Fake Work is Destroying Our School System!

Fake Work is Destroying Our School System!

Written by Mark

Topics: Uncategorized

Fake work is destroying Corporate America. Fake work is also destroying our school system.  It then destroys Corporate America.

Fake Work (FW): A project or task that keeps one or multiple people busy yet has no productive value.  It serves to keep an illusion alive that there is still something of productive value being achieved.

Where does this mentality come from?

It starts in the school systems that prep children for the fake work factories of the corporate world.

Take the same definition and insert the world “school” in between the words “Fake” and “Work”.

Fake School Work (FSW): A project or task that keeps one or multiple people busy yet has no productive value.  It serves to keep an illusion alive that there is still something of productive value being achieved.

This usually is referred to as “busy work”.  It’s completely accepted that there will be a large percentage of “busy work” assigned.  Look at ratemyprofessors.com or ratemyteachers.com and search for “busy work”.  You’ll see thousands of comments that contain the keyword “busy work”.

  • “So much of this class is busy work.”
  • “The busy work isn’t that bad.”
  • “No midterm no final but a WHOLE LOT of busy work”
  • You learn nothing, just do busywork”
  • “BUSY WORK, BUSY WORK, BUSY WORK!!! That’s all this class is. I seriously thought I was going to die of boredom”
  • “The busy work isn’t that bad. Yes, weekly assignments are repetitive and a total waste of time, but they don’t take long.”

Fake work becomes so routine that it’s only natural for it to occur in the office.  The universities are supposed to be preparing their students with skills and knowledge or the working world.  Since fake work is so prevalent in corporate culture, it seems the universities are actually preparing students their students well.  Students prepare for fake corporate work with countless hours of fake school work.  This fundamental acceptance of fake work is a complacency that is eating away at society.

Fake school work is pervasive across the entire school system.  These are tasks that provide no educational value and only serve to occupy time.  Since the students are doing tasks and completing assignments, it appears they are doing work that fosters learning, though this is an illusion.  It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which assignments are fake and which tasks to categorize into fake school work.  However, anyone who has gone through a formal education has experienced some form of fake school work.  This could be any range of assignments that have no clear purpose or constructive value.  A lot of times a teacher will use busy work as a tool to control the classroom.  It’s also easier to assign busy work than to have an educationally stimulating and engaging environment.  Homework is another medium through which fake work thrives.   Homework should enhance understanding of concepts taught in class.  Redundant worksheets and mindless assignments achieve nothing but occupying time.  Homework should engage the student, and challenge the student to think critically.

Mindless work = busy work = fake work.  This has to end.

This fake work problem starts during the most critical time in cognitive development and continues on through high school, college and into the working world.  Instead of fostering innovation and creativity, the education system sets up students to await a set of instructions for certain tasks to be completed.  The best educators are those that challenge their students to think.  They foster creativity, and don’t smash it under the guise of reality.  The most successful companies act the same way.  They foster growth and innovation and look down upon automation and bureaucracy.  Bureaucracy is something everyone agrees is bad, yet nobody does anything meaningful about it.  They may appear to do something about it, but it’s still bureaucracy rearing its ugly head.  A meeting is scheduled to form a panel to appoint a task force to assign a committee that has meetings in order to analyze some sort of process efficiency.  Sound familiar?

Lifehacker.com recently did a poll about the pervasiveness of fake work.

At the time of this post, 84.45% of the respondents said they did fake work all, or some of the time!

This is a system wide corporate problem that began with a system wide one in the schools.  It’s embarrassing how much fake work exists across so many levels of the academic, corporate, and government worlds.  Watching “Office Space” is funny, but the concept of fake work is not a joke.  It’s a serious mind numbing, profit destroying affliction. Stop being afraid of questioning whether or not something is fake work.  The most successful employees actually are those that challenge the status quo in a constructive manner.  There are dogmatic managers that will stop at nothing to uphold a legacy process in the name of tradition.  This doesn’t mean you can’t try to delicately get them to change their tune.  You might even be part of an entire cancerous fake group that does nothing but suck resources away and adds no value.  If this is the case, you must feed your family and eat yourself.  Though, you can be on the lookout for something more real and try and get out of the fake work cycle as quickly as possible.  If your entire team was a fake fabrication, then it will be “difficult” to convince them of this.   In either case, if too much fake work persists, people will notice, and eventually if necessary to the company’s survival, your position and group will be eliminated.

