What I learned in school today.

by Nic Olson

Formal education. I think I still hate it. Maybe I’ll become a teacher.

While most of the young adult population of the world hunkers down for the two dreadful weeks of exams that will dictate their futures, I do the same, kinda, for once. I have exams every two months, with shorter holidays, but I don’t complain. I also get paid for it. In order to get paid for learning French I lied to my guide and said I was doing it so I could find a good job when I was done. Maybe I was lying to myself too. I’ve met dozens of bilingual homeless people, and everyone that works at A&W is bilingual, so I’ve got a promising work future ahead of me. Just like I did before.

I tutor math sometimes at a centre downtown. I met a kid yesterday, I forget his name because I’m a good tutor like that, and he asked me a lot of great questions about university, silently wondering why someone without a degree would be tutoring him.
He asked:
‘So if you don’t pay your fees they kick you out?’
‘It costs how much to go to university?’
‘So, all your friends are finishing university and you should be too?’
‘How much would Harvard cost?’
I told him about getting degrees that prepare you for the workforce and working in restaurants and wise advice about the job market. Then I tried to help him with his grade eight math homework and could barely pull it off. Word problems were always the worst for me. Problem solving in the math textbook was always my weakest point, and maybe it carried over into real life. My tutoring abilities are a real encouraging thought considering I’ve been thinking of getting a math degree. Better stick with English, Education and/or minimum wage.

During class yesterday, when things got dry as usual, I began to draw. I drew a classroom, with a chalkboard and recycling bin and the alphabet. It took me several minutes to come up with another cynical tagline for the drawing, but once I remembered the words of the ever wise SchoolHouse Rocky I knew I had it, and I re-understood the basic undertone of schools everywhere. Education for knowledge. Knowledge for power. Power for wealth.

I can do things I love, impact people, learn things (maybe to a lesser degree, pretty big maybe though), be a human, without school, and although right now school seems like the ultimate sell out, I will continually admit that I will likely end up there, maybe just so my parents keep talking to me. A few friends, promoters of education, ‘sat me down’ with a few beers and told me of its merits and the value of feeding off of other people’s knowledge, people smarter than yourself. The idea rang nicely, but I’ve understood that that my idea is no better than theirs, and theirs no better than mine, and it still all works out.

Education isn’t a commodity to be sold like oil or Gucci purses. Knowledge can be gained without the assistance of semester schedules and final exams. When knowledge is gained for the purpose of power, money, or fear, it becomes disadvantageous. You can’t go to school expecting to become a better person, or a completely changed person. You usually come out feeling the same, a bit tired, and much older.

Maybe no one agrees with me, and I’m just a stubborn moron. I like it that way. The more uneducated you are, the more stubborn you are. I guess you pay high dollar for the softening too. The opinions of a full time student, and a part time student differ from my own and I appreciate that fact.

I understand there to be four ways to go about it all.
Two good ways, and two bad ways.
The good ways, one including formal education and one which doesn’t, both include a a desire for personal knowledge and refinement, although one way is not better than the other.
The two bad ways, one including formal education and the other which doesn’t, are rooted in personal gain, possibly even with knowledge gained, but for reasons that demean the process itself, i.e. power, money, fame, title, nice underwear, etc.

I was nominated top four in my French class. The teacher put our four names in a hat, and the two names she picked got a $20 pen and a certificate from the school. I didn’t win. But that’s going on my resume for sure. ‘Almost picked out of a hat for top four in Level 4 French class.’ I should be able to use such a resume to prove the knowledge I gained so that I can get a position of power within a company, and we all know what happens from there. Teach in a university.

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