The gigantic horrible lie about education

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In public education there’s an idea that there are certain things everyone is supposed to know in Kindergarten. Then there’s some other things all the kids are supposed to learn in first grade and some more things in 2nd grade and so on.

Then when you finally graduate from high school, you know all the stuff you’re “supposed to know.”bored_genebrooks

How’s that plan been working for you, anyway?

What capability does a high school kid possess on the day he crosses the stage with his diploma at his graduation ceremony?

Generally, he possesses the ability to get a $7 per hour job at Wal-Mart or TGI Friday’s.

Wow. What a milestone that is, after 13 years of academic achievement. Really inspires you to do what the principal was droning about at the graduation ceremony – strive to be a student for the rest of your life.

No wonder most people spend the next 40 years of their colorless existence watching re-runs of 3rd Rock from the Sun.

OK, so here’s the problem with the “this is the list of things everybody should know” theory:

It turns living, breathing, unique human beings into commoditized, dehumanized hunks of flesh. 140 pounds of human capital. Where your highest aspiration is to get a few more right answers on the test than everyone else in the class. Where everyone knows how to do all the same things and compete with 100 other people for the same dumb job.

If the very thought of that makes you want to run out of the room screaming, good. It’s a sign the beast hasn’t gouged every last ounce of self-respect out of your soul.

Rage against the machine.

When you watched Morpheus offer Neo the red pill and the blue pill and Neo took the red pill, you said to yourself, he’s right baby, you better believe he’s right. I know, cuz I took the red pill myself, and yessiree Bob, the rabbit hole goes deep….

Imagine, incubating your children in a dark cavernous mindfarm where their curiosity and ambition are snuffed out for the purpose of nourishing some bulbous impersonal machine.

Most people, after 13 to 17 years in the educational meat grinder, are firmly convinced that 5% of their class is an elite group that’s superior to everyone else, and the rest of us are doomed to fight over the scraps. Life on the wrong side of the 80/20 tracks. That’s Just The Way It Is, mourns the Bruce Hornsby song.

I don’t look at it that way. It’s a lie.

This is how it really is:

If you apply ANY test to ANY group of people, it’s gonna shake down to 80/20. Doesn’t matter if it’s history or math or Pokemon or soccer or belly dancing or model trains, 20% of the people have 80% of the capability.

But the top girl in math is rarely the top girl in belly dancing and the top soccer player is rarely the #1 guy in Pokemon.

When people are empowered to pursue their own uniqueness, almost all of them are a genius at something.

So the most important thing your kid can know is: He has the potential to be a genius at something. He needs to believe he’s got something special inside.

Here’s what I believe:

There are 6 billion people in the world and every single one is a diamond in some stage of being polished. Life is either going to polish you up or grind you down. And the difference between the two lies in how much hope you have, how much faith you have in the fact that you do carry something special on the inside, that’s waiting to get out. Many give up, not knowing they were only 10 minutes from triumph.

Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to discover your uniqueness.

The other day we got an email from a guy who’d read a recent Renaissance Club members newsletter which was describing how mediocre most businesses and employees are.

"So many options for growing my business, but what should I do NOW?" Tell me your most pressing business problems and I'll show you your BEST next step.

He said, “I’m in the bottom 60% of my industry and in all honesty, I think 40% of the vendors in my industry do better work than me and provide a better service than me. So why should I market myself? All I’ll be doing is spreading around more mediocrity.”

He went on to say he didn’t think he could be good at anything.

How sad. The antidote to mediocrity is inspiration. If he can’t do that business with excellence, surely there is SOME business he can do with excellence. Yes, he should find something he CAN do well. There is always something. Who taught him that he’s got no choice but to be a member of the bottom 60%? He didn’t get that from me, that’s for sure.

One more thing:

There’s a set of elitist snobs who would like us to believe the world is overpopulated. There’s not enough water, not enough food, not enough air, not enough land. All those useless homo sapiens, taking up too much space in the biosphere.

Of course I don’t see any of those elitist snobs volunteering to move themselves out of the way.

There’s an entire media machine that only tells you the bad news, neglects to tell you the good news, and fills your head with traumas that have no relevance to your life what-so-ever.

They do that because they like to manipulate people, and fearful, hopeless droids are a lot easier to manipulate than leaders who know where they’re going.

Here’s what I believe:

I believe there’s always enough water, always enough food, always enough air, always enough land. The real resource is ingenuity and ingenuity comes from people. Have you ever considered… the world might actually be ‘overcrowded’ because there’s not enough people?

Not enough geniuses. Not enough problem solvers. Not enough innovators and inventors. Not enough coal being polished into diamond.

