broken education

A Broken Education

If you were teaching someone to score a penalty tomorrow, would you have them memorise the top 100 goal scorers of the last 100 years tonight? If you were hiring, would you go with the one holding the piece of paper proclaiming they were qualified, or the one with the experience who’d done it?

A few years ago, if you wanted to be in the film industry, you went to film school. In particular, if you wanted to direct major movies, you went to NYU or USC. Same goes for business, design, marketing, writing, photography, making Italian-style kazoos, whatever. There were establishments that you were expected to go to. And then the internet arrived, bringing with it an abundance of places where you can learn your craft, publish your work, and have it seen by a niche audience who are interested and offer feedback.

There’s no need to drop megabucks to get into an exclusive institution and proceed to ass-kiss the faculty (who are often far-removed from the industry they’re teaching) in the hope that you’ll land a good summer internship. You don’t have to send your portfolio or showreel to an individual in an agency. You can now create work, whether you’re doing that out of a damp garage or in the halls of a “well-respected” school, that is interesting enough for those people to want to come to you. The world has opened up, grades are an illusion, and getting a degree does not equal getting a good job. How you get an education is a non-issue. Now you can connect with the best craftspeople in the world, barge your way in and have them as personal mentors. You can create the work that you want to make and should be making, and build a demand around it. The old model is flawed, and that’s great news for all of us, even institutions if they’re willing to adapt.

Going to a traditional university to study something that’s subjective is a rapidly sinking ship and the web’s to thank (not blame). There’s a place for classic institutions – like if you want to be a doctor, or a lawyer. And there’s undeniable and powerful social benefits and life skills to be had being part of a community of new people, in a new area. But for subjects that can’t (shouldn’t) be measured by the results you get on an exam paper, it’s antiquated structure is dwindling at lightspeed. There’s a couple of options; get yourself in debt anyway and “qualify” with some paper, a gown and a hat, or go and make the stuff that drives you and get the experience, knowledge, and learning that comes with it.

When the internet provides (potentially in person & offline) access to the best craftspeople, teachers & mentors on the planet, a place to share your work that reaches far more eyes than the walls of an institution will ever do, and an abundance of trusted choice in whatever field you are interested in, you know it’s time to question the past and look to the future. You don’t need to drop dollars or pounds and sign up for 3 years, hoping you’ll enjoy whatever it is you’ve signed up for. You can experiment, for free. You can do it whenever you want, for as long as you want. Importantly, you can quit as many times as you like, until you learn what excites you. That’s one of the most exciting parts of the connected world. That and Ultimate Dog Tease.

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Dave Gill is a filmmaker, writer and a dropout. He's currently producing a project that involves cycling 11,000 miles around North America, meeting a variety of people to look at lifestyle choice. Everyone from major Hollywood directors to singing cowgirls, tech entrepreneurs to ex-convicts. Follow the journey at and follow Dave on Twitter @dave_steepmedia.