The Untaught Lessons of Formal Education

Get back on the bus, you've got a lot to learn.

Looks and lunchboxes won't get you to the top kid.

I recently entered the school administrative building in my hometown to pick up my son’s  kindergarten registration packet. While in line observing a shaggy teen squirming in an uncomfortable suit next to his rigid mother, it dawned on me that the last time I entered these offices was to be dealt a 10-day suspension for indiscretions associated with a school ski trip. I feel for ya brothah.

Clearly I was happy to be visiting under more positive circumstances, but it had me thinking about how the education system has changed since my days as a Smurf’s lunchbox-toting, tubesock-sporting youth. Not so much from a, “What is being taught?” standpoint, but more from a, “What lessons are they learning?” I did a little digging and found an educator/pundit who seems to share a similar worldview on the subject and had already published a book addressing it.

Charles Sykes, Milwaukee-based radio host and author of  50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in Schools (among other books) gave me real perspective on what I perceive as our youths growing wussification and detachment from reality (thank you internet and video games). Although geared towards non-elementary aged children, a dose of reality is enriching at any age. Besides, if my son is old enough to ask me about in-vitro fertilization at five years old (thanks Nadya), I think he can handle a lesson or two in humility and hard work. 

Gathered below are 11 of  Mr. Sykes’ nuggets that I will be sharing with my son at opportune moments.

Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!

Rule 2 : The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3 : You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president until you earn both.

Rule 4 : If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5 : Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were.. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time…

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Big ups to Mr. Sykes for sharing the knowledge, do yourself a favor and buy stuff from him, ha. Thanks to my kid for providing the inspiration.

Posted by: Nick


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