PREDICTION: By the time the world has 10 billion people, a handful of geniuses will have been born by then who in turn will have figured out how to feed 12 billion people. There’ll be enough food left over for 2 billion.

Time to go make some more geniuses. Hey mom and dad, why doncha pull yourselves away from your computer for a few minutes and get busy? You might enjoy the break from the usual routine.

OK, so anyway, here you are running your online business. Doing whatever it is that you do.

And you wonder, what is THE formula? What is THE secret?

There is no “THE” formula. There is no “THE” secret.

There is only YOUR formula, YOUR secret. YOUR Unique Selling Proposition. Which is your singular collection of talents and passions and ways to contribute to our burgeoninng planet of under-utilized geniuses.

For some people reading this blog post, I have a major role to play. For some people, the skills I teach are the exact skills you need to learn and the best thing you could do is buy every product and join coaching program I’ve got.

If everything you’ve bought from me so far has helped you, maybe you’re one of those people.

For others, I’m just one voice along the way who sent them forward with a little encouragement and inspiration. And a little more mojo to go find THEIR right path to success.

If whatever you’ve bought from me so far has been off the mark, maybe I’m not the right guy for you. I send you on to greener pastures with a blessing.

Whichever person you are, I want you to remember every single day of your life that you’ve got skills, inclinations, aspirations, sparks of genius inside. Only YOU can do the things that YOU are destined to do.

Never let some elitist snob keep you from doing ’em.

Perry Marshall

P.S.: I wrote a very popular article called “Escaping The Institutional Straitjacket.” If you’re an elitist snob, it will offend you. If you’re a scrapping entrepreneur like me, you just might think it’s a kick.

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About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

144 Comments on “The gigantic horrible lie about education”

  1. But are there enough geniuses to save our air, water, and climate? Can geniuses save us from nuclear war?

    I think that most people would agree that kids have special talents. The idea that we shouldn’t force them to be what they’re not makes a lot of sense. But don’t you think we should have some expectations of everyone? I’ve met kids who resist reading with the ferocity of Donald Trump denying that his campaign worked with Russia to help him win the election. Should we say that it’s okay for them not to learn to read. Some kids hate math. Should we just say, “Oh well, that’s not his strength.”? It’s one thing to not force them to learn Algebra, but quite another to not insist that they learn basic skills. Do you really not want to have any standards? That’s what it sounds like. Or maybe you just don’t want to have high standards.

    It should be obvious to most people who’ve spent time in the public schools in the past twenty years (especially teachers) that the system doesn’t work for the majority. Less that 20% thrive and more than 80% don’t want to be there or get very little out of it. We absolutely need new methods of helping them. One of them is to individualize instruction more so we can develop their talents. But that costs money. Would you be willing to pay higher taxes to do this?

  2. You rocked this topic. I’ve been singing this same song for years. Not everyone is going to be an expert at the same things, and every child should be taught to find their expertise! Looking for and finding what you do best and doing the very best at that one thing is so much more fun than living in the mediocre middle of average duh.

    Thank you for sharing this article!

  3. Great Post! I 100% agree. I just heard of Perry from an interview with Dane Maxwell.
    I would suggest Perry’s these applies largely to college as well. Someone doing work I’m excited about in that front is Isaac Morehouse with – startup internships rather than college. I hope my kids go that rout when the time comes.

  4. Hi. I love, love, loved this post! I get SO SICK of people lamenting about my home-schooled children’s potential lack of “socializtion” (what a WORD).
    The school district for the metro area I am from has THE LOWEST grade in the nation. At one point, the entire district lost it’s accredidation. Incredibly, there are those in my family who maintain that my children would be better served in an environment of stupidity, metal detectors, and LGBT endoctrination, than in a Christian environement.
    When people ask me why I don’t homeschool, I used to tell them that I didn’t think the school system was doing a good job. Now, I just tell them that I don’t think fourth graders need to be shown how to use a condom (happens in school) and that kindergartners don’t need to hear “Heather has two mommy’s”

  5. Thanks Perry…well said regarding our K12 failing public education system. Former Special Education Teacher with a Masters Degree in Education Technology who several years ago launched a Silicon Valley Startup called Digital Learning Tree to help teachers equip and empower students using technology, iPads, Google Chrome books and more one to one smart rollouts.

    Raised 4 kids….all successful college educated business entrepreneurs. Finishing up with two more on their way to do the same.

    Know you recently did a summit in Chicago on Google ad words with my friend Marilyn Adamson who launched over 20 years ago and that it’s now in 40 languages and responsible for helping over 900 hundred people a day from around the world come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I have my own website that I use for this also detailing my personal Christian Testimony

    Thanks for all that you have done to help her and others learn some powerful secrets of online marketing…you can’t argue with her life saving results. Blessings…Jim

  6. An excellent post with some very good points. I think many people settle for being OK at what they do because that is what they are told to aim for: if you’re OK then nothing bad is going to happen.