The fake work that started in schools took hold in Corporate America.  Fake school work has destroyed countless young minds’ creativity and wasted countless hours on activities that add nothing to the learning experience.  As fake school work destroys the school system, it destroys us in the process.  And that’s the worst part.  While fake school work may be easy, run from it for the hills.  For it has caused irrevocable damage.  However, we cannot dwell in the past.  We must march forward to a future, fake work free!

Photo from flickr

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28 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Srinivas Rao says:

    Mark,

    You know that I obviously agree with you. With that 8 hour workday post going viral I got some fairly opinionated responses. I think it hit a nerve with many people and I think it’s the people who don’t want to challenge the system because they might be the few who benefit from it. The amount of “fake work” that goes on is really sickening. If the legacy I left behind was “the guy who destroyed the 8 hour workday” and the one you left behind was “the guy who destroyed fake work”, I’d say we’ve accomplished our mission. This message needs to be spread far and wide.

    • Mark says:

      Some very opinionated responses indeed. If you’ve struck a nerve it means you’re on to something. I obviously agree with your 8 hour workday post. However, it was really interesting conversation in the comments section. It’d crazy how people will defend something so ruthlessly without considering the reasons why. I can only hope that one day someone can say I was “the guy who destroyed fake work” and that you were “the guy who destroyed the 8 hour workday”. :)

  2. Brett says:

    Preach, brother, preach!

    I’ll take this message far and wide. Fake work is way, way too pervasive in our society. It truly is.

    I’d also argue that delegation is the root of all fake work. When overlords at the top of the ruling hierarchy are distributing work down the chain, whether or not the work is “fake”, people do not want to do it if they don’t have a choice in the matter. That’s also a huge problem in our society…

    • Mark says:

      Brett, take the message far and wide! Fake work is so pervasive it’s been culturally accepted. Called many different things, it is still the same thing. Fake work. Work for work’s sake. The “overlords” perpetuate the legacy fake work in order to keep their overlord position. It’s hard to halt fake work and easy to turn a blind eye to it.

  3. Dave Ursillo says:

    What’s most problematic is how blurred the lines are. What is actual work, as opposed to nonsense “busy work,” or sitting in a cubicle doing nothing, or spending time on Facebook or UsWeekly.com for hours on end?

    Maybe the problem is with the word “Work” itself, how it has lost real meaning, how it has become a crutch for validity and purpose in our everyday lives (no matter how much people complain about their jobs) and its simple over-usage.

    • Mark says:

      Dave, the lines are definitely blurred though I wouldn’t consider spending time on Facebook or UsWeekly.com fake work. Time spent on those websites are for entertainment only and the employee knows that. Nobody goes on facebook.com or ESPN.com to foster an illusion they are busy working. You are right though at how blurred the lines are, as sometimes it’s difficult to near impossible to distinguish between real and fake work.

  4. Ryan says:

    Great post, Mark!

    Fake work is a bane to any existence, but especially to young minds to full of curiosity. I actually think it is what the system is designed to do– destroy creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and replace them with docile, obedient slaves who do what they are told… The really great teachers are the exception that proves the rule. Fake work is the natural byproduct of a life lived in a box, which I think is what the schooling system really teaches.

    • Mark says:

      Ryan, so true! Fake work is soul crushing extinguishes creative flame! The system as you describe what it was designed for is working. Fake work does do that. The schooling system doesn’t teach life in a box, it conditions. However, there are those truly great teachers out there that refuse to go along with the conspiracy and actually foster creativity, innovation, and learning.

  5. Rob says:

    This is why I’ve made a conscious effort to remove myself from this kind of culture. The fake work culture. To be part of that was the most depressing time of my life, and I vow never to return. There was so much more I could have done. So much more I could’ve been. So much more I could’ve achieved, if only they’d said ‘once your work is done, please feel free to do home’…

    It’s like in Orwell’s Animal farm, where the animals are promise that once the windmill is built, everyone can relax. But it never happens, once the windmill is built, the people at the top just want more blood, sweat and tears.

    It’s a sad state of affairs.

    • Mark says:

      Fake work culture is insidious. I am happy for you Rob that you were able to escape the clutches of the fake work evil. Keep pushing forward through life fake work free!

