View from the McGill lawn. Photo by Mysteral
I used to always ask what the point of school was. Like, what does a report on killer whales have to do with anything? Or dressing up as the Founding Fathers. For the latter I drew names and got Benedict Arnold. Rather disturbing for the only brown kid, now that I think about it. In college I took some Ed Psych, but never got a satisfactory answer. I didn’t think that the ‘real world’ involved so many papers, like, how does anyone get paid for that? I always thought ‘work’ involved more heavy lifting. I literally thought that you’d need to move things around. Turns out its the same old shit. Insomuch as I have a job, I write papers, do presentations, work in groups, and get the same vomitous crunch at the end of the month – just like exam time. There’s less reading, but as far as I can tell, the working world is exactly like school.
The default at McGill was 20 pagers, which are actually useless for work. Well, sorta, business plans are like 20-30 (I use pictures) and annual reports and stuff are about that size. I’d say that 90% of the docs I write are less than 2 pages – either pitches or contracts or formal letters. One thing school didn’t teach me is to summarize information. Sri Lankan schools are especially bad at this. Some of the stuff I get to edit is just bloated beyond belief – a haphazard tangle of passive sentences and never-ending clauses. For a lot of people you can delete, literally, half. Some things don’t even need to be written at all. Most people you are sending a written doc to barely have time to read your name, so I try to have a couple bold headings and then further info if they need. If I was teaching anybody I’d teach them to delete and trim documents to the absolute minimum.
On most pitches you’re bullshitting anyways, so there’s no point giving anyone extra information. If it’s a pitch then complexity will just sink you. It’s different if you’re writing about genomics and the prof know how to read your references, but simple and 7th grade level seems to always work for business. Facts and research don’t actually matter, cause no one fucking cares. Just say synergy and ‘good’ a couple times and it’s all good. If you’re confident and connected it’s irrelevant. If you’re not, then no amount of reality is going to get you the job anyways.
Since I was 5 we’ve been doing presentations for the class, about 20 people I guess. Again, that was too big. Most presentations are, in my experience, for 1-5 people, max. Anything bigger is probably useless cause you’re not talking to the decision makers. I wish they’d done more stuff in that type of situation, like one-on-one pitches. It was like that in seminars, but that was only 4th year.
I have also spent countless hours photocopying and gluing posters together, which does not exactly apply in the work world. I never use PowerPoint cause that requires too much equipment and it’s stupid. At most I’ve used one sheet of printed paper and mouth. That’s kinda not what we learned in school, you just go up and talk for 5 minutes uninterrupted. Not wholly realistic, but I think it still prepares you for the general thing.
Working in Groups
Which I didn’t and don’t like. It was useful to practice, though, I guess. I find that all the explaining and stuff means that no work gets done. The only time I like working in groups is if the task is clearly divided and we barely meet. They never did teach us to divide up a job and actually have productive meetings, but I’ve at least been going through the motions for 16 years.
This is probably the most valuable thing about school, and why extra-curriculars are encouraged I guess. In SL especially, it’s all who you know. I (think I) happen to be good at what I do, but a lot of clients don’t even ask for prior work or a resume, so long as I’m referred. I actually haven’t updated my CV in a year cause no one’s ever asked for it. I don’t think my publisher even knows my home address. I think this is why B students who party a lot end up being successful, whereas keeners end up working for them. That’s also why the insane Sri Lankan competition is criminal. All the medium students who would drive your economy are locked out of state-run higher education and there are no private uni’s to pick up the slack. What you’re left with is people who study way too much and don’t network enough.
Mmmm, so I guess school isn’t exactly like the work world, but it was way closer that I’d thought. I’d always thought something more interesting went on in those glass buildings, but it’s same same. School was actually way more interesting, cause the topics weren’t, like, underwear or I kinda miss getting all worked up about Video Games or how many times Americans say ‘fuck’. In general however, I think a western education prepares you pretty well for the information economy. I think a Sri Lankan education fails, mainly cause it’s over competitive and the schooling is too rigid. American/Canadian education wasn’t really calibrated with the real world, but you could sorta slack off and approximate the working. By being a mediocre student you could learn how to be a good, sociable knowledge worker. Here there are so few educational opportunities that you end up getting people that are specialized in something that’s actually quite obscure.