I’m writing this now because my kids are at the age where I can say: do as I say, not as I do.
As a young child I was academic, studious and all the things that make parents happy on the school report(Well, apart from my handwriting, which one teacher Mrs Adamason described as “like a drunk spider”).
I would do the work I was asked for quickly, well and with no supervision. It was this that got me moved up a year in my school career, before later being moved back to the correct year when we moved district. Anyway, this is all a background story, because as the title suggests, this rampant goody-two-shoes-ness didn’t last for the duration of my school life.
Skipping forward a bunch of years, I got to do my GCSEs. For those in other countries, these are a set of exams you do around 16 years old in the UK, the results of which determine which further exams you can do if you want to go to university. They can be quite pivotal.
My early academic career would have suggested I was a straight-A student, destined for some Uni where I would do something vaguely scientific. However, during the key 13-16-year-old piece, I had grown very bored with schooling, especially the way we were clearly taught to just pass exams and not really to think. The breadth of subjects with no defined use afterwards. I still understand some aspects of both arable farming and crop rotation in the 1800s, neither of which has helped much since.
In short, I thought school and the school system were a bunch of crap, not fit for purpose and failed to generally see how it would help. This coupled with teenage laziness and all the other things a boy becoming a man is interested in, ended up with me not doing what was required for the aforementioned straight As and from a schooling perspective dropping the ball.
A key part of our learning was longer-term work over a period of time, including our maths GCSE coursework which was supposed to be done over 6 weeks. I did mine on the bus on the way to school. I had fallen out with schooling for certain.
Forging your own path
I hate the way we label 16-year-old kids as failures if they don’t hit some arbitrary marks in subjects they will never use again here are just a few examples of people who didn’t follow the marked path:
See that surname, you know who this chap is even if you didn't know the first name. He left school at 15 and did an apprenticeship.
This motormouth record producer left school at 16 with just 1 GCSE.
Ex-Government minister. He left school with no qualifications, became a postman and then ran the country.
Throughout my later time at school, I worked, with paper rounds, gardening and other little jobs. I found working for cash a much more rewarding experience than schooling, and I could drive my own growth in a much more succinct fashion.
As an aside, I find the schooling system in the UK (and I imagine a lot of the western world) to be a little like a Ponzi scheme, in that the point of education seems to be more education. I can see that our lawyers, doctors and the like need extensive education, but I would argue that on-the-job learning could work in those industries too and already does factor into many of those qualifications.
While I’m not putting myself on the above list for obvious reasons, the big takeaway from all this is that success at school is certainly no guarantee of success in life and that steering your own path works pretty well too.