A Thought Provoking Day

Today was perhaps the most mentally exhausting day of this program up to this point. With every lecture we were given, every part of Dublin we were shown, I ended up lost in my own thoughts about education, economic development, workplace environment, and so on. I would struggle to condense my entire day’s thoughts into a single, comprehensible blog post, so I have chosen three primary aspects of the day to write about.

Firstly, I want to talk about Wellston, Ohio. Wellston is one of the many coal mining communities that has been totally decimated by deindustrialization, regulation of fossil fuels, and the move towards renewable energy in America. Darren taught us today about how Dublin became what it is today; while there are many things that contribute to Dublin’s current status as a major economic player in the world, the thing that I hitched on was its failure to industrialize. Because the English intentionally stopped Ireland from industrializing in order to make them the bread basket of Great Britain, Ireland essentially skipped the entire industrial period; in other words, the Irish moved from the pre-industrial age to the post-industrial age without stopping in the middle. This then begs the question, are American cities failing because of a failure to pivot away from industrialization? Pittsburgh obviously had to deal with deindustrialization and came back stronger than ever, so then the follow-up question is this: how are rural communities different? Can formerly industrious rural communities come back after their industry is gone? After all, one of the major benefits that rural Irish communities had when moving into the post-industrial age was the size of the island which naturally connects rural communities to their urban counterparts. Can Wellston ever become more than a broken community, or is it doomed because of its former industry and distance from post-industrial urban centers?

Secondly, I thought a lot about education today, as Darren more or less lectured today on why I despise American public school with all of my heart. The short version of my beef: American schools are authoritarian, create uniformity within the student body, and concern themselves only with the goal of college acceptance rather than with the goal of students living successful lives. I have despised school every day of my life since I was in first grade; college is the first time that I have been excited for school. Why? College lends itself to self-direction and self-reliance. I am free to point myself in life, in education; I am free to work with others or stay independent and simply achieve. In other words, college is the closest thing in this country to a post-industrial education system, as our current public school system was created with the goal of giving children opportunities in the new industries of the 19th and 20th centuries. So, what solutions are there to the fact that our entire educational infrastructure is outdated? Can teachers adapt to different methodologies? Are we underserving students currently by giving them false expectations for what the real world will be like?

Lastly, and related more than tangentially to the previous paragraph, I am realizing just how important soft skills are. I am definitely one of the kids who has focused primarily on their GPA in school; clubs were never something that interested me in high school, though luckily this has not been the case in college. I always sort of knew intuitively that intangible skills like leadership and flexibility would be vital to my success in life, but I did not realize the extent to which it would open up new avenues for me. For instance, the spokesman for Google today was a business student who originally worked for a bank; his intangible skills and general knowledge are what allowed him to become an employee at Google. The thing that has scared me most about college is the feeling of being set on a particular path, rather than having the flexibility to experiment with the future; understanding that soft skills would allow me to experiment was a great comfort to me.

Overall, today allowed me to think a lot about my future; it pushed me further towards wanting to experiment with social entrepreneurship in rural communities. Moreover, I was able to think a lot about the culture of Dublin compared to that of America; I continue to believe that the cultures are more similar than they are different in many ways.