Back to the grind, eh?

The day that many parents yearn for has finally arrived! The Labour Day weekend is over! Hurrah! Get them kids back to school!

Its true that many parents find the summer months almost a more of a stress than the school year what with needing to find ways to keep their young busy while they still have to worry about getting to work. Usually the summer season equates to more spending for the average parent simply on child care or summer entertainment like day camps, summer camps etc. These things are definitely not cheap. Having to put in more “kid time” while still working full time can definitely increase a parent’s stress level quickly. Its those few relaxing moments when the parent actually has more than 2 days off that they can be less stressed and fully focussed on their home life for a change.

And yet school is still heralded as the parent’s haven. Indeed, for many just struggling to get by its pretty much a learning institution as much as it is a free daycare. Compared to summer activities that can run up in the hundreds per week depending on the activities involved.

Labour Day is considered by many Canadians to be the last final weekend of summer. Time for that last road trip, that last party etc. I was interested to find that Labour Day was originally a celebration set up in response by the Toronto Trades and Labour Council. Back in the day unions were striking because they wanted a 58 hour work week. 58 HOURS! Currently a standard work week is the regular 37.5 – 40. This works out to 7.5 or 8 hours / day for a regular shift. Back then, they were striking to get the work week down to 58! This works out to 11.6 hr/day in a 5 day work week. Or 9.6 hr/day if we allow them 6 work days with a Sunday off. And they were striking FOR this back in the late 1800s. The union organizers of the time were JAILED for staging these strikes for “conspiracy”.

Wow… far we’ve come, eh? Here we are now in 2012 voluntarily working 60, 70, 80 hours/per week. And this is what has come from our school systems which ties into this Labour Day is over – back to the grind theme. As I dropped my girlfriend off at work, we passed two schools along the way. Lots of new backpacks, clothes, gear etc. And a lot of parent’s hustling their kids into the classroom where their bright future’s await them. But is that the case?

Education originally was completed in the forms of apprenticeship and was completed within the family. The population in the 1700’s was much less sparse at that time. With an agrarian model most of the needs were in agriculture and farming. Formal education had no place since children learned what they needed by learning by association and learning by doing when their elder’s deemed them able to start tasks suited to their age and skill level.

It was around the 1840’s where public education and a school “system” was becoming more of an emerging consensus. “School Promoters” Egerton Ryerson in Ontario, Jean-Baptiste Meilleur in Quebec and John Jessop In British Columbia who were on constant communication with each other were main contributors to the fledgling system becoming more and more mainstream.

The characteristic conviction of the school promoters was that mass schooling could be an effective instrument for instilling appropriate modes of thought and behaviour into children; in their minds, the purpose of mass schooling did not primarily involve the acquisition of academic knowledge. School systems were designed to solve a wide variety of problems ranging from crime to poverty, and from idleness to vagrancy.

As industry quickly overtook agriculture and large hubs of commerce and trade became more mainstream, there were more needs for employees. The need for children to become well versed in their trades back on the farm compared to the amount of children being born and raised in these larger towns and cities were becoming more and more disproportionate.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not down or education or schooling. In fact its definitely necessary for young minds to learn and grow. But what exactly are school’s teaching after the parent’s drop off their kids and go off to their jobs? Two breaks and a lunch. You need permission to use the washroom. You have deadlines. You have homework.  You work alone and in groups/teams. Teacher’s teach what the curriculum tells them to. They can deliver it in a multitude of ways that matches their “style”, but the curriculum is still the same depending on province. If your child is in a private school then maybe there is a more religious tone, or a more focussed tone. But the bottom line is, they are being prepared for an adult life of: meeting deadlines. Taking your work home with you while they’ll be off the clock. Two 15’s and a 30. (The 30 is usually unpaid.) Its just a set up for the next 40+ years. And the school system sets this up like a professional billiards player.

“What do you want to do / be for the rest of your life?” It’s asked of these young minds as young as 5 – 6 years of age. Choices may vary based on personal interest or what seems “fun” or “cool” or it takes after what Mommy or Daddy does. Is there any point that asks – “How do you want to live?”. There is no focus on the outcome. Oh there’s a vague view of what the end “should” look like – living comfortably as they have a few weeks off and weekends. Some jobs lend more time off than others. But what I’ve experienced is that I was sold a bill of goods since I could understand words. Get a good education, that will get me a good job, and then I’ll have a good life and I’ll “make it”. By getting a good job I’ll make enough to pay all of my expenses and then have some fluff left over for savings, fun etc.

