As you get to know me you’ll know that one of my big peeves is bureaucracy. Bureaucracy, almost of any kind, makes me want to both laugh out loud at its ridiculousness and scream furiously at its ignorant inefficiencies.
Now as a school teacher I get the privilege of working with one of the most notorious bureaucracies on a regular basis: the state. The irony of one these interactions was so perfect I have to share.
One day, as I sat at my two screen computer with both a typing keyboard and a musical one, I was working on interactive, Flash based interfaces for the movies and lessons of our online classes. To get an accurate picture you have to imagine that on one screen the internet programming window was open. Behind that was the graphic design program. On the other screen there was a video editing program running and the browser where I was testing the program that was a result of all these other programs working together.
Since I’m pretty good at all this multimedia stuff and do it as profession, the school I teach at wanted me to teach some multimedia classes. Sounds great. There’s only one big problem (are you ready for this) . . . . I have never taken a multimedia class in college!!! Please, take a moment to recover from the shock. I mean, how could I know anything if I didn’t take a college class about it, right?
Well the state apparently agrees that I, in fact, must know nothing and the only way I could learn was to go back to college — because while I was sitting there at my computer I got an email from my school telling me all the required college courses I would have to take in order to be allowed to teach multimedia starting with the most beginning level classes. I just about threw the computer screen at the wall.
Now lest you think I am an isolated case let me tell you about another good friend of mine. He is literally a world-renown artist. He has painted for around 30 years at the professional level and has done work all over the world. Many of you reading this would recognize some of his pieces. On top of that he is a gifted teacher that is able to help his students develop the skills to create great pieces or art. He’s recently decided that he wanted to get into teaching at a public school. He loves it and his students are doing remarkably well.
What’s the problem? He does not have a college degree. Instead of learning in the educational world he decided to learn in the professional world which does not award credits or degrees. But, believe me, he is no less educated. The state has decided that if he is going to continue to teach he will have to go back to college. So this master artist and master teacher is now spending his time in beginning art classes at a local university so he can continue to do the thing he loves and the thing he is wonderfully good at.
Now why am I telling all you this? Just so I can whine about stupid bureaucracies? Of course not . . . OK, well maybe a little. But really I want to point out that, even though there are many (including state bureaucracies) who think the only effective way to learn something is in your high school or college classes, the reality is that you live in the 21st century and there are a myriad of resources literally at your finger tips to help you gain the education you want.
There is nothing stopping you from taking the steps to become expert in whatever area of knowledge you would like. Whether you want to study the literature and life of Charles Dickens, the principles of chemistry or Hollywood costume design, there are the tools available to you to help you become an expert without ever stepping into a college class. Imagine what scholars from the past would do if they had something as basic as Wikipedia available to them. I learned most of my multimedia skills from Lynda.com for $25 a month — tons cheaper, faster and more effective than college classes! Apple has iTunesU where classes and lectures from leading universities like Oxford and Harvard are available for FREE! And remember, there’s still the good old public library, a luxury not many people in the history of the world have enjoyed.
Now don’t get me wrong — this is not an excuse to neglect high school or college. They are still as important as they always were and a great place to learn. But they are no longer the only place to learn. Choose something you’re interested in and embark to search out what you can learn. Use the tools you have to better yourself, not just to pass the time. Create a personal culture and habit of learning and growth wherever you are, not just in classes. In short — join the 21st century. It’s moving fast and is offering to take you along.