    Given we get only one shot at life that’s hardly the bar we should he aiming to get over.

  7. The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America is no accident:John Dewey has probably done more damage to this country than any human being,labeled a “progressive” a hundred years ago,he was a Marxist to boot,Above all, Dewey wanted “top down” control of society. His philosophy was essentially the Rockefeller’s, who sponsored the universities. Dewey wanted to create cogs for America commerce, just sufficiently intelligent to follow instructions.

    The goal of self-improvement were seen as a dangerous and detrimental deviation.An emphasis on group participation, group learning, group problem solving and group activities hammered home the one unbending principle that the individual’s must always subservient to the “group.”

    Learning and achievement in any field of study, declared Dewey, was “selfish,” the means whereby a child might separate him or her self from their peers.

    In Dewey’s world, there was no absolute truth. Therefore everything was malleable and changeable. There was no bedrock, no anchor upon which mankind might attach and secure their intellect, their character, or their conduct. Everything was continually in a state of flux, with the only constant being one’s “duty” to society, to serve it however society chose to dictate through its institutions.

    Incredibly, Dewey ridiculed the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, declaring that knowledge was only valid and worthwhile if “society” decided so.

    This is why entrepreneurial skills have never been and never will be taught in our (feral)government run schools…

  8. You were going along there, great, Perry Marshall. Totally agree that every body IS special and IS a genius in SOME field. Physial or mental.

    Right up until your blatantly unscientific political bias and completely bigoted bullshit against antinatalists. The world IS seriously overpopulated. And, too bad – those of us who have not had kids and go vegan and minimize our consumption DO deserve to be here and ARE sacrificing ourselves.

    Antinatlism has absolutely NOTHING to do with elitism. Only a moron thinks otherwise.

    Time for you and the breeding conservatives to grow up and face hard reality: we need tough laws mandating vasectomies for men. And any man who violates that law goes to prison. Period. China made a good start with its One-Kid Law, but the rest of the world needs to pick up the slack.

    And it is an absolute CERTAINTY that those 7 billion people will NEED a place to give, and should not be required to hold a pointless job just to satisfy your elitist pro-business pro-capitalist ideology. So, it is irrational and insane to bet that MAYBE in the future some genius might figure a way to work around the known proven laws of finite resources, Conservation of Energy and Mass, and Anthropogenic Global Warming.

    Your ridiculous remarks prove you have no realistic experience in anything of value.

    1. I don’t know Corny, he seems to be kicking your ass at Google adwords marketing. I gotta tell you he has brought considerable value to me.

      If you are really committed to reducing the world’s population put the broccoli spear down and do something about it.

      In the end its survival of the fittest which is why we work to find a niche where, as individuals, we are among the fittest.

      You seem like the kind of guy who would rather have ten dollar words coming out of your mouth than to have ten dollars in your pocket.

      I mean seriously, “Anthropogenic”? -You couldn’t just say “man made” and save yourself three full syllables and actually be understood?

      Talk about conservation of energy.

  9. While I would agree that the education system is a mess, I despair at the denial and blinkered framing on issues of over-population. Sure we could probably “support” a population of ten.. twenty.. thirty billion people, but at what cost? Humans are just one of many millions of other species who have just as much right to live on this planet as we do. Human over-population has already reduced the biodiversity and habitats of countless creatures and it is only going to get worse. Many religions exacerbate the problem by being completely human-focussed and actively discouraging contraception – our unique invention. Perry, you are but one magnificent instance of the 7 billion humans on this planet. However, It’s not so much the numbers that count but the impact those numbers have, and right now humans are a plague on the richness and biodiversity of this planet.

  10. Well, I skipped college, started my own business, am fully self employed, and I’m making iPhone apps….oh yeah I’m 19 years old :)

    Loved the article!!! And to everyone who doesn’t think they can do it YOU CAN!!!!!!

  11. When I took my kids out of school many years ago, my friends argued that it would be bad for them not to have other kids to play with.

    I argued back. They saw other kids occasionally, but they also saw and socialized with people of all ages. They were able to sit down and hold a conversation with an 80 year old or a 30 year old, and they learned a lot by doing so.

    They weren’t treated like puppies and told to go outside and play when we had company. Thus, my grown sons are highly intelligent men who have friends in every age group. And the interesting thing is, now we have more friends in their age groups because their friends enjoy visiting with us.

    Oh – the other thing about taking them out of school to study at home – they learned more in fewer hours per day, leaving them time to help join me in gardening, tending to the horses, painting the living room, or picking up trash along side the road – whatever I was doing. I believe they learned from those activities as well.

