Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Vicious Cycles

There are a multitude of scenarios in daily life, and all throughout our lives that occur again and again, because the scenarios motivate themselves. Examples of these include any form of addiction, irrational actions leading to anger which then lead to more irrational actions, the list goes on. We humans are not completely rational beings, and so these vicious cycles, statistically speaking, will happen to most of us at some point. Of course, not all cycles are negative, but you get the drift.

However, there are certain cycles that are present in humanity as a whole. One of the most spoken about cycles are periods of peace followed by periods of war, which could, naively I might add, be taken as the scaled up version of the ‘anger leads to irrational actions’ example as outlined above. But today, I want to talk about the sorts of vicious cycles that I don’t think get spoken about enough, at least in the context of what I am about to say.

Tunnel Vision

Now, it might be a rather unpopular opinion to say this. But whilst I agree that experience can lead one to make good decisions, it may also lead to a certain degree of complacency. As in, experienced people tend to trust their experience over all else, and thus, they stick to what they know. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think there is one area in which this can lead to the sort of vicious cycle that is incredibly detrimental to young people, and it has taken me the best part of two and a half decades to finally realise it.

What I am talking about is the common and relentless ‘pushing’ for young people to do well in their education. But, that is surely a good thing, surely we want the next generation to be educated? I hear you ask. Well, like with most things, it depends on how it’s done. What I find interesting about this topic is that the sort of people putting overwhelming pressure on young people to succeed in their education are themselves well educated. So, what we are seeing is effectively two branches of society (at least from an educational perspective): the students that agree with the pushing, prosper in the eyes of their teachers, and ultimately return as teachers themselves in order to repeat the same rhetoric. And, those that… don’t.

But, there is something important to note here. When I talk about ‘succeeding’, what I really mean is succeeding in the eyes of society. And, when I talk about ‘pushing’, I mean the detrimental messaging from society that you must do well in your education. Why is this messaging so common? Because the people that have the greatest say in moulding the values of the next generation, and therefore society as a whole, are the ones that have been through the educational gauntlet and agree with the view that students should be pushed to prosper. In other words, their experience gives them tunnel vision.

Why is this Messaging so Detrimental?

Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine you are a teenager at school, and the whole world is telling you that you must get straight A’s, so you can attend university and become a productive member of society. Even if you are capable of achieving the grades, you end up stressed into oblivion trying to meet the requirements, and one bad exam means that you’ve blown it. Of course, the natural response to such a scenario is a multitude of mental health issues which then plague you for the rest of your life (In my view, such an outcome is a failure of the education system). If you don’t meet the grades, you are labelled as stupid or inferior.

The thing is though, you don’t need good grades to succeed. The only reason we all have that drilled into us constantly is because the people shouting it from the rooftops don’t know any different. In today’s day and age, the only reason you need to do well in school and go to university is so that you can get a piece of paper that says you know things. There is no reason why you can’t go away and learn anything you want to learn over the internet, or from, dare I say, other people.

This way of thinking has more implications than just mental health issues in students however. There are some slightly annoying things, such as educated people instantly assuming that they know more than the average person purely because they have a piece of paper that says they do. But, the possibly unforseen consequence of all this is that we are steamrolling towards a generation that is too educated to settle for manual or practical professions, even if those professions are generally quite lucrative – when done right.

In our little thought experiment, let’s say you don’t meet the grades at school. As a young and naive teenager, you of course think that the world has ended and you may as well go and live in a box under a bridge before anyone realises what has happened (at least, that was my way of thinking at the time). But, you bite the bullet and go and get a job as a cleaner. Eventually, you decide to start your own cleaning business which ultimately grants you a higher salary than a hyper educated academic with twenty seven master’s degrees. But, the average hyper educated academic will, more often than not, look down upon you – possibly to feed their own ego or to justify the expensive and time consuming venture of achieving a silly number of master’s degrees.

This route through life is seldom spoken about by people of influence, because people of influence tend to be inexperienced in said route. What this means is that the professions we need, such as cleaners, builders and road sweepers struggle to get staff. We have an increasing number of people with engineering skills, but nobody to actually build the bridges.

How do we fix it?

It’s all well and good having a grand old moan about this. But, how do we solve it? Well, as with most things, there’s never a simple solution. But, I think research outside of academic spheres is a start. If teachers, parents, and people of influence paid more attention to the question of how kids are going to succeed if they are not academic?, then I think we’d have a much happier, and much more productive younger generation, with a much healthier mindset. Perhaps we can replcae this self-fulfilling prophecy with something that is more beneficial for everyone.

Of course, this is all just my opinion, I’ve left a lot of things out for brevity. But I’d like to think that some of you will gain something from what is another one of my rants.

As always, and until next time, I thank you for the read.

Cam.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

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