Is Traditional Education Really Changing?

Written By John Sonmez

In this episode, I talk about how traditional education is changing.

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Full transcript:

John:               Hey, John Sonmez from I got kind of a long email here so I’m going to kind of summarize parts of this but this email is from Peter and he asked me is traditional education really ending.

I’ve done some videos and I’ve talked about this idea of—well, I mean you could probably guess that I’m not a big fan of traditional education. I think I talked about gate keepers and the like and that might be—I think that’s probably the video that he was referring to. So I’m going to kind of summarize a little bit of this but he says, “I’ve seen your last video and you mentioned once again what you think about traditional academic education. Now, you’re not the only one whom I know to think like that but it just came to me that you have one thing in common with all the others. To the best of my knowledge all those people including you live in Anglo-Saxon countries.” So this is kind of an interesting concept.

He goes on to say, “Since you’re currently in Europe where I come from I wanted to poke your thoughts a bit, maybe the academic education isn’t—as such isn’t a problem, maybe just the one provided in the US, UK, Australia is suboptimal. I’ve studied in 3 different countries here and have friends from many other countries in mainland Europe and universities here are virtually free.”

He goes on to talk about the price, how—and it’s true, a lot of universities in Europe are free and he says that some people claim that they’re not as good as UK or US universities. I’m not—I think to some degree that’s probably true. You kind of get what you pay for, but at the same token in the US you can pay for a very expensive degree that isn’t worth anything. So I don’t know if that’s necessarily something that I would use to judge that.

He does go on to say that some universities have produced Nobel Prize winners. I’ll be totally honest with you, I consider the Nobel Prize to be a worthless celebration of how smart you are. That might not actually contribute to the world especially when it comes to economics.

So basically he wants to know, Peter wants to know is—does what he said, does that change my view. Is my view jaded because I’m only looking at education, traditional education Anglo-Saxon countries as opposed to I guess more like native English speaking countries I guess is what he’d be referring to because he said the US, UK, Australia, but in Europe have they got it all figured out.

Having traveled in Europe I don’t think that I would say that. There’s definitely differences between the US and the UK but there’s one thing—well, I’ll say even in some of the Anglo-Saxon countries in Europe, I went to UK and they were very much by the book, very much—I experienced this a lot in Europe of oh—especially when I talked about homeschooling my daughter they said, “Oh, you can’t do that” until they see her actually reading and then they’re like, “Well, that doesn’t-” they don’t understand how that’s possible and it seemed like such a wrong thing.

I feel like it’s actually stronger in Europe of the thing that I’m fighting against. The thing that I’m fighting against is not the value of the education, it’s not whether or not people can learn from these institutions. Of course they can learn. That’s a personal choice to learn. You choose to learn. You could go to a university and get a degree, get all kinds of degrees and not learn a thing at all. It’s up to you.

But what I’m fighting against is the system and the structure, the thing that says that you have to do things this certain way in order to achieve this result. Really, what I think that traditional education systems are teaching us today and teaching our children is that there’s one way that—to respect an authority that hasn’t earned that respect and that the world is small, that you have to go get good grades, get a job, contribute to the society. There’s a much bigger world out there. There’s a much larger way to go. You don’t have to follow this simple path.

In fact, a really good book on this subject, it pretty much sums up exactly what I think about traditional education is this book called Antifragile. I’ll put a link below here, but in this book the author he talks about a concept called iatrogenics which is—it’s a medical term that is very obscure. If you haven’t heard of this word just look it up because I forgot it but basically what this refers to is when doctors that are trying to help a patient actually by helping a patient actually cause more harm than good. There’s a lot of instances of this throughout history, different medications, different things that doctors have done to help someone and that actually hurts them and kills them. In fact, the more that you visit a doctor the more likely you are to die. It actually increases your chances of death the more that you visit a doctor.

Basically this also applies to education or at least the author makes the argument in Antifragile that education is not really good but it can actually be harmful, it can actually hurt an individual because of the structures and the fault sense of knowledge and some of the things that you miss out, some of the street smarts that I think you’d probably miss out by relying on an educational system and also the forced patterns, I’m thinking, that it forces you into.

I definitely believe that there is some iatrogenics involved in most traditional education systems and so that’s really where I’m coming from. It’s not necessarily a cost basis, it’s not can you learn things it’s are you learning the right things and are some of the things that you’re learning and the ways of thinking that your mind is being molded into harmful or helpful to you. I would venture to say that they’re in many cases more harmful, that it’s going to do you much more harm. That’s why traditional education needs a change. The whole thing, the most valuable skill that you can have in life bar none is the ability to teach yourself. Traditional education doesn’t teach you that. It teaches you to rely on someone else to spoon feed you regardless of US, UK universities, European universities. I think for the most part that’s true. Obviously there’s exceptions everywhere but for the most part I found that to be true and that’s what I don’t like.

So anyway, good question, good debate. I’m happy to debate this topic. I’m sure that there will be plenty of people that take both sides of this. Not to say that there’s not any value at all in education, in higher education but you’ve got to figure out how to get that value for yourself and you have to be not brainwashed in the process. Anyway, if you have a question for me email me at and I’d love to answer your question here and if you like these videos, if you like this podcast definitely subscribe and I will talk to you next time, take care.