It was not the Real World

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I was one of those kids who love to learn (I still do), but hate school. I loved my friends, I loved some of my teachers, but I hated school as an institution. I was a bookworm so I’ve always read my schoolbooks from cover to cover before the school year even began, and I was generally meek and eager to please, so my grades were good. But whenever there was a teachers’ strike, I would have this awesome feeling in my chest, like the swelling of a golden balloon. A couple of times I found an opening in the fence and ran off, just wandered in the streets and parks until it was time to go home, and all the while I was terrified of having the police on my tail. :o)

Of course, it didn’t help that I was the scapegoat/punching bag of school bullies, and/or those who wanted to be on good terms with them. I was ridiculed, I was ostracized, I was picked on, I was reduced to tears, I had monstrous cockroaches shoved under my nose… I still shudder when I remember that. And when I do, I wonder – are those the kind of experiences that are supposed to prepare kids for the “real world”? Because somehow, at least in my case, that Real World was left behind in Junior High, (thankfully) never to be encountered again.

I believe there is just something about a large number of children being cooped up together for many hours in a day that brings out the worst in them. You can take 30 children, 27 of which are basically good, and 3 of whom have bullying tendencies which would never be brought out without a sidekick. But together with his two friends, the bully forms a gang; then they find several more kids who are desperate for approval and the feeling of importance, to be their cronies. That’s 1\3 of the class already. Another 10 tag along, and the rest is divided between scapegoats and children who are either immune to peer pressure, or just by a stroke of luck find themselves left out. Together, the gang of bullies may commit acts of cruelty none of the individual children would do on their own.

Teachers may try to stop it, or at least keep it at bay, at least when direct bullying is involved. No one, however, can stop children from quietly making fun of someone’s glasses or clothes or the way someone speaks, and no one can make a singled-out child feel any more accepted. Overall this is something children grow out of (but many carry the pain that was inflicted well into adulthood). Although I’ve had my disagreements with people in university, at work, etc, somehow I never found dead cockroaches in my desk again. In “real life”, you won’t often find yourself spending all day long with 30 other people who were all born in the same year as you, either. You meet people of all ages, which gives a multi-dimensional perspective and discourages unhealthy competition.

Then there is the element of simply being cooped up for too many hours, every day. But then, if you have 30 children in a classroom it only makes sense you’ll need 30 minutes of enforced discipline to have 15 minutes to explain something, answer questions, and give homework. No wonder so many children, especially boys, are on Ritalin.

You may say I am biased because of my own school experience. Many children are popular and happy at school, have many friends, and thrive in a classroom setting. Sounds good, right? They pay a different price, however, for fitting so well into the system.

But that would be a story for another day.
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18 thoughts on “It was not the Real World

  1. This is exactly why I chose to homeschool, well that and other academic reasons. I just never felt that the school was an appropriate environment for learning and preparing children for the real world. Thank you for sharing

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  2. You are SOOOOOOOOOO correct!! That was my experience as well. Fourth grade was very bad for me…my mom said I cried EVERY SINGLE DAY after coming home from school. I homeschooled my children for part of their school years, once it became legal in our state. My youngest from day one till she went to college. I would do so again. It really is not the best environment for learning. But even with homeschooling, one child and to a degree our whole family, went through an unbelievable torture time within a worship setting as well. Sadly. Not sure what all the purpose is in the Eternal allowing such to occur…but I am quite a reclusive person at this stage of life. Even though the needs of our daughter we are helping here, have prevented our being apart of any place of worship for the past couple years, truly I do not mind at all. Frankly, at least in our part of the world, most people are nasty. I am indeed grateful we can watch services online…and we still get together when we can with old friends. It is enough.

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  3. My experience 50 years ago ! School is no place for learning LOL ( a little bit of a joke!) My daughter , who loved school , was popular and did well ,finds real life a test , my other daughter who struggled every step of the way , seems MUCH stronger and much less daunted by life , probably because it isn’t near as awful as school was ! I wish I had home schooled , public school seemed such a waste of their time.

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      • Anna , Yes I read his books back in the 1970’s or 80’s ??? before I had kids…I can’t remember what he said but I bet seeds of ideas came from them. As a child I often felt my time was being wasted , and this is what my children complained of too. No time for anything REAL.

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    • So is there mandatory schooling? And what if a parent applies for permission to teach their children at home (I don’t mean parents who take their children out of school to send them to work…)?

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  4. Boy, howdy! I really didn’t mind elementary school, and I went to a boarding school from the 4th grade until the end of the 9th year. High school, however, was a rabbit-hole I simply refuse to revisit. I’ve only attended two reunions, and never again. I did get an excellent education at the boarding school, which carried me through high school, so my studies were easy, but the other students were not nice.

    Home-schooling was not something I even considered; I was working full time when the girls were younger, and by the time I was able to stay home, they were all in the upper grades and seemed content.

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    • Wow! My eldest is the same age you were when you went to boarding school, and I can’t imagine sending her away… Did you know that there are actually Facebook groups and literature for people who define themselves as “boarding school survivors”? Some children did not come out unscathed from their boarding school experience, and as adults, are still battling emotional issues such as insecurity and being unable to show warmth and vulnerability in relationships.

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      • Gosh! While I was absolutely miserable in public school, I really enjoyed being at Samuel Ready. I formed many lasting friendships, and blossomed scholastically. We still have reunions and I do attend those, even if I don’t go to the ones from public school The school was on the far side of the city, about twenty miles away, so it was too far to commute everyday, which is why I boarded there. I still got home on alternate weekends. My mum, as you know, was a piece of work, and I was glad to get out from under.

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