Saturday, March 26, 2005

The purpose of school - Part II

Read Part I

This is the time of year that most kids are counting the days until the end of school. If you're a high school senior, this is probably the toughest time of all...finals coming up, college applications to complete, prom decisions to make. And all the while, your parents going nutso on you.

Since your first word and your first step, your parents have been thrilled with every major milestone of growing up. So now that you are about to make your biggest step of all - into college and/or the working world - they have gone weird. Every decision you make seems wrong to them. They seem to be regressing. You're grown up but they still treat you like a child. Sound familiar?

The reason you are so anxious to be done with school is that you've probably grown beyond it and you are straining against the ropes keeping you there. None of my friends in high school wanted to stay there longer. Sure, we cried at our graduation and vowed to stay in touch. But the sweetest day of our lives (up until that time) was the next morning, when we DID NOT HAVE TO GO ANY MORE, EVER AGAIN!

School is not just a place to learn your ABCs and 123s. Since the first day you walked into preschool or kindergarten, you have been maturing socially. From a small class for half a day to multiple classes and extra-curricular activities that fill a very long day (and sometimes evenings and weekends) - school is designed to prepare you for the "real world". The problem is, it can only go so far.

The "real world" - that is, your life after high school - is so much different that there is no way to really prepare you. No matter how diverse, high school is still a closed society. Will you actually stay close to those friends you cry with on graduation day? Not likely. It's not that your friendship was not sincere. It's just that it was forged in a closed society. When you have your freedom, your perspective changes and the things you had in common with those friends tend to disappear. By the way, this goes for boyfriend/girlfriend relationships as well.

You don't really become fully who you are until you are free to explore life and all its possibilities. I am not the person I was in high school. I'm not the person I was ten years ago. Sure, my basic personality and tendencies are similar, but the way I look at things - like work and marriage and relationships - has changed a lot.

Who you are at this very moment is a compilation of all your experiences and how you reacted to them. Until you are out of school and experiencing the freedom of adulthood, those experiences are limited.

Your parents may seem irrational. They may seem to refuse to accept that you are growing up. But cut them some slack. Parents act out of love, but also out of fear and pain. They don't want you to make the mistakes they did, but they know you have to make your own and learn from them.

And when you have teenage children, you will act the very same way. Guaranteed.

(to be continued)

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The purpose of school

I may end up naming this site "The Occasional Blogger". It's been weeks again, and I've got lots to tell you about what is going on in my life, but I first need to follow up on my last post.

I do not have any children of my own. I don't have to worry daily about how my nieces and nephews and the kids in the church youth club are doing in school. But when I read stories about the sad state of education, like the one I linked to in my last post, it hits me hard. I worry that the kids in my life are suffering needlessly.

For I know something about school that most of you don't. Some of your parents know this as well, but as parents it would be irresponsible for them to tell you. So I will:

School is temporary, and ultimately not that important.

WHOA! Did I just say that? Am I advocating the end of mandatory education? Not at all. School is temporary and unimportant. Learning is for life and the one of the most important things in the world. It may be a paradox, but it's true. And if you do not know what a paradox is, look it up in the dictionary right now.

Let me put it this way. You know that English teacher who hates you?* In a few months or years you will be out of that class or that school and that person will be out of your life. But what they teach you - or to state it more accurately, what you allow them to teach you - stays with you forever. For example, if they already taught you the word "paradox", you didn't just have to look it up.

*None of your teachers hate you. For the most part teachers are good people with good intentions who may hate their job at the moment. And even if they did actually hate you, it is their problem and don't take it personally.

So now that I've opened that "can of worms" (old person expression meaning that I've started some trouble), I'll have to follow up with a new post quickly so you don't think it's OK to disrespect your teachers or to skip school.

But right now, I have homework to do. Because guess what? At the ripe old age of middle age (assuming I live to be 90), I'm back in school.

(to be continued)