    Ever think about how much school time is spent on non-learning activities? And then how much time is spent getting to and from school? I’m a big advocate of home schooling, as long as you actually do it.

  12. An update for the group here on my son that we pulled out of public school in February (see my earlier post).

    He is happy and confident. His outlook on life is now one of eager anticipation. He respects us (Mom and Dad) for listening to him and actually doing it – that alone is worth the effort.

    They can’t have him back, we won’t let them.

    And as for the socializing question we always get, he has plenty of nice friend through his sports teams.

    Thanks for posting this Perry. It made us act and we are a better family for it.

    God Bless you.


  13. Buckminster Fuller said decades ago that we have the resources for everyone on the planet to be a BILLIONAIRE.
    Ya with a B.
    As you say Perry the school system totally limits our thinking
    Our problem globally is we are inundated with scarcity mind set instead of abundance mind set.
    With the internet here that could happen but with a huge huge shift in mind set of course.
    Let’s start by not listening to the news journalists.
    Stop supporting this stupidity.
    If it gets bad enough my Mother in law will let me know and I’ll spread the word.
    Thes are folks that manipulate all.
    Complete morons.
    The school systems are a part of the same culture.

  14. Perry can I take this article and put it on my personal blog?
    And on our school systems blog?
    That’s where I put my opinions.
    Obviously giving you complete credit since I always do it this way.
    That’s the link I give.
    Check to make sure I did if you want.
    I don’t ask this often but this speaks to me powerfully.
    You’ve replied to me before and I read you often.
    I am 54 years young with a 13 year old son and 10 year old daughter.
    I know I started late but was too busy as an athlete in my 20’s and 30’s.
    But the up side of having my children later is I have far more wisdom than in those earlier years.
    I tell you that to say this…that I was stunned when interacting with the school system
    which started in my sons kindergarten class which was 2001 I think.
    Now my public school system in the 60’s here in the Toronto area was an amazing education system.
    So when I saw what happened to our school system I’m thinking wtf happened to my school system?
    Being very opinionated I spoke up and have ever since last year when I was BANNED FOR LIFE from the school my kids are at.
    I’m not allowed on their property.
    Not actually sure but I think their last straw was when I questioned my daughter’s volleyball coach about an issue.
    I questioned many things because I saw what you write about here.
    Some may think that in reading this that I went in hog wild threatening them.
    Nothing like that at all.
    Now I am 6ft 6 inches and muscular and I’m told intimidating looking.
    I’m actually a nice guy but very passionate about life.
    I”l take tomatoes for saying this ..but whatever.
    Our school systems here in San Francisco lite (Toronto)are feminizing men.
    Women are more in charge by far here than men.
    Hey I love women.
    I’m married to a beauty.
    She agrees with me.
    Look men and women are kind of different.
    Why don’t we just ban testosterone Perry?
    Extract it somehow when men are born.
    We have the technology now I’m sure.
    ie. When playing dodge ball we don’t hit above the belt.Huh?
    When we played we got extra points for head shots.
    Don’t play on the ice in the winter someone may fall and get hurt.
    We played foot soccer on the ice with a tennis ball and constantly had bruises everywhere from falling.
    The teachers even refed the games sometimes.
    They took down the good old monkey bars Perry.
    Remember those.
    Someone might get hurt.
    Don’t run the kids too much…it’s hot out.
    Hey it’s Canada and we get hot here for what..4 months?
    Hence really fat children.
    You get my point.
    Anyway I have worked hard and struggled mightily with coming online PROPERLY.
    Reinventing myself since I’m dealing with ageism in the job market after 50.
    One of my main reasons to become successful online in my new life is to get my kids the hell away from this idiot producing school system into a private christian school.
    They’ll put me in the hole trying brother Marshall!

  15. There are some brilliant, thought-provoking ideas here. As a child, I participated thirteen years in the much-vaunted New York school system. I cruised through it, and then had the eye-opening moment the first year in college when I realized I was hardly as smart as I thought I was. I spent that freshman year “catching up”, and I did it fast enough to excel, but there was always that nagging thought, “What the heck were they teaching me for the last 13 years?”

  16. Hey Perry,

    Agree 100% with what you’re saying – except at the junction between not wanting your kids to grow in a machine but saying that there is no limit on Earth’s population…?

    I agree we could easily feed many more people than we currently do – the question is do we want to? Do we want to have a world with wide open spaces and cities where we’re not camped on top of each other?

    I don’t believe it’s an elitist view I believe it’s a view that values human life and something of the experiences that we have now – whilst embracing the good changes we enjoy from intelligent progress. Not suggesting one kid families for all – but I am saying that we don’t need to be pushing for 20 billion people!

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