So my question was…how’s the fluff doing? For myself I can tell you its been one hell of a struggle. I’m doing ok for now. But this isn’t very different than a lot of adults around my age give or take 5 years up or down. So what happened? Where’s the fluff I’m supposed to be enjoying? Well to be fair I wasn’t good friends with school. I was there to play basketball and have fun. I didn’t care for studies because they bored me to tears. So my hard times easily could be attributed to shoddy effort and results from my school life. Fair enough. I can accept that. But why are there so many other adults with degree’s and other post secondary success’ working at Starbucks? Not that there’s anything wrong with Starbucks as an employer. But if you successfully completed your college or university, you should be able to get a lot better wage in your field of study, yes?

Well there’s also demand for that job to consider. So even if I “love” what I went to school for, I better take into consideration the demand it has. But if there’s a high demand, then I’m set, yes? Oh, there are hundreds if not thousands of others going for the same job/work as me? Well, I should be willing to move provinces to get that job. Not thinking that there are many others in that province/state who are looking for that work in their home area.

Oh, Cameron you’re looking at the negative! People who want to make it, will do whatever it takes to get that job. Or they’ll diversify and go BACK to school to outclass their competition. So this involves going into more debt, more loans just to get a job that will pay  me or them or whoever as little as it can because it is a business and it wants to make money first. I can’t say that I like the idea of that solution.

Each step taken was what was fed to me as a student in elementary school and high school. And I see a lot of people wondering….what the hell happened? I did what I was told to do. Why is this so hard? Why am I barely making it? The older generation will point out that nothing in life is free, life isn’t easy, and there are no gaurantees.

So hold up….wait a minute. I was told to do all of these things as a child with no gaurantee that this was going to work!? So then what reason did I go through that boring monotonous daily grind known as school? Of course there are great social benefits – working with others, interacting with others etc. But to set me up for life when there was no gaurantee the system would work seems pretty ludicrous. I think it was done because everyone else does it.

The trouble is, there are simply too many people to differentiate ourselves from in the working world. Everyone and their dog has a degree. A Ph D, a Masters. They’re a dime a dozen. And yet more people are going more and more into debt expecting it will give them success. They were fed this since grade one.

Once again, I do believe there are benefits for schools. However I strongly believe they are not the key’s to the future for kids. More students are stressed than ever. More have a heavy debtload. More parents are using their retirement savings to help their adult children. More adult children are living at home in their mid twenties.

“Nothing in life is free.” “There are no gaurantees in life.” And yet when I show them a different way, they get upset when there is no gaurantee of results. Anything outside what they have learned their whole life – trade time for money – is not to be trusted. I’ve gone through that system and have seen a life of drudgery open up ahead of me. Not just myself, but many close friends and colleagues. Wondering and wishing there was more to life than this same old, same old. And yet the grind begins again. Before we know it, another year will pass. And nothing will have changed.

There are no gaurantees in life, true. There are no gaurantees of success in my business. But then, if we stick with that status quo, there are no promises life makes us. So I’ve just chosen something that will respond to my effort. No more and no less. Life is to be lived. Not to be tolerated. It shouldn’t be a grind. That’s why I’ve gotten around people who live it and are taking me with them. I suggest you do the same if you aren’t happy where things are going. Find someone who lives how you want to live. Who has the marriage you want. Who has the time you want with your family and friends. Get around them and learn from them. Not from the broke guys around the water cooler who are in the same situation as you are. If you want your outcome to change, you need to change.

Instead of being back to the grind. Why not get back to moving forward for a new day, a new you, a new life. There are no gaurantees, but what is a life lived without the attempt at living for something more than drudgery? The comfort zone is the failure zone. If we sit and hope to stay the course, we’ll find that the course may not want to stay on a path we want. But by that time we’ve given up all control and I, for one, will not allow the end of my path be determined by anything else but my actions. How about you?

Here’s hoping your grind is only temporary so you can go out and live life. Not grind through it.

~ C