Too much education?

The local newspaper recently published a letter to its editor from a teenager complaining about her homework load.  Four hours of homework along with extracurricular activities and volunteer requirements is stressing her out and doesn’t leave her time to have a job, so she wrote.

Most of the online comments to her letter were of the “life’s tough kid” type.

But, I happen to agree with this whiner.

In this post, I suggested one reason the average age at which folks made significant contributions to their respective fields had increased over the last 100 years is because we’ve occupied more of their time with expanded education requirements.

Maybe a broad education, high extracurricular involvement and volunteerism is good.  But, there may be costs too.  I can think of couple costs.

One cost is innovation.  We train the initiative and self-direction out of folks by laying out the steps for them.  As Seth Godin pointed out (see this blog post), our education model churns out “predictable, testable and mediocre factory workers,” rather than folks inclined to discover the next Google or Facebook.

Another cost is maturity and experience.  We insulate and delay students from the harsh realities of the real world — like having to make a tough choice between work or playing sports, spending on a budget, coping with failures and setbacks and figuring out how to  produce something others value.

I read that companies say that college hasn’t prepared students for the work force.  Maybe.  Or maybe the students have been kept so busy with the curriculum and extracurricular activities that they haven’t accumulated as much work experience as previous generations had by the same age.

I wonder how many folks get their first significant job after they graduate from college.  Or, more importantly, how many years of (any) work experience the typical new college grad has now compared to 30 years ago.  How many folks are learning key work lessons — like the importance of a well-groomed appearance, showing up on time and meeting deadlines — at 25 years of age instead of 15?