Define Success

Going around the Twitter a week or so back was a video from TEDx London from Goldie about despite dropping out of the school system he has made a success of his life. Given the choice again, he would drop out of school again!

It reminds me of some (most) of the presentations from Handheld Learning 2009 in which Malcolm McLaren, Zenna Atkins and Yvonne Roberts.

Back then I wrote about how they all felt they were failed by the formal education system, but had made a success of their lives.

…next was Zenna Atkins… She felt she had been failed by the formal education system and despite this had a made a success of her life. She recounted tales about her children and their experiences in the education system. I am sure she knows more about the UK education system then someone like me, but you have to ask this question, if the education system is so wrong in the UK, despite the best efforts of organisations like Ofsted which are there to check the quality of the education system, then maybe we need to rethink the whole education system and the quality checking that takes place. I did feel that alienating your audience who are generally all from the formal education system and indicating that they are the problem was an interesting way to present the issues.

With Malcolm McLaren up next… He was also failed by the formal education system but found success, notice a pattern here?

Yvonne Roberts was the third keynote and having alienated the audience with a throwaway remark about dyslexia once more recounted how the formal education system had failed her and here she was speaking as a keynote presenter.

All of these speakers talked about how the formal education system was rubbish and needed a revolution. The pattern behind all their talks was that the school system had failed them and despite that they had made a success of their lives.

What annoys me about giving these people a platform is that it sends completely the wrong message to young people.

“Drop out of school and you will be successful!”

We never hear from those thousands of people who dropped out and didn’t have success in the same way they did. Those thousands who for whom school failed them and they feel they have failed.

Let’s remember that there are many more people that didn’t drop out of school and have led happy successful lives.

I think a key question is how do we define success?

Do we measure success by how many column inches you have in the Daily Mail?

Is success measured by economic success, how much money we have earned? Wealth?

Is success measured by popularity? By the number of Twitter followers you have? How much you are liked on Facebook? How many hit singles you’ve had?

Is success measured by how high you get in an organisation? Are you a Chief Executive? Are you a senior manager?

Is success measured by some weird happiness index that takes into account multiple factors? Do you need to be successful to be happy?

There are issues and problems with the formal education system, however those issues are institutional, cultural, societal and governmental. Changes need to be made at all levels, in government, in government departments, officiating quangos such as Ofsted, examining boards, local authorities, funding bodies as well as schools and colleges.

When an individual is successful despite failing at school, in some ways yes we should celebrate this, but we must also question why they failed within the formal system. Likewise we mustn’t forget those for whom not only did the school system fail, but have not had happy successful lives.

However we mustn’t forget those for whom the school system did work and who have also led successful lives. Let’s also celebrate when it works, but not be complacent when it doesn’t.

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