9 Lies My Teachers Told Me
You’ll be shocked, shocked to learn that teachers are a dishonest bunch.
Maybe “dishonest” isn’t the right word – more like dim, narrow-minded, petty and grotesquely ignorant.
Think about it: Almost all teachers started kindergarten at age five, just like you, did twelve years of grade school, four years of undergrad, plus at least one more year for their certification program. That means your beginning teacher has spent 18 years of his 23 years of life (78%) in school. Where in his life were the experiences living abroad, finding out what it’s like to run a business, or an attempt to rise through the ranks in the corporate world? Where in has life has he learned to fix a car? Sew a button? Speak a new language?
Where, in short, has he had the chance to learn enough about life that he’s qualified to tell you how to live yours?
Despite their near-total ignorance about the world, about what it means to live a good life, about the best ways to be a success, or about what really matters, these people, most of whom are total strangers to you who know nothing about who you are as a person, what you want, or where you plan on going – these people have the gall to give you advice on what you should do with your life, and threaten you with all manner of punishments or scare you with ridiculous horror stories about what will happen if you don’t do as they say. And I say this as the son of two schoolteachers.
Protip: Don’t take advice from someone who isn’t where you want to be. Consider these nine lies you will hear from teachers at some point in your school career:
Lie # 1: Your grades are important
No one escapes school without hearing this at least a thousand times. Even if nobody explicitly told you that your grades matter, the system is designed to make that message pretty clear. After all, the honor roll kids get free pizza, special trips, awards and accolades while those with D’s and F’s are put into study hall or detention, humiliated and berated by administrators and counselors, mocked, put down, and not allowed to participate in many special activities. Sometimes they aren’t even allowed to move on to the next grade!
And yet…and yet…
And yet, save a few rare exceptions, will anyone in the “real world” ever ask you about your grades, how well you did in school, or whether you were on the honor roll or not. In fact you can count on not a single potential employer or boss ever taking them into account in his decision to hire you or not. Nor will potential landlords ask you about your grades when considering renting you a room or not.
That’s almost everyone’s experience; it certainly has been mine.
If I’d been a shoddy student, that might be cause for celebration, but it’s worse. I was a straight-A student. I busted my ass, <a href=”http://deadmailboxsociety.com/65-things-better-than-a-perfect-report-card/” target=”_blank”>forgoing opportunities to have fun or work for myself</a> so I could do every piece of busywork my teachers gave me – and I even voluntarily took on more than was required, in the form of bullshit “extra credit” assignments I didn’t need but chose to do anyway because of my pathological need to please.
All that time wasted weighs heavy on my heart.
If grades really matter, how is it someone like George W. Bush, a mediocre student, a “C” student while he was in college, was elected first as governor of one of the largest and most influential states in the country, then not once but twice as President of the United States? A fluke, perhaps? Then what are we to make of the nomination of Al Gore, his opponent in the 2000 election, or of one John Kerry, his opponent in the 2004 election, both of whom, despite public perceptions of their greater “intelligence” in comparison to the fake Texan, actually had lower GPA’s?
If grades really matter so much, how come they don’t factor in to whom we pick to be the leader of the free world?
And if grades really mattered so much, how do you explain the success of Ted Turner, the self-made billionaire and founder of CNN, who did so poorly, and was such a troublemaker, that he was kicked out of university?
Grades have nothing to do with intelligence or capability – and this has been established for a fact for generations, so much so that many of the most elite colleges pay them little mind (What’s that? You think you need to have a 4.0 to get into Harvard? Someone’s been lying to you). What they do do is measure how willing you are to follow orders, wise or stupid…but especially the stupid ones. An A isn’t the mark of success, but a code to indicate that your will has been thoroughly broken relative to your fellow school inmates. Makes you feel a little different about that report card hanging on the fridge, don’t it?
Lie # 2: Standardized tests are a good predictor of how far you will go in life
Another stinking pile of cow feces. Every time a student (rightfully) groans to your teacher about taking yet another boring standardized test, the ritual is probably justified as a necessary evil to provide schools with measures of progress, and parents with an indication of their child’s potential for success.
Only problem with that? Turns out these tests don’t do any of that.
The only thing these tests have ever predicted is how well you’ll probably do on the test if you take it again. That’s literally it. There has never been a standardized test spread about the public school system that has been shown to measure anything of worth. The predictive power of things like the AP tests, SAT’s and their ilk is so weak that many colleges don’t even bother to look at the numbers anymore.
The same goes for your “IQ” by the way. If you’ve ever been suckered into feeling good about yourself for getting a high score on one of these tests (or, conversely, been made to feel like shit because some test tells you you aren’t as smart as you thought you were), take comfort in the fact that the so-called “intelligence quotient” is completely bogus pseudo-science cooked up by a bunch of racist assholes a hundred years ago to justify America’s discriminatory immigration laws and its desire to control the breeding habits of its citizens. Doesn’t it strike you as a little strange that something as nebulous and uncertain as intelligence could be expressed in a numeric scale? Never mind the fact that the same person’s “score” will vary wildly depending on who designed the test – the numbering system is completely arbitrary (just how exactly do you measure “intelligence” the way you measure with inches?).
