A little while ago I had the privilege of corresponding with Chris Guillebeau. He is an author and passionate challenger of the status quo. I have been following his work for many years and I am a huge fan of his book The Art of Non-Conformity and his website. I thought that it would be interesting to ask him about his views on education and what he thinks are the essential skills that we should be teaching children.
Enjoy this short, but insightful, set of questions:
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you are from, your background.
I’m a writer, traveler, and entrepreneur. I’m currently visiting every country in the world. When not traveling, I live in Portland, Oregon in the U.S. A few years ago my wife and I returned from a four-year volunteer commitment in West Africa, which was a formative experience for both of us.
What projects are you currently working on?
I like to work on a lot of projects at once. Two of the present ones are an online course called Adventure Capital that will serve as an extension of the $100 Startup model for people interested in small business, and I’m also writing the next book that will be about quests and extended journeys.
In your manifesto ‘A brief guide to world domination’ and your bestselling book ‘The Art of non-conformity’ you write extensively on the topic of thinking outside of the box and challenging the status quo. Why are you so passionate about these topics?
Because I want to help people understand that there are alternatives to traditional paths. I’ve been fortunate to have traveled a great deal and met thousands of people all over the world who have created incredible freedom for themselves. I want more people to be able to create the same kind of freedom and use it to help others.
Do you think that the current education system encourages students to think outside the box and challenging the norm?
There is more than one current education system, but I think it’s fair to say that most of them are somewhat resistant to independent thinking.
Why do you think this is the case?
Well, I don’t think it’s the fault of the system per se. Systems are designed to accommodate large groups of people. They are inherently opposed to individual thought or alternative paths, since those things tend to detract from the greater group. So it’s only normal, therefore, that a system should reinforce conformity by default.
How do you think teachers empower students to think outside the box?
Teachers have the ability to subvert the system! Or at least go around the system, or at least encourage students to think about their own motivations and goals. In other words, I’m not sure “the system” will ever change, but I’m also not sure it matters. In the hands of good teachers, students can develop in their own way.
What was your experience of school like?
It was quite varied. I moved around a lot as a kid and was constantly changing schools. Then I dropped out of high school after my freshman year. I later snuck into community college and then university, where I tried to complete the program as quickly as possible (I earned two Bachelors degrees in two and a half years, but I’m not sure how much I learned). Finally, I went to graduate school a few years later and earned a Master’s degree.
With such a range of experiences, it’s probably clear that some were positive and some were negative. I have good memories of a few positive learning environments, and I try to forget the rest.
If you haven’t already, please check out his work.
What would you add to his list?