Pick a Niche, Don't Be One: The Betrayal of Academia
Once upon a time there was a boy. He had an intelligent and versatile mother, and a boisterous and eccentric father. As he grew, he was exposed to alternative education, charter education, and public education. He dropped out of university, taught himself skills, took some community college classes, and engaged in apprenticeships. He learned and learned and learned, and to this day still tries to learn.
But what is he learning?
The strange truth is that most often, what he learns is not in fact what he is being taught...or even what he is being told to learn for that matter.
As I reflect on each distinct blend of education I notice threads of commonality. I think and write about this frequently. The thread is this: it seems that no formal education with which I am familiar attempts to develop multi-specialized individuals. It also seems that in each of our prospective industries we constantly hear the term "pick a niche!".
Now, I'm not saying that I wasn't exposed to a vast array of industries or concepts throughout my education. What I'm saying is that there was a funneling strategy implemented from the gate:
- Elementary school taught general topics in a broad and vague manner.
- This was useful.
- Middle school broke topics apart and had classes for each topic, i.e. "science" in elementary school fragmented into "chemistry", "physics", and "biology", and "history" became "world", "american", and "european" history.
- This was also useful.
- High school is where it got a muddy, because now the term "career" was being thrown around. It was also the first time I was allowed to begin picking courses.
- Picking classes based on personal interest was way exciting and indeed useful, but there was an invisible weight chained to each decision. An unspoken consideration that was hammered into all of our young, formative heads: "Choose carefully, your college acceptance is at stake" and "It's a good idea to pick courses based off what career you're after."
Poison I say! Who the hell came up with this model? How on earth is a child (A CHILD!!!) supposed to know or even have an inkling about what "career" they'd enjoy. And what the fuck is a "career" anyway?! What ungodly wizard hexed society that it is now normal and expected to seek a single path? To be funneled into a single position?
I could go on and on...
I won't go into the college experience, not just because it was brief, but because it was merely more of the same: pick a major, whittle your skills down, funnel funnel funnel.
I am not funnelable.
So what now?