“It’s c**p and I’m so bored” – education?


October 14th, 2016

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bored-cat-shutterstock_211513189I had a delightful conversation with someone recently. I confess, I do delight when my prejudices and beliefs are affirmed. Here though, I’d like you to challenge my challenge…

We were talking about his choices around how to develop himself further as a developer. He is almost one year in to an MBA in the UK because, as he put it “that’s what you do if you want to get on”. That didn’t delight me. Then he said “but I’m so bored. It’s crap what we’re learning. I’m not learning anything that I can actually use.” My heart sang.

Further critique exists (e.g. Pfeffer and Fong 2002 or Mintzberg 2004), even to the point of laying blame for financial meltdowns and societal degradation at the door of conventional education, due to its failure to get people to think for themselves or take responsibility for themselves. The dynamics seem more complex than that to me, but it does raise a question for the specific area I am interested in – adult development in service of improved work. How much is further and higher education actually helping adult learning, let alone development?

For those who understand the value of sharpening their awareness, presence and skill in order to be of service to their customers and clients in all sorts of contexts – leadership, consulting, facilitation, coaching – conventional education doesn’t seem to be helping. Carl Rogers (1961) was onto this 60 or so years ago, when he offered a critique to a Harvard conference – with a fiery response. Do the same positions still exist today – of didactic teaching, spoon feeding of theory, and presenting prescribed method as solution? From today’s marketing materials we might believe things have moved on to a wealth of fresh, participative, emancipatory educational offerings: blended learning; bespoke platforms; opportunities to co-create curricula. In most cases I know of however, once surfaces are scratched, a familiar picture emerges – all too often one of digital/glamorised ‘chalk and talk’. (I’m not having a go at digital here by the way – we should embrace every technology available to improve the learning experience. On its own though, digital doesn’t make learning learner-centred.)

Therefore, a question I’d love your answers on: what experiences do you have of further and higher education actually stretching your practice and efficacy in useful, relevant, powerful ways? What’s on offer out there within the conventional education system that challenges that system and the wider systems we are part of?


Cunningham, I, 1999, The Wisdom of Strategic Learning – The Self Managed Learning Solution.

Mintzberg, H (2004), Managers not MBAs.

Pfeffer,J. and Fong, C.T. (2002). The end of Business Schools? Less success than meets the eye. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 1.

Rogers, Carl R., 1961, On Becoming a Person. Chapter 13: Personal Thoughts on Teaching and Learning; Chapter 15: Student Centred Teaching as Experienced by a Participant.