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Why Schools Should Help Students Find Their Passion

We don't need another generation of workers simply enduring their lives.

"Many people spend their entire lives doing things they don't really care for" and "endure their lives" says reknowned creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson in a talk for the School of Life on finding our purpose and following our passion. Robinson—who is known for speaking out against our highly standardized, one-size-fits-all education system that follows a "linear mode of production" and steers workers toward filling slots at companies so our economy can "beat China"—says the problem with this system is that humans are hard wired to use our imaginations and produce new things. When we find ourselves doing things we aren't passionate about, we are, unsurprisingly, pretty miserable.

As always, Robinson has plenty of fascinating anecdotes about creativity and learning, but towards the end of his talk (around the 46:00 mark) he shares a story that's especially relevant for those students—and their parents—heading to college in a few weeks. Robinson says a professor at USC told Robinson how his son initially planned to major in classics, then switched to philosophy, and finally moved on to art history—three majors most people nowadays would say will send you to the unemployment line. However, today the professor's son has a great job that he loves at a major auction house and gets to travel the world. Imagine if he'd shoehorned himself into computer science simply because Silicon Valley needs talent.

Unfortunately, thanks to the recession, students now say that instead of studying something they're genuinely interested in, they're focused on majors they think will land them a better job. It's not surprising that students feel this way, since, as The Atlantic recently noted, we're being hit over the head with rhetoric about the skills mismatch, the idea that "the skills of U.S. workers don't match the needs of the nation's employers." Most liberal arts degrees—English, philosophy, women's studies—are increasingly seen as useless when compared to a business degree.

However, as Robinson notes, if you can't find passion and purpose in your work, you're disconnected from who you really are and you'll never truly excel at what you do. The question then for our K-12 schools and higher education institutions is how we bring back that spirit of finding—and living—your passion so the next generation of creative innovators can truly thrive?

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