B1 Intermediate 23565 Folder Collection
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We want to do well at school for an obvious reason: because – as we’re often told
– it’s the primary route to doing well at life. Few of us are in love with the A
grades themselves – we want them because we’re understandably interested in one day
having a fulfilling career, a pleasant house and the respect of others. But, sometimes,
more often than seems entirely reassuring, something pretty confusing occurs: we come across
people who triumphed at school – but flunked at life. And vice versa. The former stars
who once knew exactly how to satisfy their teachers may now be flatlining in a law office,
or relocating to a provincial town in the hope of finding something better. The path
that seemed guaranteed to lead to success has run into the sand. We shouldn’t actually
be surprised: school curricula are not designed by people who necessarily have much experience
of, or talent at, the world beyond. School curricula are not reverse engineered from
fulfilled adult lives in the here and now. They were intellectually influenced by all
kinds of slightly random forces over hundreds of years of evolution – shaped by, among
other things, the curricula of Medieval monasteries, the ideas of some 19th-century German educationalists,
and the concerns of aristocratic court societies. This helps to explain the many bad habits
that schools can inculcate. They suggest that the most important things are already known; that
what is is all that could be. They can’t help but warn us about the dangers of originality.
They want us to put up our hands and wait to be asked. They want us to keep asking
other people for permission. They teach us to deliver on, rather than change, expectations.
They teach us to redeploy ideas rather than originate them. They teach us to respect
people in authority – rather than imagine that – in rather inspiring
ways – no one actually knows quite what’s going on.
They teach us everything other than the two skills that really determine the quality of adult life:
knowing how to choose right job for us and knowing how to form satisfactory relationships.
They instruct us in Latin and how to measure the circumference of a circle
long before they teach us these core subjects: Work and Love. That said, it isn’t that
all we need to do to succeed at life is flunk school. A good life requires us to do two
very tricky things: be a very good boy or girl for 20 years; and simultaneously never
really believe blindly in the long-term validity or seriousness of what we’re being asked
to study. We need to be outwardly entirely obedient while inwardly intelligently and
unashamedly rebellious.
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Success at School vs Success in Life

23565 Folder Collection
VoiceTube published on August 25, 2016
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