When Traditional Schooling Doesn’t Work

Traditional School

Despite the constant attempts of conventional education to reinvent itself, stay current with the times, update its methods, etc., there are many instances in our modern world when traditional schooling just doesn’t work.  Even while our society seems to put more importance than ever on a quality college education—and even while students are spending more money than ever on higher education, going deeper into debt, and so on—that expensive education is actually carrying less and less weight in the job market overall.  It used to be that going to college greatly improved one’s chances of getting a lucrative job afterward.  All you have to do is ask a few of the millions of recent college graduates who are still unemployed and back home living with their folks, and you’ll realize that assumption is no longer true.  Going to college doesn’t guarantee you a job, and the odds of getting hired after graduation are lower now than they have ever been. It is causing many people to question whether going to college is even worth the money.

What do we mean by “traditional education?” Generally speaking, we’re talking about the typical classroom-based instruction system: going to a brick-and-mortar school, sitting in a class of other students with one teacher lecturing from the front, homework assignments, tests, and grades.  It’s a tried-and-true system that has evolved over the centuries, has done a great job of furthering and expanding knowledge, and still carries a great amount of prestige. (It still impresses people when you are able to display a college degree on your wall.)

The problem is that there is a vast difference between having prestige and having a career.  For a number of different reasons, a college degree simply doesn’t impress potential employers at the same level it used to.  Sure, a degree still matters, especially in certain fields like law, medicine, research and academia; but it doesn’t necessarily matter as much as it once did.  And having a degree doesn’t mean you’ll get hired, even in the professions where degrees are still considered important.

So why doesn’t traditional education always work?  There are quite a few possible reasons, but let’s just look at a few.


The world is changing more quickly now than at any other time in history, especially in the areas of technology, communication and marketing.  Social media, for example, has turned the marketing profession on its ear in the past few years, causing many marketing professionals to completely rethink their mass-marketing strategies.  There are now full-time social media careers that didn’t exist three and four years ago—and even with established career paths, the ways people do things in the job market are changing so quickly that the clunky traditional education system just can’t keep up. The result: going to college won’t necessarily qualify you for the challenges in today’s job market.  You may need more than college alone provides.


Business DayNot only is the job market changing rapidly, but attitudes among employers are changing, as well. Depending on the profession, an employer is just as likely to hire someone who has on-the-ground experience or tests well on a psych profile as someone who just spent $150,000 on a college degree. Perhaps even more so.  Someone who can produce results is held at a higher value than someone who holds a degree.


IMG_8787Because we put such a high value on traditional education methods, we often try to superimpose them on career paths that aren’t a good fit for those methods. As a result, students spend far more money than they should on an education that is ineffective in getting them plugged in to their chosen career. Trade schools are particularly notorious for this, attempting to train people in careers such as broadcasting, audio production and film by putting them in classrooms, when these skills are learned far more effectively on-the-job.


Despite the stock we place in our traditional education methods, the fact is that these methods have never been foolproof. For one thing, the entire class lecture/homework/testing/grading structure is based on a left-brained approach that right-brained, creative people sometimes struggle with.  Dyslexic or autistic people who are often quite brilliant find themselves falling through the cracks, not because they can’t retain the material, but because of the way the material is presented.


The purpose behind this article, and even this website, is not to denounce traditional education, but simply to point out that it is not a foolproof system.  When traditional education does not work, common sense dictates we need to rethink it. There are things that can be done to improve the system, ways to open up the educational approach and make it more practical to helping students connect to careers. While we’re waiting for those changes to take place, there is nothing wrong with people looking for alternative ways to get the education they need, and find their own pathways into their chosen careers. We’ll look at some of those alternatives in some of the other pages.