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  • Technically, most of us leave school at 18 - an event that tends to be vividly etched

  • in memory and surrounded by considerable ceremony and emotion. And yet, rather oddly, despite

  • appearances, many of us in fact don't manage to leave school at that point at all. In a

  • deep part of our minds, we may still be there, deep into adulthood, not sitting in a classroom

  • precisely, but in terms of how our minds work, as much stuck within the confines of a school-based

  • world-view as if we were showing up for assembly every day - generating immense and unnecessary

  • degrees of unhappiness and compromise for ourselves in the process.

  • What might be some of the hallmarks of an enduring school-like way of thinking:

  • 1. - First and foremost, a firm belief that those in authority know what they are doing

  • and that one's task is to obey and jump through the hoops they set for us. A desire

  • to please teachers and gain prizes, cups and ribbons.

  • 2 - A sense that there is an implicit curriculum out there - an externally mandated map of

  • what one needs to do to succeed - and that a wise person must dutifully subscribe to

  • its demands.

  • 3 - A feeling that work should - when it's going well - feel substantially irksome, dull

  • and somewhat pointless. Schools teach us to forget, or ignore, the clues offered to us

  • by our own boredom. They teach us dangerous degrees of patience. They subtly train us

  • in intellectual masochism.

  • 4 - You're doing it for someone else; an audience. Your teachers and your parents,

  • and their substitutes in adult life. Make us proud. You have to shine. We've given

  • you so much. What matters is the performance, not any inner sense of satisfaction.

  • 5. - Authority is benign. They want what is good for you and they speak on behalf of your

  • long-term interests. Don't think you could ever know better; distrust your instincts.

  • We'll look after you. If you follow our rules, you will thrive.

  • 6 - The exam (and all its successors) are fundamentally accurate. They, those who know,

  • have worked out the ultimate test of your value. You are what you score.

  • 7 - Every school is in addition a miniature society - equipped with a strong sense of

  • what values to revere and codes to follow. Bullies lurk, ready to mock and identify any

  • departures from the norm. You can't escape them; they are next to you in class every

  • day. They will spot and persecute the weirdos; they can ruin your life. You learn to cower

  • and adjust your attitudes. Following the herd is paramount.

  • All these ways of thinking don't require us to be sitting in a geography class. We

  • might be in an office selling garden furniture to the Belgian market and thinking like this;

  • we might have children of our own and by all appearances be an adult, and yet still be

  • living inside as though there were 'exams' to pass and cups to be won. What would it

  • mean to break the mold? What would it mean finally to leave school?

  • To know some of the following:

  • 1. - That there is no one way, no guarantee of one set path to fulfilment laid out by

  • authority figures. 'They' don't know. No one knows.

  • 2. - The safe path may be entirely dangerous to our flourishing.

  • 3. - Our boredom is a vital tool. It is telling us what is slowly killing us - and reminding

  • us that time is monstrously short.

  • 4. - Authority is not by definition benign. The teachers and their substitutes have no

  • real plan for you - except in so far as it suits their own advancement. It looks like

  • they want your supreme good but in reality they want you to play their game for their

  • own benefit. At the end, they have no proper prize to offer you. They'll give you a colourful

  • card and send you to the golf course and the grave and have wasted your life.

  • 5. - It doesn't matter what the bullies think. No one is normal. You can dare to make

  • enemies; indeed you must do so as the price to pay for having developed a character and

  • found something truly to believe in.

  • We shouldn't be tough on ourselves for lingering so long. School is an immensely impressive

  • system. We start there when we are not much bigger than a chair. For more than a decade,

  • it's all we know, it is the outside world - and is what those who love us most tell

  • us we should respect. It speaks with immense authority not just about itself, but about

  • life in general. It is sold to us as a preparation for the whole of existence. But of course,

  • the main thing it does is to prepare us for yet more school; it is an education in how

  • to thrive within its own profoundly peculiar rules - with only a tenuous connection to

  • the world beyond.

  • Knowing all this, we might do a very strange-sounding thing, finally work up the courage to leave

  • our inner school, be it at 28, 35 or 62 - and enter the wider boundless world we have been

  • in flight from for too long.

  • At The School Of Life we believe that confidence is a skill we can all learn.

  • Our confidence prompt cards are designed to help us master this essential skill. Click now to learn more.

Technically, most of us leave school at 18 - an event that tends to be vividly etched

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B1 UK authority boredom leave thrive life skill

You Should Finally Leave School

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    Amy.Lin posted on 2019/08/28
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