Breakfast in America
License plates on the black Cadillac parked outside the restaurant read “TRMP TRN”. And it was no surprise, Midwest is Trump’s territory, and I was in a small town in southwestern Ohio ready to order my breakfast, enjoying the sunny Saturday morning.
“I will have the kippers,” I said when the blonde waitress showed up.
“Supertramp fan?” she was quick.
“Just took a jumbo across the water,” the great song was still on my mind.
And actually I just did take a Jumbo across the Atlantic.
She laughed briefly and I wondered why a person of this mind is waiting tables.
Maybe it’s because our education is a protracted system of university entrance and the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think that they’re not.
Interestingly, there was no public education before the XIX century; it all came into being as a need of industrialism.
The industrialists set out to figure out how to get people to buy lots of stuff but also how to make sure that the workers were willing to be interchangeable cogs in the machine. And the solution of course was – public education.
We’re running an education system where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. The result is, that we are educating people out of their creative capacities. And creativity is as important as literacy and we should treat it with the same status, but instead we built a system that teaches people to fit in. Notice that in life, if you fit in good enough, all it means is that you’re easy to replace.
Did you know that the Icarus story was changed over the years? In the original, the young man was not supposed to fly low, where the sea moisture will get into the feathers, destroy his wings and kill him. He was told by his father to fly high.
I’m a father too, and I would never give any other advice to my kids.
Education is supposed to get us into the future that we can’t grasp, and the unpredictability is extraordinary. The kids in schools now will have their careers in full swing around 2050. We don’t know how the world is going to be in five years, so how can we know what to educate them for?
All we know is that mandatory education makes no sense – nobody ever learned anything against their will, so let’s start with the notion of meaningful work and let’s call it art.
Art is when one human being is doing something that others couldn’t do.
There is no manual how to do it and people who figure it out are worth something. These are people who take the intellectual risk instead of doing repeatable work.
Not financial risks, but emotional risks - putting something out to the world and be willing to let the world respond and react.
So I heard this great story about a girl, who was six in the drawing lesson sitting in the back of the room and the teacher said she never paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher walked to her and asked, “what are you drawing?”
And the girl said – “I’m drawing a picture of God.”
And the teacher said: “but nobody knows how the God looks like.”
The girl said: “they will in a minute.”
The kids will take a chance; they’re not frightened to be wrong.
It’s not that being wrong is the same as being creative, but if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.
And by the time they become adults, most kids have lost that capacity. We got brainwashed into asking for roadmaps instead of asking for compass.
Later that weekend I drove north in a nice black Jeep from the Warren County towards Detroit.
The landscape changed, showing how globalization destroyed businesses and people’s lives like a tsunami.
What used to be the industrial heartland of America is now hollowed out and no wonder that people lost trust in career politicians who watched the destruction happening and did nothing.
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Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler