I was teaching Sunday school to some older elementary kids a few years ago, and our talk got off track and ended up being a talk about school. The kids in my class were all telling me how much they hated it. A few had been severely bullied and even beaten up. Others complained that school was boring. Others said school made them feel dumb.
I had unintentionally opened a floodgate. And these weren’t just kids griping. Some of the kids came close to tears. School was painful and miserable for many of them.
Normally, adults would expect me to put a positive spin on it; you know, encourage them to make the best of it and think of their futures. But since we were at Church, I decided not to lie; I told them the truth about school.
I said, “School is hell. But don’t worry, if you can survive a few more years, life on the other side is better.” You should have seen the way the kids responded! Their suffering had been heard, respected, and validated. And more than that, there was hope on the other side of school.
I told them that, because someone once told me that my school years would be the best years of my life. It about threw me into a great depression because school really is hell. You sit at a desk all day, doing work you don’t care about, to impress teachers you hardly know, to go to a college, only to endure further schooling.
What Really Happens in School
If you act good at school the other kids make your life hell, and if you act bad, the teachers make your life hell. You know, 99% of all the violence I have ever witnessed was in school! I remember chasing other kids home from school and beating them up, and I remember being chased home and getting beaten up.
The only thing more painful than all the fighting and bullying, was the boredom. I remember looking up at the clock in 9th grade biology class, watching it move round in slow motion and thinking, my goodness I have to endure 3 more years of this. I don’t know if I can make.
But I was lied to by other adults, and told that it would all be worth it; that good grades would bring a bright future. So, I submitted and endured. I worked extra hard and graduated with 3.97 GPA. Then I waited for those good things to come.
The only thing that my GPA did was get me into a “better” university. And by better, I mean more expensive. I quickly racked up a pile of debt.
Was any of the time and money invested in school worth it? Absolutely not!
I am not alone. I know tons of people who are paying down school loans, with wages they could have earned straight out of high school.
So, why are we ramming school down our kids throats? Why do we let our children endure bullies and boredom for the sacred cause of schooling, when we know the schools are failing, have always failed, and are going to keep failing in the future?
Telling The Truth About School
You know what I would really like to tell kids? – Forget about school! Life is too precious and your future too important to waste it in the vain pursuit of good grades.
If you must go to school, do the least possible. When the teacher talks, it’s okay to daydream. You have a child’s right to play hookie, at least once a semester.
Refuse to take ALL standardized tests. Stop attending a school if it can’t, or won’t, protect you from violent bullies. Feed a dog your homework, and enjoy the little time you have away from school to bond with your family, and study the things that actually interest you.
Whatever you do, don’t let your school experience sour you on education. A true education is interesting and useful; not like school at all. If you are doing good in school, it isn’t enough. A good education is worth more than gold, but you can be sure that no one is going to give you a “good” education.
You will need to provide your own.
Don’t read books that are assigned; read books that are recommended. And don’t read books for the sake of passing tests, but for the sake of expanding your horizons. You see the difference, don’t you?
Give school the least time, energy and money as you can. Don’t let school steal your resources. Keep them for yourself, but don’t waste them. Use them to pursue your dreams, not in the distant future, but right now!
Give yourself a real education – one that suits you and your ambitions.
And don’t worry about grading yourself. You will grade your education according to the goals that it helps you achieve!
Finally, don’t stress about college. College is a business selling products and services. If you have tuition money, you will find a college willing to take it. And for the most part, all colleges are equally bad, so don’t worry about paying extra for an Ivy League school. Just buy the cheapest degree that you can find. Once it is mounted as a decoration on the wall, you won’t have much use for it anymore, nor will anyone else.
Of course, I rarely say any of this, for the same reason that I don’t tell other peoples’ kids the truth about Santa Clause – it really isn’t my place. But if your kids are suffering, the truth about school may be just the thing that they need to hear.