5 Life Lessons School Really Teaches You

I’ll go ahead and warn you – this may be the wisest, most profound thing I’ve ever written, and it doesn’t apply to 90% of my audience.

After all, there are only a select few of us who genuinely enjoyed going to school. I liked going to school up until the 4th grade, and then I hated it, mainly because it was like a David Koresh compound, but that’s a different story for a different time.

“I’m not weird at all.”

I didn’t like school again until I went to college, and even then there were classes I wasn’t particularly fond of. But if you think that all school is pointless and only teaches you rudimentary facts and functions of life then you are really wrong. The idea of school, whether intended or not, is absolutely genius.

The truth is that most subjects taught in schools are pointless, and it’s probably the reason why some politicians are trying to take some liberal arts classes out of schools on the platform of budget cuts and so forth – I understand where they’re coming from, though I don’t necessarily agree with their solutions.

See, subjects like science, history, government, health, and art are pretty pointless. Arguably the only important classes are math and language – and I’m not saying that because I have 2 English degrees; I hate math. But those two subjects are the basic foundations for which we live our lives. We need basic math to calculate stuff and keep track of our money, and obviously we need language so we can communicate with each other. All other subjects simply provide you with something to talk about and keep you informed so you have some idea as to what’s going on.

But teachers are never going to tell you that. If they do, the apathetic and rebellious nature of you and the entire class would send the school into anarchy. Teachers lie out of necessity. They have to make it seem like they’re passionate about the subject they’re teaching and that it’s important to you to hide the fact that you make them cry every night when they get home.

They can’t explain the real purpose of school because you wouldn’t understand it. I, however, can explain it, and hopefully the light will come on in your head.

5. School Teaches You to Follow Directions

There’s a reason your teacher wants you to write your name at the top right corner of the page, followed by the date and the class you’re in and it isn’t because she’s a Nazi hell bent on making you miserable. It’s to see if you have the ability to listen and do what you’re told. Even if you make it to the point where you’re the CEO of a company, you still have to follow directions in some aspect. Even the President has to follow directions. It’s unavoidable. It keeps society from running around naked and flinging our crap at each other.

And I know what you’re probably thinking: “I can follow directions. I don’t need to constantly practice it to prove that.” Unfortunately you do. See, while you may be able to follow directions, there are others around you (whether through bad parenting, mental deficiency, or inbreeding) that can’t follow directions and actually need constant coddling and practice in order to get to a point where they can do it.

It’s the same reason you have to bend over backwards in order to buy a gun. You may be a responsible gun owner who takes every safety precaution imaginable, but not everyone is like you. Several, hundreds, even thousands of people were stupid and reckless and made it really difficult for the rest of us. It’s a product of living in a free world.

“You’re welcome, America.”

The key to getting to the point where you’re okay with following directions is realizing that this is just how it’s going to be. After all, you’re fine with going through the drive-thru at McDonald’s and going through the line, paying at one window, and picking up your food at the next window. You aren’t complaining that you can’t just drive up to the door and have an employee automatically read your mind and bring your food to you. It’s the same principle. It just needs to be ingrained into your skull.

4. School Teaches You to Meet Deadlines

This may actually be the most important one, but it’s also kind of obvious, so it gets the #4 spot. Due dates serve two purposes – to make sure you actually do the work, and to keep things moving. After all, without due dates I know most people wouldn’t even bother to do the work – if no one is going to take it up, what’s the point of doing it? Duh.

All through high school we knew that one kid who waited until midnight the night before to start on his science project. It may have been you. That kid likely went on to college and became the guy who pulled all-nighters the night before a big paper was due. This typically results in a bad grade which is exactly what he deserves.

Nah, this is totally the way to live your life.

“But I work better when I’m under intense pressure.” Okay, contradicting voice in my head. What you don’t realize is that the pressure to turn in a good paper hits as soon as it’s assigned, and you’re actually making the entire assignment harder the longer you wait to do it. The earlier you get it done, the more time you have to go back and re-read and fix any weak points in the paper. This is the teacher in me coming out.

In the end, you’re always going to have to meet deadlines. You have to have your car inspected by a certain date or you get a ticket. You have to have your taxes filed by April 15th or the IRS takes more of your money. Whatever job you get will likely have hard deadlines to meet or else the company loses money, which means you get fired.

I’ve never been able to comprehend why procrastinators do what they do. Just do it. Seriously.

3. School Teaches You to Deal with People Who Annoy You

I’ve said it before – I not a fan of people. People suck. I’ll give you the benefit of a first impression but that’s about it. It’s a character flaw, I know. But whatever, this isn’t about me. It’s about you.

