Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lessons from school

When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school
It's a wonder I can think at all...

Paul Simon is so right about what is proposed as learning in high school. So many of us so convinced of the idea that high school is the cornerstone for a lifelong career and the pathway to success in the world.

On reflection, what are the real lessons of high school?

Certainly, for those of us who entered high schools in the heady post independence days with "the nation's future in our schoolbags," it was a time of equal access and opportunity based on the meritocracy of the "common entrance exam." In classrooms across the nation, each teen was in an arena to discover his or her particular place in the state called Trinidad and Tobago. We discovered ourselves, Indo-, Sino-, Afro-, Euro- each a pedigreed or pothound Trini.

We discovered ourselves doubly at the end of the sixties. At the dawn of an age of questions and awareness (being hip), the hippie mentality infecting young people everywhere, precipitating or aligning movements to empower disenfranchised groups, blacks in America, women, minorities, we knew ourselves as citizens of the world.

It was not a process that took place inside the classroom, but certainly inside the school walls. The domain of a strong (frequently tyrannical) individual whose calling it was to shape moral citizens through a system of discipline and reward (always based on achievement). And so each school was its own kingdom or nation state in which you could lead or follow, speak out (on "wall news" and the public PA system) or choose a different position (in art, music, sport). Compete fiercely or sidestep competition.

Within this structure, we made friendships that last a lifetime. We found common ground with persons of other backgrounds, other religions, other points of view. And yes, while many of us did learn useful subject matter, perhaps we also learned how to learn. So many of us ended up in places far from where we were thought to be strong (mathematics to communications; chemistry to art; history to music).

In hindsight, "high school" can be wherever you happen to be in the hormone-pumping teenage years. Much better if where you are is a place of safety, a place for exploration, an environment that is nurturing and supportive, and understands individual progress. Best of all if it is always possible to retreat from this place of adventure, to rest in a place called home.

1 comment:

  1. I hated high school! The system didn't suit me at all, I was not a happy teenager, and only when I went to Hotel School did I begin to find myself. But I'm sure it did me good :)

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