Higher education

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Much of the education I valued in high school was learning how to manipulate my environment. I didn't care much for what they wanted me to learn. I was more interested in figuring out how to operate the world around me. It's certainly strange they don't teach this subject in school, focusing on making sure students are able to pass proficiency tests instead. Ahh, the irony of it all. Those that focus on becoming proficient at something vs. those concerned more with proving they can pass a test. One of my challenges was learning how to game the system. That system worked like this: attendance was taken at the beginning of the school day by your first teacher; a cursory check of continued attendance taken again just before lunchtime. In between no one paid much attention. That's opportunity enough to see if I couldn't duck out during the inattentive times. And I did. On a regular basis. My success rate was perfect. One further challenge I assigned myself was figuring out how to solve the problem of being forced to get out of bed early enough to make the bus. My parents monitored this activity closely and there seemed no escape. A reasonable alternative occurred to me: I might be able to find somewhere to curl up and take a nap during the times I escaped from the boring, mindless classes. Thus, I was to learn, if I couldn't beat the system, at least I could solve its after affects. I had one two-hour class I actually enjoyed; journalism with Mrs. Dissan. I was the school photographer and, as such, had access to the darkroom which, much to my delight, had ample cupboards no one paid any attention to. A large cupboard is a perfect place to curl up for a nap, unnoticed. I stored this valuable piece of information away. Switch now to two months later as I strolled back into class, after leaving the school grounds for a couple of hours, hopefully unnoticed. We used to call this practice 'ditching' and I am uncertain what it is that today's youth, brave and daring enough to challenge the system, call it. Upon my entrance I found Mr. Platt, the assistant principal, waiting for me. Not a good sign, that. "Where have you been?" He asked. "Uh, I went to the bathroom." "For two hours? Looks to me like you left campus." "No. Uh, I was on campus the whole time." "Then where on campus were you?" Mr. Platt clearly had me in his sights and now I have compounded the crime by lying. Think, McGowan, think! "Uh, well, ok, I guess you caught me." A smile crept over his face. He licked his chops in anticipation of the corporal punishment about to befall my young buttocks, at his hands. "I fell asleep in the darkroom." "Nope!" He said, arms folded. "We looked there." I smiled my sheepish best. ""Let me show you." Of course I opened the cupboard displaying my 'nap stash' and tried to look sorry. "I've just had so much trouble staying awake these days ... I fell asleep in here." The story was just plausible enough, I escaped punishment. I learned a lot that day. My only regret was the necessity to lie. I could do better. It appeared one could successfully game the system and manage to be honest at the same time. It was an even bigger challenge, one I relished acquiring. On that day I learned the value of truth telling, but more importantly, I managed to keep the ability to game the system. Today, when traditionally accepted engineering practices create products that are not remarkable, the missing spark of innovation needed to go beyond tradition, and create the remarkable, goes to the person comfortable with gaming the system in an honest manner. I applaud those who bravely challenge the status quo.
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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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