October 28, 2013

The Hierarchy of Education

singleroomschoolIt’s my belief we are conditioned as children—through the hierarchy of a centuries-old schooling system—to believe the oldest person in the room (the teacher) is the smartest. That works only for so long. We are further conditioned to believe that when we’re extremely smart we’ll be recognized by the highest authority—the school principal—through commendations and “bravos” on our report cards. Conversely, when things go awry, the teacher (or perhaps the manager in a corporate comparison)—and/or the principal (the vice president or CEO in a corporate comparison) may sternly call us out for unruliness, poor grades, or anything in between.

Do you remember the absolute fear of being called into the principal’s office? Particularly so if you hadn’t a clue as to why you were being summoned to the office via the PA system, an office administrator or a student runner. Now that was stressful—and it was not unlike an archaic, antiquated and classically hierarchical annual performance review is in today’s organization.

We are conditioned at a very young age, through the kindergarten-to-higher-education continuum, to believe that it is our individual accomplishments that allow us the chance to achieve great things in life.

But success in today’s world is not merely about academic prowess or individual accomplishments alone. Success is not about power, greed and stockpiling knowledge in a vault. Success can’t be found by proficiently ruling in a silo. Nor is success found through a hierarchical, command and control philosophy.

emersonIf we’re trained as children and teenagers to believe that it is the school system of master and apprentice that breeds success, is there any hope for a more collaborative work experience after high school or higher education? Is there any hope for a more creative, innovative and open thinking organization? As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

“You send your child to the schoolmaster, but ’tis the schoolboys who educate him.”

<Adapted from Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization>

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