And if you’re still not convinced, how do you explain the brilliance of Dr. Richard Feynman – the revered quantum physics expert, Manhattan Project participant and well-regarded public intellectual – as having tested out at the very “average” IQ of 125?
How do you explain that Dr. James Watson, one of the discoverers of the DNA double helix, tested at 124?
Tama Janowitz, the famous writer, once tested at the level of “mentally retarded.”
Fuck IQ tests.
Lie #3: Your high school friends are friends for life!
Not even close. Despite all the promises you make that you’ll still keep in touch after graduation, that you’ll take that road trip you’ve been planning forever, that you’ll get an apartment together, chances are you and all of your friends will drift far apart within just a couple years. Other than the occasional funny image macro one of you leaves on the other’s Facebook or Twitter, you’ll be about as close with them as you are with that one aunt who lives on the other side of the country and always sends you a musical American Greeting card on your birthday.
Why is that? Well, for one thing, school is such an artificial environment that you and your friends were forced together under highly unnatural circumstances. As soon as the situation changes – POOF! – you forget all about one another.
It gets even better once you’re married and have kids! Suddenly, your only “friends” are the people who post funny messages on the bulletin board at work. Isn’t being a grownup awesome?
Lie # 4: If you drop out of school, you’ll end up flipping burgers or shooting heroin in the street
The timeless retort of the flustered high school teacher.
Never mind the deeply bigoted undercurrents churning just below the surface of this canard – if this were true, how is it that one out of every thirteen millionaires in the States was a school dropout? How do you explain Quentin Tarantino, who dropped out at the age of 16 with the words, directed his first movie by age 28, and was a millionaire and winner of the prestigious Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film festival before he was 30?
It’s not just him. To name a few of the many successful dropouts: Danica Patrick, Richard Branson, George Foreman, Al Pacino, Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy’s), David Karp (creator of Tumblr), Wolfgang Puck, Oprah Winfrey, Ryan Gosling, and more, far too numerous to list here, who have similarly struck out on their own, seemingly unaware of how the lack of a high school degree has crippled them.
Lie #5: School is the only place for kids to learn social skills
This is commonly thrown out by people who hate homeschooling. After all, homeschoolers are nothing but a bunch of religious fundamentalist weirdos, right?
It’s a stupid thing to say, because for one, it’s obvious that the people saying it are just repeating something they heard elsewhere and didn’t come up with themselves. If they had actually thought about what they’re parroting for just one second, they’d immediately recognize it for the utter horseshit it is, because where else on Earth can you find more fucked up, socially awkward losers than a public school? Schools graduate socially inept, anxious, emotionally dependent, borderline autistic people by the tens of thousands every single year.
You know this for yourself, even if you’ve never sat and contemplated it before: Think about all of your classes – doesn’t every single one have ‘that one kid” who gives you the creeps, or is absolutely terrified of speaking in front of an audience, or can’t look anyone in the eye without his voice trembling, or has no idea how to relate to people, make friends, score a date? Maybe there’s even more than one (there certainly were plenty around me growing up). Or hell, maybe you’re one yourself (but cheer up, there are ways to fix that).
The truth is, school is a terrible place to learn how to deal with other people effectively. Being stuck with people only your age means you never get good examples from more mature people on how to behave in a respectable, effective manner. Worse, schools are notoriously vicious places with strictly enforced social hierarchies – a top 5% of cool kids call the shots, a huge middle layer tries its best to claw its way up at the expense of everyone else, and at the bottom 5% are a truly unfortunate bunch who soak up abuse and humiliation on a daily basis, or are otherwise completely ignored (which is in many ways worse than being bullied), and as a result grow up as damaged, defective human beings.
A much better way to learn social skills is to deal with a huge variety of people from different ages, working in mutual trust. An apprenticeship is a great way to do this, or taking on adult responsibilities, such as working at an animal shelter, volunteering in a hospice or an old folks’ home, or creating a small business. Maybe these things don’t seem very exciting to you, but even if you don’t feel like helping other people or adding value to your community, at least consider doing them for selfish reasons – that is, developing a strong theory of mind that will allow you to influence others, and get what you want.
The most deliciously comic aspect to this whole topic is that homeschoolers have been shown time and time again to actually outperform their traditionally schooled peers socially, and to have healthier emotional lives. And let that be a lesson to you about always believing in “conventional wisdom.”
Lie# 6: Team sports will help you get into an “elite” school
Utter. Horse. Shit.
Okay, some state universities might offer decent scholarships to you for being backup running back on your HS football team – but they’re really not as plentiful as you think, and anyway, if you’re thinking of going to a Princeton or a Harvard, those places couldn’t give a flying fart about how many times you tossed the pigskin around.