  6. Steven says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. This definitely rings true with my own experiences both at school and at work. I think the big illusion is that it is more important to be “busy” than it is to do something meaningful or do nothing. We like to think of ourselves as work-a-holics because “more work” supposedly means “more productive” and “more useful.” It’s pathetic.

    I dare anyone who adopts this mentality to spend a day doing absolutely nothing. You’ll find that the world, in fact, doesn’t collapse.

    • Mark says:

      The big illusion is fostered by those that place a higher value on looking busy as opposed to actually accomplishing something useful. It’s sad to think of how fake deadlines for fake reports that nobody will read have caused so much stress for “fake work a holics”.

  7. Santi says:

    I’ve been teaching in high schools in Argentina for five years now, and I can relate to what you talk about. Busy work is the Education System’s currency. The problem is that, in the higher levels, most students not only expect it to happen, but are confused and feel threatened if it’s not present. Useless and repetitive tasks make them feel comfortable, and that’s obviously good for those who want to be employees all their lives.
    I firmly believe that the real change has to start there, in schools since day 1. It’s great that we are trying to escape the corporate mindset, but wouldn’t it be better if those who are kids now never get caught by it?
    Thanks for the article.

    • Hackman says:

      I agree with students not knowing what to do without busy work. I just finished my masters in accounting and a course I took my final semester was accounting theory. We had absolutely no homework, classes were mostly discussion about accounting theory, agreements and disagreements. The class consisted of a 30 page paper we were supposed to be developing throughout the semester, a presentation about your paper towards the end of the semester and a final consisting of about half what we discussed in class and half on students projects/papers. I must admit, most of the class including myself didn’t know what to do or expect. No midterm, no homework, I felt like I was a little lost. I think what also contributed to the problem was there was no way to gauge your grade throughout the semester since all grades came the last couple weeks. This definately worried people. I was grateful that I had this class since it kind of mixed things up. But I was so used to the conventional class, homework, no student discussion, no student thoughts really that I was really thrown off. I definately was not used to having the teacher asking me if I agreed or disagreed on a topic and why.

      • Mark says:

        Hackman, thanks for sharing this experience. You bring up a serious and fundamental flaw in the education system at every level.

        “I definately was not used to having the teacher asking me if I agreed or disagreed on a topic and why.”

        Education usually consists of preaching a bunch of biased ideas that are supposed to be taken on “faith” without question. It’s so rare to come across a teacher who fosters learning through the analyzation and questioning of ideas. Let him/her know. Congrats on finishing masters!

    • Mark says:

      Santi, thanks for sharing your experiences in Argentina’s school system. It’s the same problem here, as I imagine it in many many countries. Busy work certainly seems to be the standard. While repetition may be comfortable it only continues to reinforce terrible habits which inevitably lead to fake work in the workplace.
      I absolutely agree that it would be better if there were kids that were never caught by it. How and where do we start? There is a fundamental sickness in the foundation of the school system.

  8. Josh Crocker says:

    Right on Mark.

    I’ve had the opportunity to have a few speaking engagements in the past few months with high school kids. It’s amazing how many of them (and their parents) are convinced that the fake work and the “requirements” to get a “degree” are going to help them out and that they’re NECESSARY for their future success. What a load of horse crap!

    The conversations usually go something like this:

    Me: “What are your plans after you graduate?”

    Student: “I’m going to go to school and work toward my degree”

    Me: “Oh yeah? Degree in what?”

    Student: “Business. I hope to get a degree so I can get a great job and then work my way up into the company and then I’ll be set for life.”

    Me: “Fair enough. Have you ever thought about skipping college and trying to get into the company maybe as a temp or something of the like to see if that’s what you’d want before you commit a few years and multiple thousands of dollars toward it?”

    (at this point the parent either accuses me of being anti-school, the kid’s brain crashes, or both)

    Fake work is destroying our school system.

    Great read brotha!

    - JC

    • Mike says:

      JC,

      As someone who works in K-12 education I see fake work every day.

      Fake work causes young people to follow the crowd and ignore passions. It dulls the mind and before you know it you’re 40 and in a dead in job you hate. I wish school would foster more creative ideas about the future instead of “prepping for tests”. Kids only see one avenue for the future. Instead we should have them focus on a longer term goal then help them find creative ways to get there.

