with the crowd and dodge the tough questions just to score brownie points in the classroom.
But hang on a minute!
Even if everyone and their dog swore that our planet was the center of the universe, it wouldn’t make it so. I mean, let’s face it, nature couldn’t give a rat’s ass about humanity’s collective opinion—it’ll keep on ticking as it has for billions of years without batting an eyelid.
The trick is to blaze your own trail in life. When you’re forever chasing others’ approval, you’re living their lives, not yours, and that’s no recipe for happiness or reaching your full potential.
Remember what Steve Jobs said,
“Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
The ones who break the mold are the folks who push boundaries and move humanity forward. Remember, everything is considered a fact by some authority until someone comes along and blows it out of the water.
Harvard University theoretical physicist Professor Avi Loeb nailed it when he said:
“One of the most difficult lessons to impart to young scientists is that the search for the truth can run counter to the search for consensus. Indeed, truth and consensus must never be conflated. Sadly, it is a lesson more easily understood by a student starting out in the field. From then on, year after year, the combined pressures of peers and job-market prospects encourage the tendency to play it safe.”
#5 Success isn’t solely about hard work
In school, elbow grease work often leads to an “A” grade, tricking students into believing it’s the golden ticket to success. But, in the working world, a truckload of other factors weigh in on success, like:
- Past experience
Sure, hard work is a biggie, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. You gotta juggle all these elements to hit the success bullseye. So remember, working hard is important, but working smart? That’s the real game-changer.
#6 Book smarts: not the ultimate key to success
Let me drum this into your heads: experience often outclasses book smarts. You bet, you can swallow a library’s worth of engineering textbooks and collect university degrees like baseball cards, but without getting your hands dirty in the real world, you’ll never reach your full potential.
Endless reading has its limits. To truly excel, you gotta wrestle with the meat and potatoes of your field.
Today, schools blast you with a firehose of information. Time restraints make it impossible to soak up everything, so you end up cramming just for the sake of grades. As a result, you lose sight of the big picture—truly understanding the crucial underlying concepts.
To drive this point home, ask yourself this:
Would you prefer a book-smart surgeon with zero experience or a seasoned professional with 30 years under their belt?
For me, it’s a no-brainer—I’d choose the experienced surgeon in a heartbeat.
“What to unlearn from school?” wrap up
There’s no denying that top-notch teachers are worth their weight in gold, but sadly, a hefty chunk of the U.S. education system still clings to outdated teaching methods and syllabi that are crying out for an overhaul.
This cocktail of glitches keeps students from hitting their stride, making it a uphill battle to crack open-ended, real-world problems.
The quicker you spot and ditch these harmful lessons, the better you’ll fare.
At the end of the day, opening your mind to fresh perspectives on school learning can only level up your game. With this wisdom in your back pocket, you can sift through the muck, figure out what’s worth keeping, and what needs to be chucked out the window.
What’s your take? Do you reckon it’s crucial to ditch any of these six school-taught lessons? What do you think you should scrub from your school days? What tweaks do you wanna see in schools to crank up the benefits for students?
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Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2020 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, our history and future, sports, and fitness.