0280 – College: Why do cooler things happen at night?

This is another CGI U-inspired post. Ashifi Gogo, CEO and founder of Sproxil, was on one of the panels at CGI U this past weekend. He is Dartmouth’s first-ever Ph.D. Innovation Fellow. I just checked out the PhD program, and its sounds pretty cool! Ashifi told us that the program started because the administration realized that students had cooler things going on at night.

That left me thinking.

Learning should be fun, right? To me, education inside the classroom should be as fun as the stuff outside the classroom. Stuff we do during the day should be cool and exciting and energetic and different and fun. Our education system (I speak for my experience in engineering) has been largely reduced to textbook-based transfer of knowledge, increasingly theoretical and routine. While those textbook stuff is necessary, there is a lot to be said about engineers’ roles in social change. The College of Engineering at the University of Michigan, where I’m currently studying, has really been speaking up a lot about engineers working on social change. There is a disconnect between what the College is promoting–the social impact of engineers–and what is being taught. Because most of what we’re learning in the classroom doesn’t help us with creating social impact. Something’s gotta give.

We shouldn’t have cooler things to do at night in college. Learning and playing should be integrated in order to nurture our creativity. Textbook knowledge needs to translate to practical innovation. Our classroom really needs to be the world, not a tiny space.

Times are changing. The education system must adapt with the dynamism and challenges of the 21st century.

0273 – Redefining Achievement

What does achievement mean to you? Money? Great job?

This came out of my mouth today:

“GPA becomes a number. Resume becomes a piece of paper. Experience becomes your life.”

I was… pleasantly surprised. It just sounds 100% like me. It came during a time when I was speaking too fast for my brain to plan what I say next (I tend to do that a lot – it’s a very hazardous habit. Use at your discretion), so what came out of my mouth was just unplanned.

The crazy thing is that this quote really sums up my exact thoughts on what education is all about. It’s really not about numbers, grades or how packed your resume looks. It should be about the journey – how much you learn, how excited you are. Achievement shouldn’t be tied to numbers or pieces of paper, let alone numbers that don’t really matter. By the way, if you haven’t seen Ken Robinson’s TED talk, it’s phenomenal. He claims that our school system kills creativity and steers students towards conformity.

“But GPA does matter”, you might say. “I wanna get into grad school.” Well, fair enough. That is true to a certain extent, but only because the system is broken. One of my favorite cartoons is this one above that describe what we call “rat racers,” those that are on an endless pursuit of achievement as traditionally defined. You work harder and harder to try to achieve a certain goal, but once you’re there or almost there, the goals are now set even higher. The fact that the system is this way does not mean that you blindly follow it. If you’re unhappy, why keep running?

This used to be my problem (still is actually, but less so now). You know… I always wanted to win all those achievement awards, honors, accolades and all the other flowery stuff you can say about people.

But… what is achievement without happiness? Or perhaps a better question – should you call anything achievement, if it comes at the cost of your well-being?

I’m not happy with the way it all works. Are you?

Let’s #redefine achievement.