What elite schools want is a record of distinct, independent accomplishment that shows individual initiative and a strong sense of self-direction in a potential student, and this applies to athletics as much as it does to academics. Physical activities where you rely on yourself, and only yourself, instead of falling back on the combined efforts of some “team,” show that you as an individual are able to meet challenges head-on and have developed inner resources rich enough to later serve as a leader. Traditionally, this meant things like horseback riding, fencing, and other such hobbies of the rich, but it can also be inexpensive things like hiking, or challenging yourself to walk from one end of your state to the other and documenting the trip along the way. Hell, the more creative, the better.
Don’t believe me? Maybe I’m wrong. After all, Harvard and its ilk have really well-known football and soccer teams, right?
Lie# 7: You will need the things you study in school in “real” life
The needle of your bullshit detector has probably twitched at this before, but with so many teachers and even your own parents telling this again and again, it’s easy to doubt your own judgment.
Let me be really upfront here: Unless you do one of a small number of very specific jobs, you will never, ever, ever use anything you do in algebra, chemistry, biology, “social studies,” trigonometry after you’re done with school. Never.
The reason the lie has to be repeated over and over again is because it is so obviously false. Think about it – when have you ever seen your own parents use this knowledge at home? The veneer of falsehood is so thin in this case that they have to scream at you in order to get you to stop trusting in yourself.
But never fear, if you aren’t good at these things, it won’t hurt you one bit.
And if you happen to like any of these subjects, that’s of course fine, too. Just realize that 99% of the time, they’re taught so poorly in your school or you forget so much over the break that if you decide to study them at the college level, you are virtually guaranteed to have to study them all over again.
Lie #7: AP and IB Classes are a great way to get college credit while still in high school
Hahahahahahahahho ho ho hee hee ha ha HA HA HAHAHAhaHA…*hack*
This might be the biggest steaming pile of shit served as chocolate cake of them all, and chances are, if you’re on this website, you’ve been sold that line, or perhaps even already suckered into taking these colossal waste of time classes.
Forget all of the pie-in-the-sky, starry eye promises your teachers and school administrators have made about these classes – you will, at best, get enough credit to skip one or two general ed classes your freshman year. Ask yourself: Are the hundreds of hours spent working on all that extra homework, doing all that extra reading, and sacrificing Saturdays to do test prep your senior year really worth ONE FUCKING CLASS?
Don’t think going “full IB” is going to make a difference, either. You’ll end up doing tons of extra work on top of what you’re already doing for the same exact result. Ohhh, you get to wear a special tassel at graduation? Fuck off. All of my friends did the full IB route in high school, and less than half of them got anything out of it credit-wise at all, and those that did all later said what they did get wasn’t worth the effort.
Instead of spending all that extra sweat and stress, why not take regular honors classes, or even just general eds, and actually have some time to follow your interests, and enjoy life?
Or better yet, you could quit school altogether.
Lie #8: The kids who do the best in school do the best in life
You’d think with all the emphasis put on your grades, your test scores, your extracurricular activities, that it all means something in the end, wouldn’t you?
Like P.T. Barnum said, there’s another one of you born every minute.
In case earlier entries in this article didn’t clue you in, school has very little to do with how things will go for you out in the real world. In fact, the disconnect between school and the real world is so profound that one could even make the case that there is an inverse relationship to being a “good” student, and to being a total fuckup on the outside.
Consider: Colleges have learned that being a valedictorian is such a poor predictor of future success that many of them now completely disregard the information and refuse to factor it in during the admissions process. Harvard turns away legions of valedictorian and salutatorian applicants every year.
Also consider: In a grand survey of the correlative factors of suicide in the United States, the only strongly causal factor that could be identified was being a National Merit Scholar! Holy shit! If being in “Who’s Who” really means you’re someone, if being such a “good” student that you get one of the most elite honors in mainstream American schooling – if these things are really so important, and so indicative of a person’s inherent worthiness – why, then, do so many of these people eat a gun? (Google “national merit scholar” and “suicide” for some illustrative examples)
Lie #9: College will lead to a lucrative, rewarding career
Why do we keep pressuring kids to enter college when there aren’t any “good” white collar jobs left? Why do we continue the lie that if they sacrifice their youth, their dreams, their wealth to four years of cramming and negative social lessons that they’ll somehow end up living a Mad Men lifestyle?
This is cargo cult thinking. Just because college used to be a ticket to wealth and status 30 or 40 years ago does not mean it is today. Times have changed!
Never mind the fact that a trade requires less money to learn, less time, and frequently pays more; the college meme marches on…largely because people can’t think for themselves, and because college enrollment is a useful way to hide grim unemployment statistics.
In the End…
…you’ve probably suspected that a lot of what your teachers tell you is crap, but the problem is, you have so many authority figures in your life telling you to pay attention to what they say that you learn not to see the lies for what they are. Don’t be mad at your teachers – most of them believe the lies themselves.
In the end, you need to start doing some critical thinking of your own. The jobs market, the country and the world are changing rapidly, and the old ideas are no longer relevant, or at least increasingly less so. Better to do your own research, and forge your own way ahead.
And remember: Fuck school!