      - mike

      • Mark says:

        Mike, so glad to have the perspective of a K-12 educator. You are on the front line in the battle of fake work in the school system! I wholeheartedly agree that the approach should be to focus on creative ways to help foster passions and learning and not follow the crowd. So glad to have an ally against the evil forces crushing young minds and dulling their lives.

    • Mark says:

      Josh, I really enjoyed reading this because it gave me the feeling of actually being there for those conversations.

      This is so logical:

      “to see if that’s what you’d want before you commit a few years and multiple thousands of dollars toward it?”

      Yet, it remains to be considered completely illogical and rational as it goes against conventional thinking. Also, it forces us to look at our own situation, and it’s scary to realize we blindly waste thousands of dollars and years of our life.

      Keep spreading the word Josh!

  9. Alex says:

    I wrote a blog post about how creativity is undervalued but I think you got into the heart as in why that is. Nothing is more upsetting than when kids told they should go and get “real jobs” instead of doing things they love, which are often creative. Often times I can tell people’s confusion/borderline disgust when I tell them I went to school to create art for video games.

    I also can’t think of how many people the I graduated high school who had no idea what they wanted to do with their lives but where blindly going into college because that’s what society told them to do. We need more free thought, more creativity and most important of all more people to recognize and accept that.

    • Mark says:

      Alex, creativity is absolutely undervalued! (Until it gets noticed is recognized as “ok to recognize and value”). Under the guise of pragmatism and rationality, there is an army of soul crushing dream bashers on the loose! The borderline disgust you experience, is because they are disgusted with themselves for allowing their own dreams to die. Let the free thought and creativity flow Alex!

  10. Mike says:

    Classic example of fake school work right now, I have a project for a science class where we have to move a marble using one machine made out of six simple machines. But as I’m doing it, I keep finding myself asking “What the fuck is the point?”How does this help me learn science? Or help me learn anything at all? This project, like many,many others I have had does nothing for more. It just keeps me busy, which is really what education is these days, keeping me away from the house. I haven’t learned one thing in my entire tenure in high school. Try to bring this up? No, then I’m some sort of depressed sociopath or some lazy rich kid.

    • Mark says:

      Dan, you bring up a great point. Anyone who questions these useless school projects and fake work are considered “ridiculous”. (A depressed sociopath or some lazy rich kid). As individualistic, and free our society strives to be, it’s ingrained in our school culture that anyone who questions things or strays is considered “crazy”. This sets up the school system for pure failure and perpetuates the problem of fake work and allows it to proliferate. Don’t let that continue. Be a part of the solution. Can you try and constructively find out where your teacher is coming from?

    • Helena says:

      How does it help you learn science? Well, it could help you understand the idea of using a model system to understand a full scale system. Imagine yourself as McGyver, and that marble as the “Item” that must be recovered, you need to use your understanding of leverage to recover it. How do you get a stuck truck out of the mud? How do you lift a refrigerator over the balcony on the second floor of a three story house, when the stairwell is too narrow to walk up? Which way do you turn the tap to turn the hot water on? How steep can a handicap-access ramp be before it’s an impediment? All physics, all simple machines.
      I also am a teacher, a Science teacher, in fact. Every day I walk the line between satisfying state requirements and satisfying student curiosity. I do my best to not kill the desire to learn, and to revive it when I see it already dying. It’s frustrating when I’ve tried to come up with a playful way to explore concepts and my students complain, “Why do I need this?” The answer I bite back is, “You don’t need this, you don’t ever need to think about anything, ever. You can stay just as ignorant as you are now, forever.” I don’t ever want to give busywork, and yet, I must have grades for my grade book. Sometimes, busywork-ness is in the eye of the beholder. The marble assignment actually holds an enormous amount of potential learning and exploration, or it can be a trivial waste of time, which it is is totally up to the student. Perhaps he would just rather do the math (certainly fine, if he can use the math to understand the concepts,) but I suspect he might complain about a lack of “real-world” applications.

      • Mark says:

        Helena, thanks for sharing your experiences as an educator. There are so many frustrating and conflicting forces on teachers. You bring up something not previously discussed here. Students’ own lack of motivation. There is a vicious cycle here that is absolutely ruinous. The students’ lack of motivation stems from being used to fake school work and lack of motivation from other educators. When there’s an educator that bucks and confronts this disturbing trend, they are met with indifference and confrontation from students. The educators out of frustration do what’s easy and try to please the students and parents. I imagine it takes incredible will power and balance to stand up to this fake work trend, state requirements, parents, students, school bureaucracy and the like.

        It’s possible the marble assignment is fake work and it’s possible it’s completely worthwhile. Whatever the case, it seems the student feels that fake work is consistent, omnipresent, and what he has come to expect. Unfortunately, he is stuck in a system burdened by this perpetual attitude.

        You wrote, “I don’t ever want to give busywork, and yet, I must have grades for my grade book.”

        When you say you must have grades for your grade book, why do those grades have to come from busywork?

        Helena, I wish more students and teachers took the time to think about these assumed “laws” about the way things “just” are. I really appreciate your feedback. Thanks again.

  11. Celarie says:

    Mark, here are a few comments and answers to your questions to Helena..from my perspective as a high school science teacher who is STUCK in this system. When I say “stuck”, I mean that I have every intention of moving out of my current school system BUT am in a contract to continue employment with this administration until the end of the school year.

    The general public has no idea about the “many frustrating and conflicting forces on teachers.” The system has created a nearly impossible situation for teachers. There is NO WAY to teach your student the way teachers would like when they have NO POWER, NO CONTROL and NO SAY about their classrooms despite the fact that a teacher is a degreed professional, certified, tested for high quality and constantly assessed. Every bit of power is taken from your child’s teacher and given to a principal who OFTEN never even walks in to your child’s classroom.

    Being a teacher MEANS knowing how to motivate the unmotivated, dealing with multiple issues and problems with a group of 32 students and,at the same time, making the learning relevant and interesting. The issue is that professionalism is removed by the school’s administration and school board. Imagine you are a heart surgeon..doing major surgery..but having to get an ok for every movement ahead of time..from another doctor that is likely NOT degreed or certified in cardiac care. That is what it is like teaching in high school.

    As a chemistry teacher, I am controlled by a principal that has been out of the classroom for 7 years after teaching history for 1 year before getting an administrative degree. He truly believes he is qualified to assess a Chemistry teacher with 15 years experience.

    It is NOT EASY when an educator has to redo lesson plans to pacify an administration directive or has to spend an entire class period documenting disruptive behavior because the same administration refuses to deal with a few unruly students. It is each student in that classroom that pays the price and this is NOT EASY for a teacher to witness.

    There is NO standing up to anyone when you are a teacher without tenure. You are at the total and complete mercy of an administration that could care less whether your student is learning. They care only about having “no problems” to deal with and give tenure to teachers that let students do whatever they want in class or….GIVES BUSYWORK the entire class period.

    “Why do those grades have to come from busywork?” because OFTEN that is exactly the expectation and demand of the administration. They expect to see the busywork in your lesson plans, monitor your grade book to be sure that you grade the busywork and then demand examples of student work at the end of the grading period. Weekly I must submit examples of students doing this busywork. Again, the decision on what to teach and grade is removed from the certified teacher and given to a principal or school board that is NOT certified in the subject area.

    Teachers not only “think about these assumed ‘laws’ about the way things ‘just’ are.” They live with the frustration and stress hourly, daily and weekly. Public school, at least in Western Kentucky, is not about knowing subject material, being highly qualified and certified, knowing students and how to make lessons interesting, managing student behavior, and communicating with parents. It is about allowing administrators to do the least they have to do, making no expectations..let alone allowing teachers to set high expectations, making NO waves, accepting the school board as ultimate authority and totally abandoning all hope that students will be able to enter the workplace or college prepared.

    Believe me…it is VERY HARD to accept. It is equally difficult to accept that the general public has no idea what is really happening to their child’s teachers. We are working FOR YOU…FOR YOUR children…as hard as we can….please vote in school boards that prove to you that they do support teachers. A long time ago I thought that being a great teacher and loving children was enough to do my job….it is NO LONGER what my job is about at all.

    • Mark says:

      Celarie, I deeply appreciate you taking the time to portray a current plight in the school system. I am sure that this is not confined to your situation but this problem persists across many borders. Detailing your current experience and struggles has helped me (and hopefully will with many others) see another side of things, and also think about things never thought of. Celarie, thank you again. Wish you the very best.

      Mark

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