School’s for Fools

by Sean Pope

In case you haven’t heard, school’s for fools.

Contrary to popular belief, the fool is a bright-minded individual. Chances are your grades are not as good as the fool’s, because the fool stays up every night to make sure each assignment goes beyond expectations. The fool passes each test and is certainly the best in his or her class. The fool doesn’t get out very much because it’s “not safe.”

I should clarify at this point that this is not a return to the “nerd-shaming” culture of the 1980s. I am a strong advocate of the importance a college education in shaping our worldviews and expanding our self concepts. However, there is a difference between the fool and the few among us with an insatiable passion for learning.

There is a problem with going to school for the sake of going to school, rather than being passion-driven toward a goal. Education provides us with the ability to hone in on something we care about, as well as pushing the envelopes of our perceptions. Basically, college gives us the opportunity to better ourselves and become something more. However, it’s all too common for some of us to focus on our grade point averages and stop there. Getting a good grade becomes the god of our education.

I regret to inform you that even I at one time fell into the category of the fool. Instead of viewing school as a way to aspire to something more, I looked at it as a system of validation, one grade at a time. And there was no way I wasn’t going to get a good grade. Because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be good enough to get a job. I wouldn’t be worth it.

And so, my freshman year largely consisted of me staying up late at night in my dimly-lit dorm room, scurrying from subject to subject. Meals were skipped and friendships bailed on, all because I needed to ensure that my assignment not only met the professor’s requirements, but also earned me that coveted pat-on-the-head acknowledgement of my hard work. What a drip. Hardly the memorable night that should define the freewheeling days of my early twenties.

In fact, those nights were so immemorable that the memory in the above paragraph was entirely fabricated by me just now. So much for journalistic integrity. But the truth is that I have absolutely no recollection of the countless hours I spent pouring over math and physics textbooks. Nor do I have any idea how any of those subjects function in reality. But hey, I have that almighty GPA to remind me that everything’s going to be okay.

My fears weren’t altogether unreasonable. Life is a scary place; if you don’t put on your shoes, your feet might start bleeding. Those who are waist-deep in their passions are aware of this, but they choose not to let that fear govern their decisions.

I can attest that the fools are still passionate about life, but they choose to set it aside until they deal with the necessities. To them, school is about weaving a warm security blanket instead of honing deeply felt skills. There’s an implicit assumption that once security has been achieved, then life will happen. But the filthy secret that’s swept under the rug is that life doesn’t just happen. Either you make it happen, or you don’t.

If you’re like me, moving your life forward might mean learning to accept your weaknesses in certain subjects. Time wasted trying to get the perfect grade in a subject you don’t care about could be better spent pouring yourself into something you truly enjoy. Whatever path you’ve taken in college and wherever it has brought you, this is an opportunity to invest in who you are as a person. We have the option to better who we are, not because we are afraid, but because that’s what it is to be alive and fully human.  

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