Tuesday, October 25, 2016

You set a bad example, Bill!

You set a bad example, Bill!
(Explaining the two types of school dropouts)

Overheard a conversation between a father and a son.  They were walking in front of me.  The father did not appear too happy on his son’s passing grade in math--especially when earlier the son had B’s and A’s in the class.  The father warned the son that was how students fall behind, they drop out of school, and then the world is there to take advantage of these marginally educated people--the dropouts are always kept at the lowest rungs of the workforce.

“But Bill Gates was a dropout too.  And so were Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Michael Dell,” the son retorted.

The father appeared stunned by the response.

And just then the father noticed me.  He could tell I was overhearing the conversation.  They changed direction and walked away.

I came back home and wrote the following note for that father and for all the fathers whose sons, swayed by half-truths, think dropping out of school is a ticket to a successful life.

When people extol famous school dropouts they fail to mention the difference between the two diametrically different types of such students.  You cannot equate the sagging-pants dropouts whose every other word starts with the letter F, with the geniuses like Gates and Zuckerberg.

Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg did not drop out of school because they had bad grades.  Quite the opposite: they were doing well in school. They were not just riding the curve, or worse still, were behind the curve--they were ahead of the curve.  They were not lagging behind in math and science--they were marching miles ahead.

When they were taught Algebra in the classroom, they were bored, because by then they had already learned far advanced stuff on their own.  When their fellow students were struggling with the quadratic equations, they were well versed in the latest technologies.  For the dropouts of the first kind the school was the quintessential roadblock in the way of their education.  For them, the only way to move faster in life was to say goodbye to formal education, to get rid of the shackles that were holding them back.

School promises to teach students necessary skills and to make them find their way in life.  The dropouts of the first kind had already developed the skills, on their own, and they already knew what they wanted to do in life.  They had nothing in common with the other type of school dropouts who had neither learned any useful skills, nor had found a purpose in life.

The first kind of school dropouts leave formal education to go out and shape the world the way they want to see it--and while living their dreams they keep educating themselves.  Not all dropouts of the first kind get to see their dreams come true, but at least they live meaningful lives and don’t get exploited by others. The second kind of school dropouts leave school to be employed at minimum wage jobs, and they seldom get a chance to continue their education.

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