We all had that one kid in class who was just a gigantic turd. If you can’t think of one, you were the turd. It didn’t matter what this kid did, everything annoyed you. His mere presence, the sound of his voice shattering the air hundreds of feet from you, all of it drove you insane and every day you imagined a new creative way to kill him. On top of that, he stinks, and he likes to get right up next to you and let his odoriferous pores waft through your senses. AND he always got the entire class in trouble. But guess what? That’s part of school. Society is full of people who genuinely annoy us. No matter what they do, even if they give to charity or save 100 puppies from a fire, there’s just something about them that just grinds our gears.

One of those puppies still died in the fire, jerk.

It doesn’t end in high school. Those people go to college, too. Unfortunately, they also get jobs that just so happen to be at the same place you get hired. You have to deal with them, and school gets you accustomed to that, so much so that by the time you do get hired, the annoying guy in the office isn’t really that annoying. He’s just that guy. And you actually learn to treat him nice enough because you realize he’s always been this way and one day he might snap.

2. School Teaches You How to Handle Criticism

Probably one of the fastest dying characteristics of school is the fact that you’re supposed to get well accustomed to criticism. Unfortunately, the kids who had hard, strict military parents grew up to be psychologists and started a movement that will ultimately lead to a society full of pansies.

There are corners of the internet where paranoid conspiracy theorists claim that a plan is already in action where schools no longer give numerical or letter grades, but simply let the kids go from grade to grade because they’re learning and expressing themselves, when in reality they really think “cat” is spelled “kat” because their parents let them eat Kit-Kats for supper instead of vegetables because vegetables are icky. I didn’t like vegetables when I was a kid but my parents made me stay at the table until I sacked up and ate them. Now, I eat a can of vegetables every night for supper, though mainly it’s because they’re cheap and not so much because I absolutely love them.

But the whole idea of grades and showing that you’re wrong is to keep you in place. It’s why I believe I’m so awesome at times – I was rarely wrong in school. The whole practice, however, is to help you keep an open mind and make you want to improve as a person. It doesn’t matter if your parents think you’re their #1 Poopseykins, if you’re wrong, you’re wrong. If you failed a math test, it’s because you didn’t understand the material and need to improve.

This, however, is so right.

There was a point in grad school where we as teachers were strongly encouraged to grade with a pen that WASN’T red because studies had shown that a paper full of red ink was traumatic to students. When I was told this it was all I could do to keep my composure. The color of their failure shouldn’t matter, but somehow I guess it does, and saying they’re wrong in green ink somehow takes the sting off of it. But guess what? I graded my papers in red ink, and I made sure the worst papers looked like I had slaughtered a hamster on there. Wrong is wrong.

But just because you’ve graduated doesn’t mean you’ve stopped being wrong. Look at the President. Even if he makes a good decision like giving Americans one free ice cream cone, somebody is going to criticize the President for something, like overworking the cows to compensate for this free ice cream or being unfair to those who are lactose intolerant.

So when you get a job, you still get criticized for doing something wrong. And that’s okay. It helps you become a better person. The sobering and depressing realization of this is that you will constantly be improving until the day you die. And even after you die, somebody is going to criticize you for something. All you can do is accept the criticism and improve so it happens less often.

1. School Teaches You How to Fill Your Day

This is an earth-shattering revelation. After all, when you’re in high school or even your first couple of years in college, the primary point of going to class is so you have something to do. In your younger years, it benefits your parents more by letting them go back to work without worrying about you.

But when summer vacation hits, at least at first, you’re excited. You get to sleep in. You get to do whatever you want around the house. Life seems awesome. But as you get older and lose the ability to sleep in, you realize you’re left to fill 8-10 hours of daylight. The cartoons you used to watch when you were a kid seem really stupid, and you’re not so boring, tragic, and desperate that you watch soap operas and Maury.

Unless you want to be like this.

That’s the real point of going to school. It conditions you to get up really early and get home with just a couple of hours of daylight left and be absolutely okay with it. This was probably the last thing I came to grips with and I didn’t realize it until I was almost done with college. The last 2 summer breaks I had were awful because once I got home from the gym in the morning I had nothing to do.

It’s all set up to condition you to be a certain way. And you can be Mr. Anarchist and rebel against the system, but you’re going to be miserable. Just because school is set up to turn you into a certain kind of person doesn’t mean it’s set up to make you miserable. If you’re still working on it, looking at that sort of life may make you think it’s an awful existence, but if you want to make a living and be happy, it’s definitely the way to go.

And I won’t lie, as I write these words, my inner child is sitting, arms crossed, shaking his head in derision, asking me where I went wrong, and how I let myself get this way. And I’ll tell you – it just happens. One day you’re shot gunning Red Bulls in the library trying to get that paper done, and the next day you’re arguing with Time Warner Cable about how your cable box never works like it’s supposed to.

And it’s okay, because by the time you get to that point, you’re used to being that way. It’s weird. You can never actually pinpoint when you change. It just happens. And it’s all because you went to school.

%d bloggers like this: