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Have you heard the phrase ‘He’s a square peg in a round hole?’ I don’t like it! To me it doesn’t quite make sense and I think it is time to set the expression straight.

The ‘peg’ phrase is generally used to describe a person who does not fit into a job or position. Hold on, my contentions is that it is backwards. To me, society is made up of all sorts of boxes, not circles. The boxes are getting squarer and tighter and more defined. Look at a list of job postings on one of the many job related websites and you will find most postings are for a sharply defined position. The don’t seem very round.

I propose that the expression be reversed. After all, people seem more rounded to me. Let’s have it make sense. Now, i’ll bet you are thinking that the round peg can actually fit into the square hole. Sure, that could work, however, the corners would be empty and that wouldn’t work. I like to think that the round peg exceeds the size of the hole, so in essence, the round peg has attributes and characteristics that don’t fit the mould.


In a group of people, if you can talk hockey or golf, you will easily find someone to talk to. If your interests are in something less popular, like archery, your chances are less. You might well have many interests, more than most people and, yet, if you don’t speak the popular ones, you can be left out.

Now, apply the same idea to the workplace and jobs and you will get what I mean. I feel I am a round peg, many possibilities and, well, you get the idea, I’m sure.

How is it that we can’t have a world that is fluid and adaptable, one that can allow the abilities and inabilities to be used to the fullest? Is it just a natural result of humans organizing their society that everything becomes more rigid and compartmentalized? Is it necessary for all aspects of society to be so organized in order to function? How about the stock exchange? I’m not sure what it is like now, but I know at one time, it looked about as disorganized and chaotic as one might imagine. And yet, it functioned.

For a few decades now, the business world has been working toward more efficiency, to be leaner and more profitable. Education has become more about training and preparing workers for specific work and jobs, rather than creating citizens to contribute to society in a variety of settings. In doing so, they seem to carve the curves of their humanness into sharp edges—into a shape that I would call square. Shaping people into a squarish shape means trimming unique aspects of each person, uniquenesses that are valuable and useful. Somehow, they must fit in and the place they must fit is square.

Here is another view of this notion. Perhaps the round peg is a bit soft. In that case forcing the peg into the hard, square hole might cause it to squish, thus becoming uncomfortable. Now that rings true.

I would consider myself a roundish person. Perhaps not a circle, or even an oval, or oblong shape—certainly not square. I feel I have uniqueness that I have never been able to bring to any job I have had. Usually, I have to confine myself to the specific needs of the job.

My experiences in education have shown me that the same thing applies to learning. As I have said, this is what education is about. Trim learners into square pegs that can easily fit into society. Those who are not easily trimmed will have difficulties and even be deemed a problem. Why are graduates of universities going back to colleges? Because a general degree does not guarantee a job in today’s society. To get a job, one must be trained for a specific job. To get a job one must meet all the criteria in the job description and have experience that matches. New grads can have a huge problem here in some situations. These days, human resource departments may scan job applications for specific keywords. How square can this get?

Our society seems to have little use for uniqueness. I’m not talking necessarily about unusual people. I think everybody has roundness and uniqueness that usually gets ignored in order to fit in. Thus, square pegs in square holes. Well, I’m still a round peg trying to fit into a square hole.